Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When football was king

Cynthia and I attended a high school playoff game last week for the first time in over five years – Malakoff vs. Winnsboro, because my daughter is the cheerleader sponsor and her husband coaches at Malakoff. Somebody in the stands behind us yelled, “Who’s left in Malakoff tonight!” … It reminded me of those good ole’ days in Heavener.

As a former sports editor of the Longview (TX) News-Journal, I was fortunate to witness some of the greatest high school football teams ever to play the game – namely, the Big Sandy Wildcats of the mid-1970s and Daingerfield Tigers of the mid-1980s. The Wildcats turned out one of the most explosive offenses, scoring over 800 points in one season. That total would make Oklahoma Sooners fans envious. Fact of the matter is, Big Sandy’s running back that season, David Overstreet, went on to become an OU Sooner. Daingerfield fielded one of most ferocious defenses. The Tigers one season surrendered only eight points in 16 games. Yep, one touchdown and one safety in the season-opener. Do the math, that means 14 shutouts. Mercy!

While both teams had their share of fans, probably like undefeated Talihina does now, the Heavener teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s certainly did. I recall going to many of the Heavener games in Harvey Stadium and on the road, too, during the playoffs. The crowds were enormous, to say the least. Many of the games, as I recall, the number of fans were lined up around the fences surrounding the field three-deep. I remember one game, in particular, that was played on Thanksgiving Day 1961 against Stigler. It was a bitter cold afternoon and in the end zone fans were huddled around barrels of fire to stay warm. In downtown Heavener, businesses had signs painted in their windows, courtesy of Omer Bennett. Cars all over town had Bennett’s signs painted on the windows. During a football game would have been the perfect time to pull a robbery, because everybody was at the stadium. I’m sure the towns of Daingerfield and Big Sandy were the same way when I covered those games. And it’s probably like that in Talihina, too.


At November 18, 2009 at 7:40 PM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

I know whereof you speak, John. From the time I began playing Junior High football until my Senior season in 1958, my Father, Carl, never missed a single game. He also was at many of our daily practices. And he took a carload of us on trips to Tulsa Marquette and Bethany when we attended a college game on the next day. Even after I was graduated, he went on to attend virtually all the games and to write an article for the Ledger. He kept statistics on all the players and developed his own shorthand graphic way of recording each play during a game. He (along with many others such as Carl Dixon, Arthur HInds, Glenn Dowden, and too many others to mention here) was a atrue fan.

At November 18, 2009 at 8:42 PM , Blogger Kathy Bain Dunn said...

My Daddy, Elmo Bain, was on that fence for every game for years and years. I remember one year after Harry and I were working in Mid-Del - - Harry and David Twidwell (Coach Twid's son) are great friends, and Dave gave Harry a big bunch of Twid's Sporting Goods hats for Dad to give all the men on the fence. Every coach and others in the Metro wanted those caps in the worst way, but they were hard to come by. However, the town of Heavener was sprinkled with them everywhere you turned, and in mass along the fence on Friday nights.

Omer Bennett still painted cars and store windows when I was in school, early '70's, and Edwina Johnston had started helping him by about 1974.

At November 18, 2009 at 8:46 PM , Blogger Kathy Bain Dunn said...

I also remember cars lined around the curve that surrounded Harvey Stadium up on the hill. Mama Joe (Bain) often parked there on the hill when it was too cold to get out of her car. Hers was among several cars that were always there!

At November 19, 2009 at 9:06 AM , Blogger colin said...

Just wondering; What happened to King Football? Was it just HHS's winning tradition that made football King back then? If so, what made those teams winners? The players back then were pretty much just ordinary young men; not especially big, strong, or fast. Only a few went on to play for colleges (Tatum, Johnson, Titsworth, and a few more) I don't know the answer, just wondering.

At November 19, 2009 at 5:26 PM , Blogger Chuck Hudlow said...

I think we'd all agree that the coach had a large part in getting that 'winning spirit' into the boys you described, Colin. Coach Twidwell and Coach Collins (with their assistants' help) knew how to make believers out of their teams. We thought we could beat anyone back then because they had us trained to think we could.

Come to think of it, did Coach Twidwell have any paid help when he was coaching, I can't remember?

At November 20, 2009 at 8:02 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Twid did not have an assistant. I can't speak for the teams of the early 60s but the 1958 team started playing together in the sixth grade (practice only) and remained pretty much a unit all through Junior High and High School. That may have been part of the reason for our success. We weren't very big (Robert Rockman was the only player who weighed more than 200 pounds) and we weren't very fast. But we were in great physical shape. We also started practice (e.g., football camp at the Baptist assembly area out in the boondocks) a few weeks before school began each year so for the first few games we were way ahead of our opponents in the coordination and physical conditioning that are required. But, overall, I think Chuck has hit the mark--we believed we could win.

At November 20, 2009 at 8:03 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

One small correction to my previous entry. Bob Terry did scout our opponents.

At November 20, 2009 at 2:38 PM , Blogger Chuck Hudlow said...

Thanks for the info, Glen.

...and since you mentioned it, the class of '62 began learning the basics of the game of football in the 6th grade, also. Mr. Seldon Taylor, West Side Principal, would gather us guys out on the front lawn of the school in the afternoon. That's where we got our first taste of how to run 'plays'. Like you said, it was just practice.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home