Whitesboroís Surprise Play

By Luther R. Gohlke
Class of 1951

In the fall of 1946, I entered  Denison  High School as a freshman.  Our family lived at  307 West Texas Street and my brothers Gene and Duane and I attended  Peabody grade school which was one block from our home in the south part of  Denison .


I skipped 2nd grade and went into 3rd grade because of a new state law that added 1 year to the grade school system in  Texas This made 8 grades for grade school, but continued 4 grades for high school. During the fall of my 7th grade year, the  Denison  School system organized a city wide grade school sports program for boys.  I played football and baseball both my 7th and 8th grade.  The city wide sports program was very successful.  Football and fast pitch soft ball were the main sports.  So, when I entered high school the fall of 1946, I was very interested in sports, and went out for football.  The freshman team was called the Yannigans and was coached by Concy Woods.  He was also our wood shop class teacher and was recruited to coach because the coaching staff was short one coach and Mr. Woods had been a coach in the past.


Iím not sure how the term Yannagans came about.  I do know that the new grade system apparently caused a shift in the high school sports program and the need for more coaches.  Some school district programs did not have freshman teams so we were forced to play teams of smaller schools.  Since their smaller school systems had a much lower enrollment. They, therefore, had a smaller number of boys to select from.  So most of them could barely muster enough players out of their high school system for just one team.  The team would be comprised of a few players from each class freshman, sophomore, junior and senior.


One such school was Whitesboro about 30 miles west of  Denison ; and arrangements were made for us to play them.  The event occurred downtown Whitesboro on some large vacant lots.  No bleachers, no pruned ball field with green grass.  Just an ordinary vacant lot marked off crudely with lime.  We all questioned its dimensions.  The field was rough as a corn cob, very uneven, with cracks you could stick your hand in - it must have been a very dry year.  No referees, just a couple of local citizens with whistles.  Their players were of all sizes.  The largest about 6í4Ē and about 240 lbs.  Their team was rather makeshift.  Some had pads, some not, sweatshirts with homemade numbers sewn on, tennis shoes.  None of the equipment was first class including their football.  We had to use one of our footballs for the game.  They had only one coach for the whole school.  I think their total team numbered 13 or 14.  Not all had head gear.  To say the least, a ragged looking bunch.  We thought we were going to beat the socks off them!


Now  Denison high school was a large school.  Our players had hand me downs that were about worn out from use by the A and B teams.  But we all had pads, head gear, shoes with cleats and a number of plays we had practiced.  We also had lettered jerseys.  Surely not polished and great, but a pretty good freshman team.  We were very proud!


The game started, a cool fall Saturday afternoon as I remember.  A few people on both sidelines, mostly Whitesboro fans.  Their team apparently had no plays and I donít believe they really worked out much or had played other teams.  They seemed to have had little experience in the sport of football.  We were soon to find out that they didnít need any!  Just a bunch of tough farm boys in my opinion.  They seemed to have one play.  Their QB would take the snap and pitch or hand off the ball to that 6í4Ē 240lb senior who could and did run over us and around us at will.  There would be one of our players on his back and 1 or 2 hanging on each of his legs to finally bring him down.  On defense, he was it.  They literally beat the socks off us.  We were bruised, bloody and down, ready to hit the road home by half time.


The only touchdown we nearly made was by Jim Palmer Iíll never forget it.  He got loose and was headed for the goal line, not a defensive player within 15 yards.  Would you believe that a big  collie dog tackled him on about the 20 yard line?  Their mascot?  I donít know!  Sicced on him by someone on the sideline?  I donít know! But after this we all started laughing and really having a good time, both teams and fans.


Our team got roughed up and with a bad loss.  But came to find out after it was all over they were just a bunch of good old boys just like we were.


A lesson learned:  donít ever underestimate the power of a small town team and a large collie dog!


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