High School Football 1960-1969
The Tigers Learn How To Be Winners Again
To fully appreciate the advancement of Winnfield High School football in the 1960s it is necessary to step back and look at
the first 50 years of Winnfield football (1909-1958). Football has been a part of the educational system at Winnfield High
School longer than it has at most other schools in Louisiana. In the earliest years of the program, few other high schools
competed in football. As a result, Winnfield had to schedule the teams that were available and often had to play
those opponents multiple times a year if they were going to play a sufficient number of games.
The game of
football caught on immediately in Winnfield, but it was the naming of Rev. Alwin Stokes as the head football
coach in the ninth year of the program that propelled the program to state-wide prominence. During Brother Stokes’
first three years as head coach (1917-1919), his teams only lost one football game and capped that particular period with
Winnfield High School’s first state championship title. In 1919 the Tigers were declared state champions after going
through the season undefeated and unscored on. Much of that same success continued in the 1920s, when winning seasons and
star players became the norm. A total of 21 individual players were named to an All-State team in the 1920s alone, with those
players representing every position on the field. The program consistently fielded one of the top teams in the state, however,
being one of the top programs was not good enough in those days when in came to title contention. Year after year,
Winnfield would put together successful seasons, only to lose a single crucial game which would knock them out of consideration
for post-season play. So, no team during the 1920s ever competed in a playoff game. Nevertheless, when the decade ended, the
program marked its 20th anniversary with a statewide reputation for producing winning teams, with virtually every team that
had worn the crimson and white ending the season with a winning record.
all changed dramatically during the 1930s, 1940s and much of the 1950s. Winning seasons, or even winning games, became the
exception, rather than the norm. The second quarter century (1934- 1959) of Winnfield football was highlighted by a few notable
teams, however, most years ended with the Winnfield program looking at far more defeats than victories. That was particularly
true in the 1930s when the program went 31-56-10, for a winning percentage of only .371, the lowest of any decade in Winnfield
football history. The 1940s saw the winning percentage grow to only .443, but the decade saw the emergence of the break-away
back and an increase in the sheer number of quality athletes. By the 1950s, Winnfield football coaches had more and more quality
football players to pick from, but that still didn’t translate into winning football games for the most part. Winnfield
flirted with making the playoffs during the 1954 season, but came up short when they lost a tiebreaker to Jena to determine
the district representative to the playoffs. Finally, in the 49th year of the program (1957), Winnfield High School competed
in a post-season football game.
Though accounts of some of the games (and thus game scores) from the
earliest years of the program are missing, what is known is that during the first 50 years of the program Winnfield played
at least 378 football games, though it is estimated that there were at least 30 other football games played. Winnfield’s
record for the known games played during the first 50 years of the program was 161-188-29, for a winning percentage of .464.
For the period, complete results are known for 40 of the 50 seasons. Winnfield ended 20 of those 40 seasons with a losing
record. Only two of those losing seasons came in the first 25 years of the program. It was during the second 25-year period
(1934-1958), when Winnfield experienced the most futility. A total of 18 of those 25 teams ended the season with losing records,
with only 6 teams winning more games than they lost. While 21 players were named to an All-State team in the 1920s, only 21
other players were selected for statewide recognition between 1930 and 1958, a period of 28 years.
All of that changed in the third quarter century
of Winnfield football (1959-1983). During those 25 years, Winnfield had nineteen teams who completed the season with a winning
record, four finish with a .500 record and only two teams end the year with losing records. That meant a complete reversal
from the 25 years just prior to this period. Prior to 1959, Winnfield played in only one playoff game. From 1959 to 1983 Winnfield
competed in 34 playoffs games. A total of 15 of the 25 teams that played in that period made it to the playoffs. Three teams
during the period made it all the way to the title game, with the 1982 team winning Winnfield’s second state title.
The period was all about learning to win and seeing yourself as a winner. Once the winning started, the winning continued.
Over half (8), of the fifteen playoff teams from the 1959-1983 period not only made it to the playoffs but also advanced in
the playoffs. But, the period wasn't just about winning playoff games. The Tigers won more games (197) in those 25 years,
than the previous 50 football teams had won. Winnfield’s overall record for the period was 197-83-6, a winning percentage
of .699. That has been the highest winning period for any 25-year period in Winnfield football history. Winnfield’s
playoff record during the period was 20-14 (.588). That almost equaled Winnfield’s winning percentage for all
games played (.591) during the first quarter century. Quality football players were in abundance. Between 1959 and 1983 Winnfield
had 157 players were selected to an All-District team and 40 players were named to an All-State team.
The “Golden Years” of Winnfield football could easily be the 1920s, however, the period of time when Winnfield
scored the most points, shut the opposition down the most, won the most games and had the most number of players named to
an All-State team was the period 1959 to 1983. There was unity between the school and the town. Winning football teams have
a way of doing that in small towns. Comparison of the First 50 Years of Winnfield Football With the 25 Year Period (1959-1983)
| Period|| Won/LossRecord|| WinningPercentage|| PlayoffTeams|| PlayoffRecord|| All-DistrictPlayers|| All-StatePlayers|
| 1909-1958|| 161-188-29|| .464|| 1|| 0-1|| 7 (‘48-’58)|| 53|
| 1959-1983|| 197-
83- 6|| .699|| 15|| 20-14|| 157|| 40|
in the game of football itself during the 1960s had as much to do with the sudden change in fortune in Winnfield football.
However, the changes that occurred in Winnfield occurred everywhere else. Winnfield simply capitalized on the changing nature
of the game, the societal changes and the talent base that had always been there. In summary, much of Winnfield’s success
in the 1960s can be attributed to the following: a.) good execution of the more wide-open game of football fostered
by the passing game, b.) athletes who could
execute the passing game, c.) emphasis and
development of football players at an early age, namely, the Jr. High level, d.) two-platoon football, e.)
Coach Tommy Bankston, and f.)
the inclusion of the black athlete.
Each of those warrants further examination. Winnfield has always been blessed with quality running backs. But, when
Mike Tinnerello and Tommy Wyatt opened up the airways during the 1959 season, they ushered
in a trend of quality passing attacks that would be a staple of many future Tiger teams. The game of football prior to the
1960s had been one of a grind-it-out style, unless you had backs blessed with enough speed to run outside, or past the opposition.
The passing game required smart quarterbacks, with accurate arms; sure-handed receivers; and blockers who were as adept at
pass blocking, as they were at run blocking. During the 1960s Winnfield had all of that.
An axiom of high school football is, “Show
me a successful high school program and I’ll show you a program that is backed by a strong Jr. High program”.
High school athletes simply can’t be developed in one, two or three years. Good high school programs are developed around
athletes who have been taught the fundamentals of football at an early age. In Winnfield, development of Winnfield youth at
the 7th, 8th and 9th grade level came into prominence during the 1960s. In 1964, a new high school was opened in Winnfield
and was designated the “Senior” high school, containing grades ten through twelve. The old high school building
became the “Junior” high school, housing grades seven through nine. When Winnfield Jr. High School was opened
in 1964, Thomas Straughan, grid star of the Winnfield Tiger program in the early 1950s, became
the head football coach of the Jr. High football program. He had immediate success. His first 9th grade team went 10-0-0 and
he repeated that success the following year when the Bears went 5-2-0. Straughan left the program after his
second term to enter private business but he turned it over to the most successful coach at developing young talent in the
history of organized football in Winnfield. In 1966, Hershel Machen, quarterback of the 1954 Winnfield High
School varsity team, returned to Winnfield to take over the head coaching duties at Winnfield Jr. High School. In the remaining
years of the 1960s his 9th grade teams went, 7-1-0 (1966), 7-2-1 (1967), 6-0-1 (1968) and 8-1-0 (1969), for a combined record
of 28-4-1 in the 1960s. Machen left the Jr. High program after the 1973 season to accept the position of
Principal at Winnfield Senior High School. During his tenure, he compiled an amazing 62-8-2 record (.875) at the Jr. High
level. Two of his 9th grade teams went on help guide Winnfield Sr. High School to championship game appearances, that being
the 1971 and 1976 W.S.H.S. teams. The combined record of those two groups of seniors when they were playing for Machen
their 9th grade year is 16-0-1. Good high school teams are developed years before the players even make it to the high school
In 1966, the Winnfield Sr. High School football program was turned over to Tommy Bankston. He guided
his first three teams to playoff appearances and compiled a 29-14-3 (.656) record, thus becoming the first coach since the
legendary Alwin Stokes to end his first three years with a winning record. After four seasons, Coach
Bankston moved first to the Winnfield Senior High School Principal’s position and then to the Winn Parish Superintendent
of Schools position. His influence over the senior high football program continued long after he departed as head coach. When
he stepped down as head coach he had the fourth highest winning percentage of any coach in Winnfield High School football
history. Coach Bankston’s record was the second highest in school history among those coaches that
had a tenure of two or more years, trailing only Stokes. It would be overly simplistic to say that Coach
Bankston was a “winning coach”. He offered the program more than just wins on the field, though given
the number of losses the program went through in the 1930s through 1950s, that was important. What Coach Bankston
brought to the program was a combination of pride, discipline, a tough work ethic and fundamentally sound teams. Most of all,
he “preached” winning with evangelistic fervor. "Those who win are those who think they can....it’s
all in the state of mind”, is a quote he often used to motivate his players. That mind-set was passed on from team to
team, long after Coach Bankston left the program as head coach. He did more than win: he taught his boys
that they were winners. There is a big difference.
