Yes, it is that time of the year to reminiscence a bit, to look back at the history of high school football. Sorry, almost none of what I’m talking about here will pertain to Wisconsin high school football as this is about the national scene.
Some information, in some national or state record books just plain have things wrong. Lucky for me people haven’t presented me with outrageous bogus info that can’t be confirmed. Others have not been so lucky in believing incredible tales.
In 1950 the Alabama Journal reported that Jack Golson scored six punt returns in one game for Fort Deposit in a 61-13 win over Loretto Academy. The performance is listed in the National Federation of High Schools record book and in the Alabama High School Athletic Association record book. In fact, the AHSAA record book notes that Golson's six punt return touchdowns are the only punt return touchdowns he scored all year. However, a few days later the Lowndes Signal reported that it was five punt returns and one kickoff. He also scored two touchdowns rushing and kicked seven extra points for a total of 55 points. The true info didn’t come to light until 2006.
Earlier this past season quarterback Justyn Martin of Inglewood high school in Californian tossed…wait for it…13 touchdowns in a 106-0 win!!! The 13 td’s are a California state record. That placed him #2 on the national all-time single game list. OR, did it? You see, 100 years ago, to the day that Martin tossed his 13 touchdowns Arthur Smith of Cozad (NE) tossed 15 touchdowns in a 201-7 win against Overton (NE). There are some game stories from the local newspaper and Smith is credited with scoring 10 times but no mention of touchdown passes. This is just one of several records that have had to be corrected in Nebraska and in the national record book in the past few years.
In a 1942 game pitting Mogadore (OH) vs. Hudson (OH), Mogadore claimed many passing and receiving single game records. One was the 32 catches made by a guy named Larry Bennett. It’s in the school record book that Bennett is listed as gaining 335 yards in the 53-7 loss to Hudson. However, the Akron Beacon Journal listed Bennett as the quarterback and in another, game, he was listed as a fullback. The Beacon Journal doesn’t mention him catching a single pass against Huron. Mogadore also claimed that 69 passes were thrown in the game. The claims by the school raises more questions than have been answered.
Others like the 1956 report of Jim Linnsstaeder from Brenham Texas who supposedly intercepted 35 passes in a single season are coming into question. Some other records are backed by piles of information.
Now, for some very slight connections to Wisconsin. When I first started collecting weekly stats from state wide newspapers and coaches, my lists had passing, rushing, receiving and scoring (A stat category I wish WisSorts.net would add). I once had a future WFCA HOF coach report week after week his quarterback as one of the state’s biggest scorers. Maybe his stats person was giving him the info. What was reported was his passing touchdowns and rushing td’s combined for the scoring category. He ended up passing for 14 touchdowns and scoring 9-rushing but the total was submitted as he scored 23 touchdowns on the year. Even in the “modern age” of stats things got mixed up but, somehow, when the school sent in stats to the WIAA for the state title program they got things correct.
The first record book I looked at was Bill McMurry’s Texas High School Record Book originally published in 1974. There were records for basketball, baseball, track and swimming along with football. In the receiving section a player from Dallas Roosevelt high school was listed as John Washington. His name was on the list in several places. I was confused. I had read about the book in the Dallas Morning News. The story stated that Washington was headed to Arizona State, the school I was attending. The article also told of the record book written by a Houston Chronicle prep sports writer. I sort of got Bill McMurry in trouble when I called the newspaper to talk to him about obtaining a copy of his book. Bill was out doing covering an event and I was forwarded to his boss who was a bit upset that Mr. McMurry was conducting business on his work time. I got the book and later found out later that even though the records were listed in Washington’s name, that after he came to ASU his last name had changed to Jefferson, taking his mother’s last name. He starred at Arizona State then played for San Diego’s “Air Coryell”. After three seasons he was traded to the Green Bay Packers where he teamed with WR James Lofton, TE Paul Coffman and QB Lynn Dickey. The offense was explosive but the Pack was saddled with a poor defense. After four seasons he went to Cleveland and finally retired in 1986. The record book gave me a lot of insight to what was to come.
In the same record book were other several listings of note. It was hard to overlook the stats of Sugar Land High School’s great running back, Ken Hall who set a huge number of national and state records, some that are still at the top of the lists. From 1950-54 Hall rushed for an incredible 11,232 yards and scored 899 career points. The second player on the single season rushing list was a guy from White Oak, a fullback named Max McGee.
Yes, the star receiver for Vince Lombardi’s great teams of the 1960’s. McGee would gain his greatest notoriety by being the star of the first Super Bowl played in New Orleans when he caught 7-passes for 139-yards and two touchdowns. He should have been the game’s MVP but, for his directing the winning team to that win the honor went to Bart Starr. Receiver Boyd Dowler was hurt in the first quarter and Lombardi looked to his bench and saw a player who was hungover from spending the previous night on Bourbon Street with his long-time buddy and roommate, Paul Hornung. Kansas City Chiefs defensive back and future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson had said to the press prior to the game that Boyd Dowler wouldn’t catch a pass against him. Dowler was targeted once before he went down injured. He didn’t catch a pass but Max McGee tore him apart.
Back to the record book. It listed that in 1949 McGee ran for 3,048 yards. This was the first time a Texas player gained 3,000-yards in a season and later, in the national record books, the second 3,000 rushing season of all time. The first was in W.C. Roberts of Warren County High School located in McMinnville Tennessee who in 1928 ran for 3,690 yards. Of course, the next season Ken Hall would start his run for the record.
