With the summer workouts not far away, the returning members of the Ludlow Panthers football team do not have to worry about adapting to an outside person.
The Ludlow administration promoted Woody McMillen to the head coaching spot taking over for Greg Taphouse, who recently resigned after six seasons. McMillen had been an assistant on the staff the past three years serving as special teams coordinator last season. He is also a co-Director of Athletics at Ludlow.
“I am humbled and honored to assume the role of Head Football Coach at Ludlow High School,” McMillen said. “It is a lifelong dream come true for a son of the program to get the chance to coach at my alma mater and work with the kids of Ludlow. It’s certainly an exciting time for our team and community with the opening of the new field at the legendary James Rigney Memorial Stadium.”
The school is installing turf at Ludlow’s home football field that sits behind the 1975 restaurant and has a Ludlow sports Hall of Fame in it that fans can view before games. McMillen said he hopes the field will be ready for use after the dead period in early July.
McMillen is a 1987 Ludlow graduate and comes in with five years of head coaching experience. He started the program at Walton-Verona. The Bearcats finished 4-6 in the first varsity season in 2008, but McMillen had to resign to take care of his father after that season.
McMillen then led the Bellevue Tigers for four seasons from 2015-18, going a combined 16-28. Bellevue lost in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs all four seasons, but the Tigers did go 7-1 against arch-rival Dayton in his four seasons there.
“Coach McMillen brings with him valuable head coaching experience with two local football programs,” said Travis Caudill, Ludlow High Principal. “Daily as a teacher in our building, he loves, supports and encourages our students. Woody wears ‘Ludlow’ on his sleeve and displays sincere passion for Ludlow High School, for the kids in our community, and for the Ludlow community at large.”
The Panthers are coming off a 4-7 season last year and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Ludlow graduates 10 seniors from that team including their leading rusher and passer Jaxson Rice. The leading returning rusher is freshman Dameyn Anness, who ran for 492 yards on 58 carries for an average of nearly 8.5 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns.
“We had a successful junior varsity season last year. I’m excited about this incoming senior class,” McMillen said. “We return several linemen, who are nice athletes. We’ve had a good offseason. You can’t just show up in July and expect to be successful. For a school our size, we have really nice facilities.”
Ludlow has been playing in Class 1A, District 4 with Dayton, Bellevue and Newport Central Catholic. The Panthers will still be in Class 1A, District 4, but the opponents will instead be Trimble County, Holy Cross and Bishop Brossart under the new KHSAA realignment for the next two seasons.
“It will be a competitive district,” McMillen said. “Looking from the outside in, any of those teams could win it. Trimble is getting back on its feet. (The Raiders) have been playing in the same district with Walton-Verona and Carroll County. I’m sure they’re excited about this new district.”
McMillen is putting a staff together. He would not say if he’ll retain any assistants from the previous staff, calling it a work in progress.
McMillen also serves as the head baseball coach for the Panthers, guiding the team the last four seasons.
McMillen’s wife Jenny is the Director of Student Services at the high school and Goetz Elementary. They have two sons in 2021 graduate Jack and Ben, who was a senior offensive lineman and defensive end on the team this past season.
Ludlow opens the season at home against Lockland (Ohio) on August 18. The Panthers still play Dayton and Bellevue in addition to the likes of Newport and Paris in non-district action.