Two-platoon football led to specialization. By the end of the 1960s,
football players were beginning to be identified with the side of the ball they primarily played on. Teams would continue
to have players who went “both ways”, but more and more teams were built around offensive and defensive specialists.
This called for more and more football players. Rather than developing a team around six to eight players like the early Winnfield
coaches had to do, a post-1960s coach had fifteen to twenty players he could mix and move into his offense and defensive starting
Winnfield schools weren’t segregated schools until the late 1960s.
Prior to that time, white students attended Winnfield High School and black students attended Pinecrest High School. Desegregation
of the late 1960s meant the closing of Pinecrest High School and a mixing of black and white students at Winnfield Senior
High School. The first Winnfield Senior High School roster that showed this mixture was the 1969 roster, when five of the
team members were black. Of that group, two were seniors, including Lonnel Sherman and John Gibson.
After that season, black athletes have not only filled starting roles but have enabled Winnfield football to be as
successful as it has been in the last three decades of the twentieth century. The first black athlete to be selected to an
All-District team while playing for Winnfield Senior High School came in 1970 when Julius Craft (DT) and
Lionnel Johnson (LB) were selected to the 3-AAA defensive unit. The following year, Johnson (LB)
and John Wayne Williams (RB), became the first black football players selected to the All-State team while
playing for Winnfield Senior High School. Since then, the list of black athletes that have played football for Winnfield Senior
High School reads like a Who’s Who of Winnfield high school football. Where would W.S.H.S. be without the likes of Nathan
Johnson, Jeffery Dale, Ricky Chatman, Garlon Powell, Anthony Thomas and Freddie
King, plus hundreds of other black athletes that have competed since 1969? There was a time when no one could have
conceived that a black student would ever wear the red and white. Given the success that Tiger football experienced since
integration, it is now unimaginable how the Tiger program would have evolved without the black athlete.
1930s, 1940s and 1950s it was rare for a Winnfield team to win two games in a row (it only happened 41 times out
of 311 games played). By the end of the 1960s, the bar had been raised to the point to where stringing together winning
seasons was the only acceptable outcome and by the 1970s, consecutive playoff appearances and district titles
became the standard.
Rules Changes of the Decade:
1960 - Face protectors required.
Tooth and mouth protector required. Blocker prohibited from swinging his arms in blocking.
Legalized the use of a 2-inch kicking tee.
1966 - Clock stopped following first down or
change of team possession.
1967 - Two team attendants (not coaches) permitted on field during
1968 - Flags or pylons required.
Punt may be used as free kick after safety. Coach-referee conference to discuss misapplication or misinterpretation
of a rule. It is “illegal substitution” when substitute or player not off field. Point after touchdown from 3-yard
line with awarded two points for “touchdown” and one point for “field goal” or “safety.”
Key Players/Coaches of the 1960s
Wayne McFarland (1957-1961, T) Four-year starter at tackle and the first multi-year first team All District selection. McFarland earned All District honors in 1959, 1960 and
1961 and was an honorable mention
All State selection in 1959. He was a two-way player in both the offensive and defensive lines. McFarland was the third-leading vote-getter at tackle the Expert
Panel voting on the 2000 All Century Poll for
the Modern Squad; though he received the most first place votes from among that group. He was the leading vote-getter at tackle by fans voting in that poll and
in fact the only player at any position who received
either more first place votes or overall votes by the fans was running back Anthony Thomas.
Jones (1957-1961, G) Jones is the second member
of the 1959 to 1961 line listed in this Who’s Who list. He too was well decorated, earning
first team All State honors in 1961 (the only player that season to be named to a first team slot and the only lineman from
this group to earn first team honors). Jones was a first team All District selection in 1960 and 1961.
Like his teammate McFarland, he was the third-leading vote getter at guard by the Expert Panel voting on the
2000 All Century Poll for the Modern Squad and was the leading vote getter at guard by fans voting in that. Jones
was a two player in both the offensive and defensive lines. He is the son of J. D. Jones (1933-1935), who is listed in this
list and in fact they comprise the only father-son combination in this list.
Carroll Long (1958-1961, C, LB & PK) Long is the third and final member of the 1959 to 1961 offensive line cited in this
list. He was a first team All District selection at center in 1961. Long was the place kicker for the 1960 and 1961 squads,
where he converted 46 of 66 extra point tries. Established a new single season record for PAT kicks by
converting 29 ties in 1961. Ended his career with the most PAT kicks. Long also kicked
the first field goal in the history of the program. That came during the 1961 season and was a 32 yarder
against Jena. The fans voting on the 2000 All Century Poll made him their top choice
at center, while the Expert Panel tabbed him their second choice. Long was a linebacker on the defensive side of the ball.
Mike Tinnerello (1959-1961, QB, Punter, DB)
Versatile player who started at quarterback three years, played at a fullback position some during his senior season,
played a defensive back position on that side of the ball and was the team punter for three seasons. Tinnerello was the first
Tiger QB to throw for double-digit touchdown passes in a single season; that coming in 1959 when he tossed 13 touchdown passes.
That shattered the previous single-season record of five. He is the first Tiger QB to throw for double-digit touchdown passes
in a single season; that coming in 1959 when he tossed 13 touchdown passes. Prior to that, the single-season
record was 5 touchdown passes. He was the first Tiger QB to throw for 150 yards in a game, that coming in 1961 when he threw
for an even 150 against Mansfield. He threw at least one touchdown pass in every one of the eleven regular season games and
is the only Tiger quarterback to have ever done that. His string of touchdown passes was snapped in the
playoff game of 1959, but his streak of 11 straight games with at least one touchdown pass is the longest in the program.
Tinnerello rushed for 16 touchdowns, with his two longest being 75-yarder against Jena in 1961 and a 60 yarder against Ville
Platte that same year. Tinnerello is one of only six Tiger quarterbacks who have touchdown runs of 50 or
more yards and he joins Greg Powell (2) and Thomas King (6) as the only Tiger quarterbacks with multiple touchdown runs covering
fifty or more yards. In 1961 Tinnerello also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, with those covering 45 and 37 yards.
He was the second-leading vote getter at quarterback by fans voting in that poll. He was a
first-team All District selection at quarterback his sophomore and junior seasons and a second team selection his senior season.
He was an honorable mention All State at quarterback in 1959.
(1966-1969, Head Coach) Took over program as head coach
in 1966 and had immediate success. After two straight losing seasons prior to his coming, his first team posted
a 9-4-0 record and secured a playoff spot as the district runner. The seven win improvement between 1965
and 1966 is the biggest turnaround from one season the next in the history of the program. His second and third teams were
back in the title hunt, with his 1968 team knocking off district foe and No. 1 ranked Winnsboro to secure the district title.
Coach Bankston’s 1968 team became the first Winnfield Tiger football team to win a playoff game When they defeated
Northwood of Shreveport 7-0 in Stokes Walker Stadium. Coach Bankston preached pride, work, conditioning
and fundamentals. His overall won/loss record at Winnfield was 29-14-3 (.656) and his district record was 13 6-1 (.675).
In 1970 he became principal at Winnfield Senior High School and from there moved
to Superintendent of Schools in WinnParish.
All four of his team’s produced winning records. The only Tiger coaches who stayed inthe program more than three years and did not have a losing season
are Joe Dosher (1970-1974),Doug Moreau (1979-1984)
Jerry Hightower (1965-1966, RB & DB) Two-year
starter at running back and defensive back.
Beginning in 1962 players were selected to Offensive and Defensive All Districtsquads. In 1966, Hightower, along with teammate Mike Spangler, became the
first playersnamed to a first team spot on
both sides of the ball. Hightower was named as both an offensiveand defensive back. He was the leading scorer on the 1966 team, tallying 54 points. Those
cameby way of nine touchdowns, with four of
those being by rush and five coming from receptions.He
was the rushing and reception leader of the 1966 team, rushing for 483 yards on 83 carries(5.8 ypc) and adding 398 reception yards to his total yardage figure.
Mike Spangler (1965-1966, E & DE)
Spangler was one of only four players to be namedto a first team All State spot during the 1960s. That came during his junior season when heearned that honor at defensive end. He also earned first team All
District honors at both offensiveand defensive
end in 1966, joining teammate Jerry Hightower as the first players to earn firstteam honors on both offense and defense. Spangler blocked four punts in his career, with themost critical being a block of a punt against long-time rival Tallulah
in 1966. Winnfield cameinto the Tallulah came
never having defeated the Trojans in six tries. Then again, not manypeople had beaten Tallulah in the 1950s or 1960s. In the comeback season of 1966, Tallulah
loomed large on the Tiger
schedule as they were picked to win the District title. Winnfieldserved notice that the program was back with an early season 6-0 win over Tallulah.
The lonetouchdown came when Spangler
not only blocked a Trojan punt, but he also sprung up from theground, grabbed the football off the turf and ran five yards into the end zone for the score.During the rest of the 1966 season he scored by way of a 55 yard
interception return and twopass reception.
