PIKEVILLE, Ky. – No person who ever coached high school football in Kentucky has won more games. He has three state championships to his credit, all in different classes. Three different organizations have named him coach of the year, and in 1997, he was named Kentucky’s Sportsman of the Year.
Today, Dudley Hilton accepted a different title: Head football coach at Pikeville College.
Hilton won 345 games in 36 seasons of high school football in the Commonwealth, matching the state record established by Bob Schneider of Newport Central Catholic over a 44-year span. He led Bell County to two state championships, capturing the 1991 Class AAA crown with a 35-13 win over Meade County and the Class AAAA title in 2008 thanks to a 15-13 victory over Bullitt East.
And, in 1997, he took over a downtrodden program at Bourbon County and led it to the Class AA state title in his first season, wrapping it up with a 39-28 win over Owensboro Catholic.
In a streak that began after his second season, Hilton has had 34 consecutive winning seasons coaching the sport he loves.
Hilton deflects all praise coming his way, however. “It’s about all my former players at Breathitt, Bourbon and Bell,” he said. “They’re the ones who made today possible. Anyone who ever coached with me has played a role in this.
“I have a lovely wife and three kids who have stuck by me and put up with me through the years. They’re the reason we’re here today.”
Hilton, a native of Washington County in central Kentucky, is proud of his mountain accomplishments on the football field, but more proud of his greatest off-the-field moment. “I want everybody to know I married a mountain woman,” he said through a smile, referring to Janet, a native of Jackson.
“I’d also like to thank Harlan Davidson, a Hazard man who gave me my first shot at being a football coach at Breathitt County 36 years ago. I’d never coached anything before and he hired me to be the head football coach.”
Hilton’s Bell County team was 13-1 this season, suffering its only loss in the state semifinals to eventual state champion Boyle County 25-21. His last four Bobcat teams reached double figures in wins along with six of his last seven.
In the 10 years since he returned to Bell, he led the Bobcats to 111 wins and only 20 losses.
For his career, Hilton posted a .774 winning percentage.
Of his retirement tied atop the state’s leaderboard, Hilton tipped his cap to another mountain legend. “I suppose this just clears the way for Philip Haywood,” Hilton said of the Belfry coach, whose 337 career wins leaves him only eight behind the record.
“I told people a couple of months ago that, in a perfect world, Philip, Bob and I would all finish tied for the record.”
Hilton, who holds degrees from St. Catharine College, Eastern Kentucky University and Union College, has won 26 conference championships, 22 district or regional titles and has a state runner-up finish.
He has been named Coach of the Year by the Kentucky High School Athletics Directors Association, the Kentucky High School Coaches Association and the Louisville Courier-Journal.
It was after his 1997 state title at Bourbon County that he was named Sportsman of the Year by the Lexington Herald-Leader. In June, Hilton was honored by the National High School Athletics Coaches Association in a ceremony in Sioux Falls, S.D., as one of the nation’s top coaches. The ceremony recognized coaches from all 50 states and from 19 different sports.