Thanks for an easy evening where I had nothing to do a few weeks ago I explored newspapers.com to look up game records of that 1949 season on McGee in the Longview (TX) News-Journal. There were game stories for the White Oak Roughnecks but other than the game scores there was little statistical information. No game stats or player scoring recaps. You had to read the stories carefully to add up the individual scoring stats. Only the last game, the Class B championship, had a team statistical recap but no individual players totals. A story three days later in the paper recanted that McGee had carried the ball 17 times for 338 yards against Brownsboro, a 39-0 win to cap a 10-1-1 season. I searched for additional stats on Max but it wasn’t until a 2007 story covering his death did additional information turn up. I found the facts of the story concerning the 166 points that McGee scored in 1949 as being correct but the story also had him punting for a 43.7-yard average and intercepting 17 passes and of course, the 3,048 rushing yards. I can say that from the game reports he had some prodigious punts on the season and had a number of interceptions but no complete information. How or who submitted the info to Bill McMurry isn’t known.
Now I digress a bit. This past October 15 Kevin Askeland of Max Preps.com had a story about a player named Sal Gonzales of St. Anthony Gadsden, New Mexico. In 1972, while combing the library at Arizona State for information on an English paper I ran across a section in the archives of sports related magazines. In a publication by Scholastic Coach from 1956 I saw the name of Sal as being named to the 1955 All-America football team. For some reason I remembered the name. Now, nearly 50-years after I came across the name Kevin Askeland asked the question why his career rushing and scoring records weren't in the New Mexico Athletic Association or the National Federation of State High School Associations record books. The answer was, as it turns out, not even the school had the official records. Lost? Not sure. His career was long before these two record books existed. But Kevin Askeland found stories in the El Paso (TX) Times newspaper (The largest newspaper closest to St. Anthony) that confirmed his career totals. They had been submitted to a sports writer at the paper after the 1955 season, Gonzales’s final year. A month later after Kevin’s story in MaxPreps the NMAA adjusted their records. Sal’s career 607 points scored is now #5 on the state list and his 7,098 career rushing yards are listed #2. All it took was someone to confirm the stats. People at the NMAA were aware of his records but had no way of confirming the facts.
Why do I mention Sal Gonzales? Well, his career stats had been distorted over the years. Sal was also an outstanding basketball and baseball player. After playing football at the University of Arizona for two seasons he followed his head coach to the University of New Mexico for his final two years. As a senior at Gadsden, he had offers from the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds and several other teams to play pro ball. After graduation at New Mexico, he spent some time in the military and then came back to coach baseball at several high schools and colleges in New Mexico. Besides rushing for 7,098 yards he also passed for 2,417 yards for a career 9,515 total offense yards. Not bad for a 38-game career of which he started the last 36. The team won 34 consecutive games and the 1953, 1954 and 1955 Class A championships, posting 10-0-0 records each year (There was no Class A title game in 1952). In a July 26, 1987 story in the El Paso Times he was listed as having 9,207 career rushing yards, second to Ken Hall and just ahead of Emmitt Smith of Pensacola (FL) Escambia high. who had 8,804 career yards in the newspapers national career list.
Where did the 9,207 total come from? No one knows. Maybe it was yards on kick returns, receiving (Even though he was the team’s main passer) and interception yards that was originally omitted from the 1956 stats report. The point is, like a lot of early stats, similar to those of Max McGee and maybe Ken Hall, other yards were added into their totals. How could that happen? I’m not sure how coaches and stats people couldn’t keep things straight. However, there are multiple records from other states that really can’t be confirmed.
In 1950, John Giannantonio of Necong (NJ) High School (A now defunct school) supposedly ran for 4,756 yards in an 8-0-0 season as a 5’7, 137-pound sophomore. It was first reported by Doug Huff in his national high school football record book. Somehow, it got into the NFSHSA in 2001. How could this happen? No one is sure. It took 50-years for it to get into the national record book. He supposedly ran for 754 yards in one game as he averaged almost 600 yards per game. Too much to really believe. Look John up in Google to find more about his incredible story, one that can’t really be confirmed. No clear cut newspaper stories to back things up. He had a lot of long kick returns that 1950 season as he scored 41 touchdowns and maybe that yardage got added into his rushing totals but, no way, could a player average 600-yards a game rushing, especially in 1950. Yes, in 1953 Ken Hall rushed for 4,045 yards in a 12-game 1953 season. He also scored 57 touchdowns and 53 extra points for a total of 395 points. His 337 yards per game is a bit more credible that that of Giannantonio’s. Ken Hall’s career lasted 4-years and he kept getting better each season. In 1950 he gained 569 yards, then, in 1951 he zoomed to 3,160 yards (Bettering Max McGee). As a junior he bettered that earlier total by rushing for 3,458 yards and then his premier season in 1953 he upped his game to run for 4,045 yard (The first to run for 4,000 yards and one of only 10 players to gain 4,000 yards in a season, all of whom played at least 14-games during their great season). Maybe I’m too trusting about Hall’s totals but maybe he did rush for all of those yards. After all, when Bill McMurry was putting together his record book, he had access to Hall’s stats because Sugar Land is a suburb of Houston.
So, again, why did I focus on non-Wisconsin players? Because it’s fun to look at other states from time to time. Also, if you aren’t following MaxPreps Kevin Askeland’s national blog I have a link here as he rates the 1917 Marinette state champions as #48 out of the top-50 teams for that year, Well, that’s it for today but I have a lot more coming soon.