During his senior season Spangler blocked a punt in a playoff game against Jesuit, Sp. which led to a Tiger touchdown and he caught one touchdown pass. Spangler received the most
first place votes from fans voting in that poll.
(1966-1967, C & LB) Fierce competitor on
both sides of the ball, Poisso is considered one
of the best players in the history of the program at two positions, those being center and linebacker. The Expert Panel named Poisso the starting center on the 2000 All
Century Poll for the Modern Squad as he garnered
five first place votes from the eight panelists. The fans made him their second choice at center in that poll. He received the third most
votes at linebacker by the Expert Panel and fans voting in the All-Century poll, falling behind legends Lionel Johnson and Ricky Chatman (arguably two of the best football players in the history of the program) at that spot. Poisso
is credited with 174 tackles in 1967, which
includes both solo and assisted tackles. Poisso scored two touchdowns in 1967 from his linebacker position, the first coming on a 27-yard interception return against
Jena and the second coming in the playoff game
against Jesuit, Sp. When he returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a score. He was an honorable mention All District choice at center his junior year,
but he was named to the first team at both
center and linebacker his senior season.
Steve Stroud (1965-1967, PK, OT & DT)
Two year starter at both the offensive and defensive lines at tackle, but is better known for his place kicking proficiency. In his career he converted
on 37 of 50 attempts, but his most prolific
season was his senior season when he made 21 of 23 extra points attempts. One of those attempts was blocked and the only other miss came in the final game of the season
against Jesuit, Sp. That .913 kicking percentage
is the second highest single-season percentage in the history of the program. In 1967 game against Jena Stroud converted 7 of 7 extra point tries. That broke the school record of 5 PAT kicks set by John Harrington in 1955. He also made
three field goals in 1967, which were the second
through fourth field goals ever made in the program. He is the first player to boot more than one field goal in a season and that feat wasn’t duplicated until 1978
when Tommy Latham kicked four field goals.
Stroud’s three field goal performance is tied for second most field goals in a single season. Stroud was the first choice by one of the members of the Expert Panel voting
on the kicker position for the 2000 All Century
Poll and received the fifth-most votes from fans.
Gary Green (1965-1967, Quarterback) Green was the first Tiger quarterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a single season, that coming in 1966 when he threw for 1,063 yards.
Green ended his career with 1,671 passing yards, which at the time was a new career high. He ended his career with
126 completions, becoming the first Tiger quarterback to cross the 100-completion mark. In his senior season he attempted
156 passes and complete 78 of those for an even 50% completion rate. All of those numbers were all-time highs at the time.
His single-season completion total has only been topped six times and his completion percentage has only been topped three
times. Green was voted first team All District at quarterback his senior season.
Randy Poisso (1966-1968; DB, RB & KR; Assistant Coach,
1976-1984 & 1991-1995) He is the first 1,000-yard rusher in the history of the program. That came in
1968 when he gained 1,088 yards on 188 carries
in that 12-game season. That is a 5.78 yard per carry average and a 90.6 yard per game average. For that effort Poisso was voted to the Class AA All State team
and was named Class AA Back of the Year. He
was also a first team All District selection that year. Poisso was a two-year starter at running back and a three-year starter at defensive back. He
also returned kickoffs. Poisso had seven career rushing touchdowns but his most decisive touchdown came when he opened the second half of the 1968 Winnsboro game. Winnfield was engaged in a battle
for the district crown in that game and were facing The
undefeated, No. 1 ranked team in Class AA at the time. Poisso’s touchdown gave Winnfield atwo-score margin (14-0) at the time and essentially enabled the
team to play the second half knowing one play
would not tie the score. Though Winnsboro did answer that Tiger touchdown late in the third quarter, the Tigers scored again in the fourth to take a 21-7 win. Poisso’s
best single-game rushing night came against
another tough district foe, that being Tallulah in 1968. That night Poisso rushed for 145 yards on 17 carries
Terry Skains (1968-1969, RB, DB) Durable
fullback and defensive back for two seasons. He is the first
Tiger back to gain 200 or more yards in a game, that coming in the 1969 Caldwell contest when Skains gained 201 yards on 17 carries. Skains scored one rushing touchdown as a junior
and nine as a senior to end his career with
10 rushing touchdowns. At the time that ranked Skains in the top ten for career rushing touchdowns. He was the scoring leader for the 1969 Team with 54
points. His longest scoring run was a 54-yarder against Winnsboro in 1969.
Robbie Richards (1967-1969, QB, RB, DB, Punter) Richards was the first special team player to earn All State honors as a Tiger. That came in 1969
when he was voted to the Class AA All State team as a punter. He also earned All District honors as a punter that year. Though
Richards had to contend with injuries his senior season. He was a three-year letterman, playing in both
the offensive and defensive backfield. Richards was the leading vote-getter at punter in the All Century poll by both the
Expert Panel and the fans at large. On the offensive side of the ball he was used primarily as a quarterback early in his
career, though he was moved to a running back his senior season. Richards had a 65 yard fumble return for a touchdown as a
sophomore, and he scored three touchdowns as a junior, with the longest being a 60 yard run from scrimmage against Natchitoches
Central. During his senior season Richards rushed for three touchdowns, including a 55-yarder against Winnsboro,
and he caught two touchdown passes. His best night as a quarterback came in the 1969 game against eventual
Class AA runner-up Tallulah when Richards completed 11 of 21 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. That was the third highest
single game total at the time. Two weeks later he switched to the receiving end of the ball and gained
174 yards on four catches to establish a new single-game receiving record. Two of those receptions went for touchdowns covering
78 and 60 yards in length. He is the first, and one of only two players to catch touchdown passing that covered 50 or more
yards in the same game. The other player to accomplish that was Freddie King in 2000 against Jena. In fact,
Richards is only of only five players to have two touchdown passes of 50 yards or more in the same season.
1960, ((Overall - 8-3-1; *District - 4-0-0) The 1960
football season was met with as much optimism and anticipation as any season in Winnfield football history. Winning has a
way of giving a program that kind of momentum. After the 1957 team won the school’s first district title and made the
school’s first appearance in the playoffs, it only took two more years for the school to get their second district title
when the 1959 team went undefeated in district play. But, winning alone wasn’t the main cause for anticipation in the
Tiger camp. What made Coach Newman so eager for the 1960 season was that he returned virtually the same team
that had captured the district title the year before. That prompted him to declare in an Enterprise
interview, “we should be stronger than last year.”
The previous season, the team only had six
seniors on the squad, with only two of those holding down starting roles. There weren’t many players lost to graduation,
but the losses that did occur were felt as “quality losses” rather than “quantity losses.” The biggest
loss would be Tommy Wyatt, Mike Tinnerello’s “go-to” guy the season before. It is always
hard to replace an All-State player and a player the caliber of Wyatt, but such is life in high school athletics.
The other starter lost was Jerry Burch, who played opposite Wyatt at the left end position.
Other than those two, the starting lineup from the season before returned intact and a total of 23 lettermen returned from
the season before. That was the most number of returning lettermen any Tiger team had enjoyed up to that point in Tiger football
Tinnerello returned at the QB position for his junior season. He, of course, was a double threat there, what with
his strong throwing arm and his running ability. Though the team lost both of their starting ends, a solid group of players
returned that had some playing time at the end position. Those included seniors Jimmy Berry, Willie Carter
and Charles Austin; and juniors David Adams and Billy Barton. The uncertainty
at the end position was no great cause for alarm, because all of those were capable players. Plus, Coach Newman was
a “three-yards and a cloud of dust” type of coach anyway.
What really eased Coach Newman’s
mind was the talent he had returning in his backfield. He was two-deep at every position with a stable full of seasoned and
talented backs. Only departing senior Johnny Wroten was missing from the previous season’s backfield.
The returning players included fullbacks Benny Canerday and Gerald Bryant, both seniors;
and enough halfbacks to fill two starting lineups. Those players included juniors Rusty Melton, James Lloyd Collins
and Mack Martin; along with sophomore Jimmy Bolton. All of those players had at least two
years of playing experience.
As strong as the Tigers were at the skill positions, the team may have been even stronger in the line. The 1960 team
had arguably the most talented group of linemen to ever play together on one Winnfield team up to that point in history and
all were returning lettermen. Returning at the center position was senior Bobby Brazzell, one of only two
seniors in the starting line. Carroll Long had also played center the previous season and would be a starter
on most other teams. Like the season before he would be used as a defensive specialist. At the guard positions, the Tigers
had the strongest and best tandem of guards the school at ever had in juniors Don Jones and Cecil
Taylor. Jones was destined for All-State honors later in the season. At the tackle position Coach
Newman could pick between senior Perry Joe Smith and juniors Wayne McFarland and
Butch Lowery. Of that group, McFarland was one of the best tackles that had ever worn the
crimson and red. Newman’s starting five across the interior line was the largest group of linemen in
school history in terms of physical size. Brazzell was the smallest of the group, weighing in at 170 lbs.
Cecil Taylor, at left guard, was the next smallest, tipping the scales at just over 180 lbs. Then the size
increased. On the right side, Jones and McFarland weighed in at 198 and 190 respectively.
The biggest of the linemen was Perry Joe Smith, who held down the left tackle at a stout 240 pounds.
offensive eleven was a mixture of six seniors and five juniors. But, the team was still young, with only nine seniors on the
roster and as many as seven of the nine reserves being underclassmen. Coach Newman had told the fans during
the 1958 season that he had a good group of freshmen and sophomore players who would be good football players in two to three
years. His prophecy would be fulfilled in 1960 and 1961.
Winnfield’s schedule in 1960 would be the same schedule
the team had played the year before. District
1A had been reduced by one team when Farmerville moved to play in District 2-A. So, the newly aligned District 1A included
Mansfield, Coushatta, LaSalle and Many. As was true in the previous two seasons, Winnfield would wrap-up district play by
the middle of the season.
When summer practice started in 1960, Coach Newman believed in starting the sessions early. Two-a-days
began at 6:30 in the morning and lasted until 8:00 a.m. Then the Tigers returned for the evening sessions at 4:30 p.m. and
practiced until 6:30 p.m. The always-tough Hoss Newman expected his players to come ready for summer practice.
He warned in an interview with The Enterprise just prior to the start of summer practice that his boys had better
be ready. Newman stated, “these won’t be any gettin’-in-shape time. Once we get started
we’re going at it full steam.”
In the opening game against Bastrop, Winnfield faced one of five opponents from a higher class that they would play
during the regular season. To the delight of Coach Newman, the Tiger defense played outstanding football
throughout the contest as they pitched a shutout. The Bastrop defense did nearly as good a job on the Tigers, but Winnfield
did manage one touchdown. The touchdown came late in the first quarter and was set up when Rusty Melton returned
a punt 29 yards to the Bastrop 33-yard line. On second down, Mike Tinnerello hit James Lloyd Collins
with a 25-yard pass to move the Tigers to a first and goal at the Ram 5. From there, Tiger fullback Benny Canerday
bowled over the goal line for the only score of the night.
The game was a testimony to good defense and
a timely execution in the other two phases of the game. For Winnfield, a good punt return and their ability to capitalize
the only time they were in scoring position spelled the difference in the game. Considering the lack of a large number of
“big-time” wins in recent decades, it was as impressive of a win as the program had experienced in some time.
The win gave
the Tigers momentum as they headed into their three-game road stretch of District 1-AA encounters. In the preseason poll,
Winnfield had been selected as the coaches pick to defend their District title, with LaSalle and Mansfield picked to be the
Tigers biggest challengers. As a result, the district race would essentially be decided by week four of the season.
the season, Winnfield had received the most votes in the UPI's coaches Class AA poll, making the 1960 team the first Winnfield
team to be ranked No. 1 in the state. After their impressive win over Bastrop, they received 49 of a possible 50 points to
stay ahead of Delhi, the second place team.
Winnfield faced Mansfield in their district opener. Like Winnfield, Mansfield had opened the season against a AAA opponent,
losing to Natchitoches by a score of 27-7. Mansfield had been the second place team in the district the season before and
had 12 lettermen back from that team.
The Tiger injury report showed one starter on the sidelines for the Mansfield game. Tiger halfback James Lloyd
Collins aggravated his chronic back injury against Bastrop, leaving Coach Newman no choice but to
sideline Collins until his back healed.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns on their respective
first possessions of the night. Winnfield got theirs on a 13-yard run by Mack Martin.
That was all of the scoring in the first half until Winnfield put together a 65 yard drive for a score, with Benny
Canerday getting into the end zone from 2 yards away with only 45 seconds remaining on the clock in the first half.
The PAT was good, giving Winnfield a 13-6 lead and plenty of momentum at the half.
Winnfield scored twice more in the second half,
first when Mack Martin broke a 55-yard run in the third quarter and later when Tinnerello
passed for his first touchdown of the year when he hit Jimmy Berry with a 4-yard scoring
strike with just under three minutes to go in the game.
Winnfield moved to a 20-6 lead Mansfield got their only touchdown of the second half, but that wouldn’t be enough as
Winnfield’s 27-12 win pushed Winnfield to the lead in the district race, and a 2-0-0 mark for the season.
gained 279 yards rushing for the night, with Mack Martin gaining 114 of those yards on only 5 carries. Tinnerello’s
touchdown pass to Berry was his only completion of the night, but he only threw the ball 3 times.
increased their stronghold atop the UPI's coaches’ poll after the win over Mansfield. The Tigers received all 5 first
place votes for a total of 50 points. Delhi and Tallulah rounded out the top three positions.
The Tigers had a breather
the following week when they traveled to Coushatta for the second district tilt. The 0-2-0 Choctaws were young, starting six
sophomores and three juniors. Though Coach Newman expressed concerns about his team’s “sluggish
performance” against Mansfield, he knew he would have the luxury of resting some of his injured players, knowing that
LaSalle loomed the week after the Coushatta game.
The injury list included fullbacks Gerald Bryant and Benny Canerday, as well as halfback
James Lloyd Collins. However, the Tigers were not exactly hurting in the backfield either. Mack Martin
and young Jimmy Bolton still offered Winnfield plenty of weapons.
Against Coushatta the Tigers built a 19-0 halftime
lead on touchdowns of all kinds. The first touchdown came on a quarterback sneak by Mike Tinnerello from
one yard away. Then, in the second quarter Mack Martin fielded a Coushatta punt and ran 85 yards for a score
to give the Tigers a 13-0 lead. Only Vernon McDonald's 90-yard punt return in 1948 and Eddie Parker's
87-yard return during the 1943 season had covered more ground. Finally, on the last play of the first half Tinnerello
hit Willie Carter with a 52-yard scoring strike to give Winnfield a 19-0 lead going into the locker room.
scored once in the second half but the Tigers scored three more times to get a 38-6 win. Scoring in the second half were Tinnerello
on a 2-yard run from the fullback position, Don Nicklas on a 12-yard run from the quarterback position and
Jimmy Berry on a 12-yard reception from Nicklas. The win moved
the Tigers to 3-0-0 for the season and 2-0-0 in district play.
The best start to a season
that any Winnfield team had ever had was the state champion 1919 team who won their first seven games of the year. That was
the only games that team played that year, but their 7-0-0 mark to open the season made for the best opening in Winnfield
Tiger football history up to that point. The 1948 team won their first five games and the 1928 team won their first four games.
So, the 1960 Tigers had a chance to join the 1928 team in third place if they won in week four against LaSalle. But, there
was much more at stake in the LaSalle game than that.
KEY GAME: Winnfield and LaSalle
came into the 1960 game with perfect records. Two of Winnfield's wins had been against district foes, while the game marked
the district opener for LaSalle. LaSalle's wins had come against Sicily Island, Jena and Winnsboro. Winnfield had knocked
LaSalle out of the district race the year before, taking a 25-6 win. Coming into the season the two teams were predicted to
finish 1-2 in the district race. Nothing in the first three weeks of the season had happened to change that prediction. Considering what was at stake,
the Winnfield - LaSalle game was one of the most important games in Tiger football history at the time it was played. As the
Tigers prepared for the game, they knew that a win would more than likely sew up the school’s second consecutive district
title. Through the years, Winnfield had been in the underdog role so many times that it was virtually unprecedented for the
Tigers to even be playing a big game, much less be considered a favorite in a big game.
were numerous. A loss by Winnfield would throw LaSalle into the lead in the district and possibly knock Winnfield out of the
title hunt and the playoffs. A Winnfield win would give tremendous impetus to a program that was quickly regaining the glory
that had been built in the early years of the program. Plus, Winnfield had their lofty No. 1 ranking to hold onto. So, at
the time, the Winnfield - LaSalle match up was big; both for the prospects of the 1960 team specifically and for the program
in general. From
a football purest standpoint, the game turned out to be just what you would want the biggest game of the year to be like:
that is, a defensive battle, a key play and little bit of luck.
LaSalle drove deep into Winnfield territory
on each every first half possession, but the Winnfield defense shut down LaSalle on every one of those possession before they
could score. Winnfield, meanwhile, had an equally difficult time against the LaSalle defense but they did get on the scoreboard
once in the first half. That came late in the first quarter behind the running of Mack Martin,
Benny Canerday and Jimmy Bolton. After the Tigers moved to the LaSalle 11-yard line quarterback
Mike Tinnerello took the snap from center, turned and faked a handoff to Martin who was
heading toward the left end and bootlegged it around right end for the first score of the night. Tiger kicker Carroll
Long tacked on the PAT to give Winnfield a 7-0 lead. That would be the only points Winnfield would
tally all night.
That would also be the only points scored through three quarters. Winnfield nearly put the game away early in the fourth
quarter after driving to the LaSalle 3-yard line. However, the Tigers fumbled the ball away, giving LaSalle new hope. From
there, LaSalle moved out to the 30 yard line, where LaSalle quarterback Tommy Cruise dropped back and hit
halfback Jim Moody with a 70-yard scoring pass. LaSalle’s Coach Morrison
elected to try to run the PAT try in to tie the score. He knew it was a hopeless cause to try to run right at Winnfield so
he called a play designed to go wide. Quarterback Cruise took the snap and pitched out to his halfback who
was heading around right end. He was met immediately by Rusty Melton and David Adams who
dropped him for a loss, 4 yards short of the goal line and the game-tying extra point.
LaSalle held Winnfield and
got the ball back with time for only one more possession. Trailing by 1 point, LaSalle mounted a short drive but Tiger end
Charles Austin snuck in and intercepted a screen pass to give the ball back to the Tigers with just under
a minute to go in the game. Tinnerello ran out the clock before LaSalle could get the ball back.
Newman was quick to highlight his defensive unit for their play against LaSalle.
He singled out the play of Rusty Melton, David Adams, Carroll Long, Mike Tinnerello and Charles Austin.
However, he made special mention of the line play of Bobby Brazzell and Wayne McFarland
who repeatedly dumped LaSalle’s ball carriers for losses.
Winnfield moved to a commanding lead in District 1-A with
the win. The Tigers district mark stood at 3-0-0, with only Many left on the district slate. Mansfield had defeated Many 30-7
the same night Winnfield beat LaSalle, giving the Wolverines a 1-1-0 district mark. Meanwhile, LaSalle, Many and Coushatta
were all 0-1-0 in district play. So, for all practical purposes Winnfield had wrapped-up the district crown, but they still
had virtually the whole season to go. They could now concentrate on defeating their rivals; with games against Ruston, Jonesboro,
Jena and Natchitoches still looming on the Tiger schedule.
Winnfield also maintained its stronghold on the No. 1 spot
in the UPI coaches poll, tallying all 50 points. Delhi remained in second with 39 pts. and Tallulah just trailed Delhi, garnering
37 points. Winnfield had not been out of the top spot since the preseason poll was released.
It is difficult
for a football team to savor a key victory during the middle of any season. For one thing, the next game is usually only seven
days away and preparation for that game often begins within two or three days after a big win. So, teams usually don’t
have to time to focus on key wins because their attention is usually divided between the most recent opponent and the next
opponent. However, it is worthwhile to consider just exactly where the Tiger program was after the fourth game of the 1960
season. The team began the season with four wins. Only three other teams in school history had duplicated that feat, including
the 1919, 1928 and 1948 teams. You know you have a successful program when you begin to characterize things in terms of “streaks”.
By winning the first three district games, the 1960 team extended the school winning streak in district games to 10 straight.
By winning the first four games of the season, the team extended the schools regular season game winning streak to 5 in a
row. At that moment in time, all was well in the Tiger football program.
After four grueling road trips, the Tigers
finally played their home-opener in week five. The schedule makers couldn’t have scripted it any better, given the level
of confidence the Tigers had because the Tiger’s next opponent was the Ruston Bearcats. Ruston came into the game with
a 2-2-0 record for the season. The Bearcats had sustained heavy losses in personnel after the previous season, losing 17 lettermen.
Ruston was not as strong as usual, but Hoss Garrett had not compiled a 203-70-6 record by lying down when
he faced strong odds. In fact, Coach Garrett had never lost to Winnfield. But, then again, only one Ruston
coach had. So lopsided was the series record, that by the time the two teams met in 1960, Ruston held a commanding 24-3-3
series record and had beaten Winnfield 18 consecutive years. Only the 1923, 1928 and 1935 Winnfield teams had managed to eke
out a win against the Bearcats. Though you almost hated to even think it at the time, Winnfield's best
chance to beat Ruston in over three decades came during the 1960 season.
During the first half of the game, the two
teams played as if neither wanted to win the game. Both teams had a whole games worth of turnovers in the first half alone
and both defenses put up stands once the other drove within 5 yards of a touchdown. As a result, the score still read 0-0
when the two teams broke for halftime.
Then, both teams scored on their first possessions of the second half when each drove nearly 70 yards for a score.
Ruston scored first, but Tiger end David Adams broke through and blocked the extra point attempt. In response,
Winnfield put together their scoring drive, which was capped by a 2-yard run by Mack Martin on the first
play of the fourth quarter. Carroll Long came in to try the all-important PAT and sailed the kick through
the uprights to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead. That gave the Tiger program its first second-half lead over a Ruston team since
their last win 25 years earlier - there was hope.
That excitement was multiplied only minutes later when Jim Berry picked up his third fumble of the
night and raced 37 yards to the Ruston three before he was downed. Benny Canerday scored on the next play
and the Winnfield stands went wild. Leading 13-6, Long came in to try the extra point attempt that would
move the Tigers to a lead that would require Ruston to score two times to overcome. However, Ruston broke through and blocked
Long's kick, enabling them to stay within a single score of tying the game. Nevertheless, that turnover enabled
Winnfield to take a 7-point lead, thus forcing Ruston to score and convert on the extra point just to tie the game.
did just that on their next possession when they got a good return on the kickoff and then proceeded to get the touchdown
and game-tying extra point. Each team had one more possession but neither was able to generate any kind of drive. As a result,
the game ended in a tie. The tie broke Ruston’s string of 18 consecutive wins over Winnfield and still kept Winnfield
undefeated record intact, moving their record to 4-0-1. The Tigers, of course, were disappointed that they had come so close
and had still not defeated Ruston. However, by not losing to Ruston and by playing a AA team tough, Winnfield kept
a good season on track.
The 13 points scored by Ruston were the fewest point a Ruston team had scored against Winnfield in 19 years. That defensive
effort was greatly aided by the recovery of four fumbles, 3 by Jim Berry and 1 by Wayne McFarland.
The game was a bruising battle, though, with Tiger back Mack Martin taken from the field to the hospital
with what was feared to be a concussion. After a stay of several days in the hospital, Martin was released
and cleared to play.
Meanwhile, the day after the Ruston game, the Tiger players and coaches left Winnfield and drove to Houston, Texas.
The Quarterback Club, led by club President Kidd Farr, had raised funds to send the team to watch a professional
football game. After spending Saturday night in Houston, the Winnfield contingent attended church and watched the Houston
Oilers, led by former Louisiana collegiate stars Billy Cannon from LSU and Charlie Tolar
from Northwestern State.
Winnfield held onto the top spot in the Class A coaches poll, in spite of the 13-13 tie to Ruston. However, Tallulah
moved into second place, only three points behind Winnfield, after demolishing Newellton 33-7. Delhi dropped to No. 3 after
narrowly defeating Holly Ridge 7-0.
Winnfield came into the sixth game of the year, facing homecoming week and their final district game of the year. Many
was the opponent, and their record for the year stood at 1-4-0.
The Tigers needed a win over Many to wrap up
the school’s second consecutive district title. Some around town were saying that Winnfield’s
third string could beat Many. That kind of thinking has gotten many football teams beaten. Nevertheless, Winnfield made it
look easy with a convincing 45-0 win over Many to clinch the District 1-A crown and earn a spot in the playoffs for the third
time in school history. The 45 points were the most points scored by a Tiger team since the 1955 season and the fourth highest
number of points scored since the 1930 season.
Overall, seven different players scored
touchdowns, the most number of players to score in the same game since the 1928 season. The following players and the yardage
of their scores (all runs) are as follows: Bryant (1), Melton (1), Martin
(20), Bolton (5), Nicklas (1), Canerday (44) and Tinnerello
(4). Carroll Long tacked on 3 PAT kicks.
So potent was the Tiger offense that they scored all four
times they had the ball in the first half and scored on all but one of their four second half possessions. In this 45-0 drubbing
it would be safe to conclude that Many was simply out-manned.
Winnfield put its undefeated 5-0-1 mark
on the line the next week when they took on the AA powerhouse
Pineville Rebels. The Rebels came into the game ranked in the Top Ten in the AA polls, having posted a 4-2 record during the
season. Their only losses were to strong AAA powers Sulphur and Lake Charles. Pineville clearly represented the strongest
team Winnfield had faced all year.
It was Winnfield who was outmanned against Pineville as the Rebels moved to a 13-0 halftime lead, added another touchdown
in the third quarter and took a business-like win by a 28-7 margin. Winnfield averted a shutout in the fourth quarter when
they drove 78 yards for the score, with Tiger halfback Gerald Bryant getting the Tigers on the board from
two yards out. Pineville responded with a 75-yard run for a touchdown on their next possession to close out all of the scoring
for the night.
Statistics for the game reveal just how one-sided the contest was. Winnfield rushed for 92 yards, while Pineville's
mammoth line continually opened up huge holes, enabling the Rebel backs to pick up 352 yards rushing.
sustained their first loss of the season against Pineville, the defeat was to a very good Rebel team. After beating Winnfield,
Pineville won six straight games in route to taking the 1960 AA state title. In the title game, Pineville beat Assumption
19-7 for the school’s first and only state title.
Though the loss was disappointing, the Tigers still had plenty of season left. For starters, the Tigers still had games
to play against rivals Jonesboro, Jena and Natchitoches. Also, since the team had already won the district title, there was
the matter of the playoffs that loomed five weeks ahead.
Winnfield ended their four-game home stretch against archrival
Jonesboro. The visitors were having a down year, having already lost 6 games in their first 7 outings. However, Coach
Newman knew that a win over Winnfield would salvage Jonesboro's season.
Winnfield didn’t let
that happen as they bounced back with a 20-7 win over the Jackson parish squad. Both teams got touchdowns
and extra points in the first half, with Winnfield’s tally coming on a 3-yard run by Gerald Bryant. The
second half was all-Winnfield and Tiger fullback Benny Canerday had a lot to do with that as he got
two touchdown runs (49 yds. and 10 yds.) to account for the only scoring of the second half. Both touchdowns
were set up by the Tiger defense, with Rusty Melton’s fumble recovery at the Jonesboro 35-yard line
setting up the first. Later in the quarter David Adams and Wayne McFarland teamed up to
block a Jonesboro punt to set up the second touchdown.
The win over Jonesboro, coupled with Winnfield’s
win in 1959, marked the first time that Winnfield had won two in a row against Jonesboro since the 1927-1928 seasons. With
the win, Winnfield improved to 5-1-1 for the year.
Winnfield faced a good Natchitoches team the next week. Like Winnfield, Natchitoches had posted
a 6-1-0 record for the season and like Winnfield their lone loss was to Pineville. That had come the week before in a 21-0
loss to the Rebels.
Natchitoches was led by halfback Bobby Parker who had rushed for over 1,000 yards in the first seven
games of the season. The Red Devils didn't have as much speed as the Tigers, but they were big and strong up front and relied
on a bruising, grind-it-out attack.
The game would have been difficult enough had the Tigers been at full strength, but they weren't. No fewer than five
Tiger starters were held out of the game. Jimmy Bolton, Tiger halfback, broke his collarbone against Jonesboro
and was listed as doubtful for the remainder of the season. Tackle Cecil Taylor broke his nose in the Jonesboro
game and would need additional time to heal before returning to action. Stellar guard Don Jones, who was
held out of the Jonesboro game with a leg injury, reinjured his leg in practice the week before the Natchitoches game, so
he too would miss the contest. But, the player with the worst luck was James Lloyd Collins. He had entered
the season with a nagging back injury sustained during summer practice. After trying to play Collins the
first couple of games, Coach Newman finally sidelined him so that he could heal. After watching from the
sidelines for five straight weeks, Collins returned to action against Pineville and also played against Jonesboro.
Like Jones, he too was injured in practice the week before the Natchitoches game when he broke his collarbone.
Listed as questionable for the Natchitoches game was tackle Rodney Lenard, who sustained a back injury while
filling in for Cecil Taylor. Also hurt in the Jonesboro game was Gerald Bryant, Tiger halfback,
who was listed as doubtful for Natchitoches.
The character of the 1960 football team was revealed during the Natchitoches game. With so many starters sidelined,
the Tigers were a decided underdog and Winnfield did give up two first half touchdowns to go to the locker room facing a 14-0
deficit. Then, the Tigers used two second half turnovers to get back into the game.
The first gift came
early in the third quarter by way of a fumble recovery at the Natchitoches 22-yard line, after which Bryant scored
from 2 yards out to make the score 14-6. The PAT attempt was blocked. In the fourth quarter Gerald
Long intercepted a Don Beasley-pass and returned the ball to the Red Devil 28-yard line. That seemed
to spark the Tiger offense. The makeshift Tiger backfield suddenly found holes that hadn't been there all game long. Halfbacks
Melton, Martin and Bryant combined to move the Tigers down the field to
the two. From there, quarterback Mike Tinnerello toted the ball over the goal line to narrow the margin.
Long converted on the extra point to move the score to 14-13.
That is where
the scoring ended for the night, however. Despite the Tigers valiant effort and their comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit,
Natchitoches was too strong to overtake. The loss left the Tigers wondering "what if" they had all of their starters.
But, the Tigers were still 6-2-1 for the season.
The Tigers closed the regular season with decisive wins over Jena and Farmerville. Winnfield took a 21-6 win over Jena,
with two short touchdown runs by Bryant and one by Mack Martin. Carroll Long
was 3 for 3 in extra point conversions.
The win over Jena, coupled with the Tigers’ earlier defeat of Jonesboro, marked only the second time Winnfield
had defeated both of those in the same season, with the last time being the 1948 season. Also, the 1960 season marked the
first time that Winnfield played Ruston, Jonesboro and Jena in the same season and did not lose to any, given that Winnfield
had tied Ruston and defeated the other two.
The win over Jena gave the Tigers a 7-2-1 record for the season and set up the final regular season game of the year
against Farmerville. The season finale turned out to be just the kind of game Coach Newman had hoped for
heading into the playoffs. His regulars worked like a well-oiled machine in the first half and the reserves got plenty of
playing time in the second half. He was able to guard against injury in the second half while his Tigers prepared for the
playoffs. In the end, the Tigers notched their eighth win of the season in a 46-20 mauling of the Farmers.
Farmerville game was played on a Thursday night, the Tigers got a rare opportunity to see their first-round playoff opponent
in person. Coach Newman loaded up his troops and headed to Tallulah the next night to watch the Tallulah-Delhi
game, which would determine the District 2-A championship. Tallulah was ranked No.1 in the Class A polls and Winnfield was
ranked No. 3. The No. 2 ranked team was Delhi. Winnfield would face the District 2-A champions on their home field. Winnfield got a good view
of what task lay ahead for them when they watched Tallulah dethrone the Delhi Bears in relatively easy fashion as they recorded
a 27-7 win. In doing so, Tallulah captured the District 2-A crown and protected their No. 1 ranking. The
win enabled Tallulah to end the season with a 10-1-0 mark, with their only loss coming to AA Neville by a score of 13-12.
Neville was in the middle of a four-year stretch that only saw them lose one football game, with Tallulah being the only other
team to come close to beating Neville during that period.
The game between Winnfield and Tallulah marked
the second meeting between the two programs. Tallulah had been Winnfield's opponent in their first foray into the playoffs
during the 1957 season; a game Tallulah won by a score of 27-6 in route to the school’s sixth state championship in
eight tries. The Trojans added a seventh title during the 1958 season, so they were seeking their 8th title in 1960.
represented one of the strongest teams any Winnfield team had ever faced from the same class. In achieving their 10-1-0 record,
the Trojans had scored 287 points. However, it was the defense of Tallulah that was so impressive. Tallulah had only given
up 60 points in eleven games, recording four shutouts and not allowing any opponent to score more than two touchdowns. Tallulah
was led by 185 lb. fullback Wayne Noland, who had scored 14 touchdowns in spite of missing two games with
an injury. Also in the Trojan backfield was halfback Leonard Neumann, who recorded 10 touchdowns of his own.
had the misfortune of facing the eventual state champion in their first playoff game in 1957. In 1959, the Tigers faced the
eventual state runner-up when Delhi ran away with a 31-0 win. So, when the Tigers entered the playoffs for the third time,
they had to open against the No.1 ranked team in the state and the clear favorite to take the 1960 A crown.
Winnfield was the underdog against Tallulah, this was a good Winnfield team. The Tigers had a shot if they played their best
game of the year. That chance came on Thursday, November 24, 1960, which was Thanksgiving Day. At 2:30
p.m. on that day, Winnfield kicked off to Tallulah in the third-ever playoff game the program had been involved in.
moved to a 13-0 first half lead, while Winnfield never threatened the Trojan goal line in the first half. Then Tallulah roared
to two third quarter touchdowns to remove any doubts about outcome of the game. Noland
and Neumann had combined for two touchdowns a piece.
In the fourth quarter Winnfield avoided a shutout
when Tinnerello (running out of the halfback position) took a pitchout, ran to his right and tossed the ball
to Bryant who went over from the five. Long’s kick made it 25-7 at the time. Tallulah
got those 7 points back on their next possession to make the final score 32-7. Tallulah proved to be every bit as tough as the pre-game
hype indicated. For the game, Tallulah pummeled Winnfield for 335 yards rushing and close to 100 yards passing, making that
one of the highest total yardage totals ever amassed against a Tiger team. Tallulah simply had the better team and that was
further proven two weeks later when Tallulah rolled over Lockport 39-19 to secure the school’s eighth state title.
against the other teams that came before them, the 1960 Tiger team would be considered among the best teams in school history.
For starters, they were only the third team to win a district title and third team to make the playoffs. By winning eight
games, they were fourth on the all-time list in that category at the time. The 1960 squad ended the season as only the sixth
Tiger team to score 200 or more points in a season, scoring 243 points in the regular season and ending the year with 250
points. The Tiger defense allowed only 112 points in the regular season against strong competition. That was the fifth lowest
number of points allowed by any Tiger team since the 1930 season. Though the Tigers gave up 32 points to Tallulah and ended
the year giving up a total of 144 points, that figure was still lower than the total number of points given up by 27 of the
31 teams that had played between 1930 and 1960.
One of the most encouraging things about the 1960 squad was that the nucleus of the team still had another year of
eligibility and would return to defend the District 1-A crown the following year. The group of players that Coach
Newman had been talking about since they were freshmen were finally ready to move to their season. The success
of the 1959 and 1960 teams were but stepping-stones to the ever-developing Tiger football program. Winnfield was fast becoming
a perennial power.
The Tigers scored 250 points and allowed 146 points; with over half of Winnfield’s regular season schedule being
made up of AA or AAA teams. Winnfield ended the season with an 8-3-1 record. That marked the first time since the 1954 season
that a Tiger team had ended the year with a winning record and the eight wins were the tied with the 1954 squad for fourth-most
wins. Only the nine wins of the 1923, 1928 and 1948 squads were better.
KEY SEASON, 1961, (Overall - 11-1-0; *District - 4-0-0)
W, 26- 0
W, 53- 7 *
W, 20- 0
W, 53- 0 (HC)
W, 41- 0*
L, 0-12 (Regional)
All championship caliber high school football
teams share similar characteristics. Obviously one of those traits is talent. But, if talent was all it took to win football
games then all you would have to do is turn those talented players loose and watch the wins roll in. If only it were that
simple. Championship teams are built around players who are committed, who work hard and who have a certain group cohesion
that brings those players together so that individual talent is combined in a team concept. Championship teams need leaders
and those that follow their leaders. They need smart players and players who rely more on brute strength. The team that made
up the 1961 Winnfield squad fit all of those characteristics of a championship team.
The team was talented.
Eight of the returning starters had already earned post-season honors as underclassmen and an additional four players on the
roster were destined to earn post-season honors before their playing careers were over. A total of five of the starters would
go on to play football at the next level. The team had talent and it was spread throughout the backfield and across the line.
The team was
a cohesive group. An even dozen starters were entering their fourth year of football at the varsity level and another two
were beginning their third year of football. They had played together as a unit, experiencing the highs of winning two district
championships and the lows of being soundly defeated in two playoff games. The group was well meshed as a unit.
the talent and group cohesion factors, probably the biggest asset of the team was their experience level. Nine of the incoming
starters were coming into their third year as a starter, and three additional players were entering their second year as a
starter. Ten of the eleven positions on the field would be held down by a player who had lettered. The players had game experience.
They knew what it was like to play in front of a crowd, to face pressure in a game situation, to play against a tougher opponent
and to play against a weaker opponent. Equally important, the team had playoff experience. So, they weren’t wide-eyed
about playing in playoff games – they expected that.
Finally, the team had senior leadership. Coach
Newman had eleven returning senior lettermen, all entering their fourth year as a Tiger. Leadership comes in many
forms. Those seniors were leaders in the school and leaders on the team. The group had outgoing individuals and quiet individuals.
They were the type of seniors a coach dreams about.
Winning breeds winning. That was beginning to be apparent in the Winnfield football program as the recent success by
the varsity resulted in a significant rise in the number of boys out for football at all levels. Coming into the 1961 season,
a record number of younger boys turned out for football, with the Pony squad fielding 35 boys and the Pee Wees having 42 players
on their roster. The varsity roster was made up of 36 players, with 15 of those being returning lettermen.
starting lineup in the Tiger backfield included seniors Mike Tinnerello (QB), Rusty Melton
(FB), Mack Martin (HB), James Lloyd Collins (HB) and junior Jimmy Bolton
(HB). Seniors also dominated the end positions with David Adams (E) and Billy Barton (E)
assigned to those spots. Finally, the line was dominated by seniors too, including Carroll Long (C),
Don Jones (G), Cecil Taylor (G), and Wayne McFarland (T). The only question mark
in the starting lineup was at the left tackle position. Newman tabbed junior Rodney Leonard
and Charles Machen for that slot. That gave the offense ten senior starters.
The team was rich in talent
and thus rich in reserve strength. Underclassmen provided quality backs in junior Ronnie Parker at halfback
and sophomore Harley Gordon at the fullback position. Where the Tigers experienced the biggest
losses due to graduation was at the end positions where three of the five players from the season before had played. Expected
to provide added duty at the end positions were juniors Ronald Skains and sophomore Kenny White.
The other player tabbed for needed reserve duty was Jimmy Brazzell, a senior. He was an all-purpose lineman
but was expected to fill in for Jones and Taylor at the guard position.
had several players who would be counted on more on the defensive side of the ball. Those included Gerald Long, Rodney
Lenard, and Don Garrett, all seniors except Lenard. Ronald Skains also specialized
more on the defensive side of the ball. That meant that Coach Newman had around 18 players he could count
on for regular duty, with virtually all of those being talented, game-tested seniors.
was entering his sixth season at the helm of the Tiger program. The five years he had already put in with the program moved
him into second place on the list for longest coaching tenure, surpassing Ben Cameron, Kidd Farr and Emmett
Cope who had each coached for four years in the program. Newman still had a ways to go to catch
Alwin Stokes who had put in nine years as the head coach at Winnfield.
Back to assist Newman
for their fifth year were Thomas Straughan and Frank Mobley. David Williamson,
the other assistant, was a newcomer to the program. It was an experienced coaching staff that had worked with the senior-dominated
team throughout their playing careers.
Prior to the 1957 season, virtually every Winnfield team since the 1920s was simply looking for a win - any win. Since
the program had won district titles in three of the four years between 1957 and 1960, a new goal was established for the program
in 1961. As the Tigers prepared for the 1961 season, the bar had been raised to a height that winning a district championship
and the primary goal of the 1961 team became winning a state championship. The sportswriters thought Winnfield had as good
a chance as anyone of achieving that goal when they voted the Tigers the No. 1 Class A team in the preseason poll, with Tallulah,
the defending state champs, being ranked No. 2.
The 1961 schedule marked the third consecutive year that the Tigers played an 11-game regular season schedule. The
Tigers opened the season by traveling to Ville Platte for a rare game against a south Louisiana team. Prior to the 1961 season,
Winnfield had competed against only five schools located south of Alexandria; those being Jennings in 1924 and 1925, Leesville
during the 1930s and 1940s, Marksville in 1930, New Orleans in 1917 and Warren Easton (New Orleans) in 1923. Other than the
road trips to New Orleans in 1917, Warren Easton in 1923 and Jennings in 1924, this would be the longest road trip any Tiger
team had ever made.
In the season-opener against Ville Platte High School Bulldogs, the Tigers played a “typical” season opener.
Most high school team do not execute well in the season opener and that is especially true on the offensive side of
the ball. That would be the case for Winnfield did not have a single sustained drive for a touchdown in
the first half, though the Tigers did get on the scoreboard when quarterback Mike Tinnerello took a
bootleg 60 yards for a score. The Tiger defense added one other first half touchdown when linebacker
Gerald Long stepped in front of a Ville Platte pass in the second quarter and ran 55-yards for a touchdown.
His twin brother Carroll came in and attempted the extra point but it was no good, leaving the score 12-0
at the half.
Ville Platte never moved into scoring position in the first half but they did threaten to score three times in the
second half. Two of those drives were stopped by interceptions by James Lloyd Collins. All total Collins
snared three interceptions for the night.
Winnfield scored one more time in the game, that coming in the third quarter when Jimmy Bolton sprinted
into the end zone from 10 yards out to give the Tigers their final margin of 19-0.
was upset with his teams opening-game performance. When speaking to the Rotary Club later in the week, Newman
said, "The game didn’t show us what we have. The boys played well when they had to and held for downs around the
10-yard line. But, at other times they relaxed and let Ville Platte run over them.” After years of losing, it was nice
to hear complaints about a win that was less than picture-perfect.
Winnfield faced a big challenge the second
week of the season, as they took on Mansfield. Coach Newman warned that Mansfield was a serious contender
for the District 1-A crown. Coming into the game, Winnfield retained their Class A number one ranking, while district foe
LaSalle moved to No. 9.
Mansfield was guided by Donald Beebe at quarterback. He had one of the best arms in the state and
in fact his talent was honored at the end of the season when he was named as the quarterback on the All-State team.
nor any other Mansfield player was able to crack the Tiger defense in the first half. However, the Tigers weren’t much
more successful against Mansfield as the Tigers only got one score, that coming when Melton carried the ball
into the end zone from two yards out to cap a 70-yard drive.
When the Tigers came out after halftime they
found the Mansfield to be just as hard to crack as they had been in the first half. It took a defensive play to enable the
Tigers to get back on the scoreboard. That came when Rodney Lenard blocked a Mansfield punt and then recovered
the ball near the Wolverine goal line. James Lloyd Collins then extended the Tigers’ lead when he crashed
over from the 2 on the next play. Long missed the extra point, leaving the score 13-0.
Winnfield would have to survive the Mansfield passing attack that finally showed up as Beebe engineered two
short scoring drives, both of which highlighted Beebe’s throwing arm. Sandwiched in between those two
Mansfield scores was a 13-play, 88-yard drive that was capped when Tinnerello dropped back to throw from
the Mansfield 17, pulled the ball in and eluded tacklers on a twisting run for a touchdown. In the end
Winnfield prevailed in a 20-13 nail-biter.
The Tigers had managed to walk away with win
number two and an early lead in the district race. However, both wins were less than dominating. More specifically, the Tigers
weren’t scoring as well as the early season hype built them up to be capable of. In two games, the Tigers had scored
six touchdowns, which for most teams was not a bad start to the season. However, this team seemed to have the capability of
putting up big numbers on the scoreboard. All of that would come later.
On the other hand, against Mansfield the Tiger
offense had managed to put together one of the best rushing nights in school history when they piled up 457 yards rushing.
Mack Martin led the rushing attack by picking up 141 yards in only 14 carries. Melton toted
the ball 23 times for 92 yards. Tinnerello had the highest per carry average, gaining 95 yards on only 8
carries for a 12-yard per carry average. Bolton, with 55 yards in 11 carries and Collins
with 68 yards in 16 carries also contributed to the 457-yard total. But, for all that yardage, the Tigers only managed to
push over three touchdowns, with those three touchdown runs accounting for only 22 of the 457 yards.
In week three,
the Tigers traveled to one of the hardest places to win a football game in the twentieth century, that being the home of the
Homer Pelicans. Homer High School had a football program steeped in tradition and had already competed in five state championship
games by the 1961 season. Winnfield and Homer had already met four times on the football field, all occurring between 1936
and 1939. Homer defeated Winnfield in all four games, whipping Winnfield by a combined total of 97-0 in those games.
first half of the Homer game played out like the first two games of the year. Winnfield moved up and down the field, again
displaying an ability to move the ball but showing weakness inside the red zone. The Tigers were winning the field position
war but not scoring points. Then, late in the second quarter, the Tigers downed a Tinnerello punt at the
6-yard line. Three plays later David Adams delivered a blow that caused a fumble, which rolled into the end
zone where an alert Rodney Lenard fell on the ball to finally give the Tigers a touchdown. Carroll
Long’s kick was no good but the Tigers had taken a 6-0 lead which they carried to the locker room at halftime.
defense had limited Homer to only three first downs and had kept the Pels far away from the Tiger goal line. Meanwhile, Winnfield
was piling up the yardage and had gotten inside the Homer 30 three times. The Tigers had the lead in the game but it was the
defense that had provided the points.
The Tiger offense finally got going on their first possession of the second half, not only for the game but also for
the whole year. If there is such a thing as a turning point in a season, the second half of the Homer game would be the turning
point in the 1961 Tiger season.
The Tigers scored the first two times they had the ball in the second half, with Melton capping the
first drive and Bolton scoring from 2 yards out to end the second drive. That gave the Tigers a 20-0
at the end of the third quarter.
Later in the game Ronald Skains dropped the Homer punter on the Homer 6-yard line. The Tigers capitalized
on that blunder with Tinnerello going in from the 4 on third down. Long’s kick was
no good, leaving the score 26-0 with less than two minutes to go in the game. After that, the Tiger reserves helped run out
the clock For
the third straight week the Tiger defensive performance was nothing short of amazing. Winnfield allowed Homer a mere 5 first
downs and only 54 yards rushing for the night. Meanwhile, the Tiger offense seemed to get jump-started in the second half.
fourth game of the year would be the game where the team put it together in all phases for a whole game. In that game the
Tigers played district foe Coushatta. It had been against Coushatta that the 1919 Tiger team set a single-game scoring record,
winning by a margin of 94-0; a record that would last throughout the twentieth century. In the 1961 game with Coushatta the
Tigers wouldn’t break that record but they would score more points than any other Tiger team had scored in 29 years.
jumped to a 33-0 first-half lead by scoring on all but one of their five first half possessions. Scoring for the Tigers in
the first quarter were Jimmy Bolton (26 yd. run) and Mike Tinnerello
(19 yd. run). Then the Tigers used three second-quarter interceptions to set up three more touchdowns. The first
interception came courtesy of Billy Barton, after which Tinnerello connected
with James Lloyd Collins at the 25, where he shook off one tackler and
ran into the end zone for the Tigers third touchdown.
On the next Coushatta series, James
Lloyd Collins caught another pass, this time from the Coushatta quarterback. That gave the Tigers the ball at the
Winnfield 32 yard line. Two plays later Tinnerello connected with Mack Martin for a 59 yard
pass completion that got the ball all the way down to the Coushatta 9-yard line. Martin gained those 9 yards
in two carries to up the Tiger lead to 26-0 with under a minute to go in the half and Coushatta reeling. Coushatta returned the kickoff
to the 29-yard line and, with six seconds left on the clock, had time for one play. They elected to pass and that was a mistake.
Mike Tinnerello jumped in front of the Coushatta pass at the Choctaw 37-yard line and went the distance.
He also threw to Billy Barton for the PAT to make the score 33-0 at the half.
It was the most dominating
display of football by a Tiger team since the 1920s. Coushatta had not been past midfield all game long and Winnfield was
all but unstoppable on offense. The 33 points the Tigers posted in the first half were the most first half points scored since
the ninth game of the 1928 season. The Tigers were rolling, and with Ruston looming the next week, Coach Newman
knew he had to protect against injuries. He had the option of playing his reserves in the second half and that is just what
he did. There wouldn’t be much of a drop off.
In the second half the Tiger reserves scored three more touchdowns with a backfield filled with a slew of sophomores,
including quarterbacks Bob Wyatt and Cully Warren, and running backs Jimmy Bolton,
Ronnie Parker, Harley Gordon and Jerry Price. Scoring for the Tigers were Bolton, Price
After Winnfield had moved to a 46-0 lead, Coushatta averted a shutout when they put together a 10-play drive with 46
seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Tiger reserves scored one more touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the final
score 53-7. That allowed the Tigers to move their record to 4-0-0 for the season and 2-0-0 in district play. The win was the
sixth regular-season win in a row for the Tiger program, when the final two regular season games of the 1960 season are taken
into account. That marked the longest regular season win streak since the 1928 season.
After a somewhat sluggish
start to the season, the Tigers were on a roll. The second half of the Homer game and the entire Coushatta game were perfect
tune-ups for one of the biggest games a Tiger team had ever played. The fifth game of the year was not a district game and
it would have no bearings on the Tigers district title march. Of course, it wasn’t a playoff game, because the playoffs
were still two months away. What made the fifth game of the year so important was the opponent - the Ruston Bearcats.
KEY GAME: Anyone fan of Winnfield Tiger football knew
how lopsided the Winnfield-Ruston series had been. Ruston owned a 23-3-6 series record against Winnfield and usually viewed
the Tigers as a stepping-stone on their way to another state title. By 1961, Ruston had competed in five state championship
games and had won four of them. The season before, Winnfield gained some measure of satisfaction when they tied Ruston 13-13.
That snapped an 18-game losing streak to Ruston, but, coming into the 1961 match-up, Winnfield had played Ruston 24 straight
games (in 24 straight years) without a win. During that 24-game stretch, the Tiger record against the Bearcats was 0-22-2.
To further show how lopsided the series was, in that 24-game stretch Winnfield had been held to 14 or fewer points in all
of those games, while Ruston had scored over 14 points in all but two of those game – with the 13 points allowed to
Ruston in the 1960 game being one of those.
Winnfield’s three wins in the series had come in the 1923, 1928 and 1935 seasons. So, no player on the 1961 team
roster had ever seen a Winnfield team beat a Ruston team and only those fans in their 30s or older would have been old enough
to have witnessed the last win by Winnfield against Ruston since that win had occurred 26 years earlier. Winnfield certainly
had district championship and state championship aspirations when the season began. But, aside from that, one thing that would
highlight the season would be a win over Ruston.
Winnfield’s offense was in peak form as they headed into the Ruston game. In four games, the rushing attack had
produced 1,040 yards, with Jimmy Bolton gaining a fourth of that with 244 yards rushing. Tinnerello
had the highest rushing average, gaining 150 yards on 20 carries for a 7.5 rushing average. However, both Mack Martin
and James Lloyd Collins averaged over 5.0-yards per carry, with Collins rushing for 178
yards in 34 carries and Martin gaining 137 yards in 19 carries during the first four games. The workhorse
had been fullback Rusty Melton who had toted the ball a team-leading 56 times for 129 yards. Coach
Newman had stuck with his running game all season long, allowing Tinnerello and Cully Warren
to only attempt 14 passes combined through those four games. Together they had completed 8 of those passes and neither had
thrown an interception.
But it was the Tiger defense that had shined the brightest since the opening kickoff of the season. Four opponents
had combined to gain only 479 yards rushing, with Ville Platte gaining half of those in the opening game when they rushed
for 173 yards. Finding nowhere to run, most teams had no choice but to throw and that is when the Tigers were the most dangerous.
A total of 35 passes had been attempted against the Tigers, with the opposition completing 12 of those to their receivers
and 11 to Winnfield defenders. Two of those Tiger interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
Winnfield had outscored their
opponents 118-20 in compiling their 4-0-0 record and had never trailed in a game. Any opposing coach scouting Winnfield left
the stadium wondering where the weak spots were because there weren’t any. You couldn’t run at them, you couldn’t
throw at them and the Tigers had produced touchdowns after ten of their past twelve possessions. It was enough to worry even
Hoss Garrett, head coach of the Ruston Bearcats.
The first half of the Ruston game was a defensive
gem. After a scoreless first quarter, Ruston used a defensive stop and a punt to enable their offense to take possession at
mid-field. Ruston then put successfully put together a scoring drive capped by a Melvin Shows pass.
The PAT kick was deflected giving Ruston a 6-0 lead with 6:30 left in the first half. That marked the first time
the Tigers had trailed all season long.
The Tiger defense was also responsible for Winnfield’s lone first half score when Tinnerello
intercepted his counterpart’s pass at the Tiger 40 and returned the ball all the way back to the Bearcat 15-yard line.
Ruston put up a wall for three plays, but on a fourth and two play from the 7-yard line Tinnerello threw
to Billy Barton in the end zone. Though Barton was double-teamed, he somehow managed to
pull the pass down and with it, tied the score at 6-all. Carroll Long made good on his conversion attempt
to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead that they took into halftime. That marked the first time a Winnfield team had led Ruston at
the half since the Tigers last win in 1935.
Through all of the third quarter and
most of the fourth, the score remained unchanged, as the defensive battle continued. Then, it would be a defensive turnover
by the Tigers that would change the game when Carroll Long got an interception at the Winnfield
44-yard line. After that, the Tigers came in and shoved the ball down Ruston’s throat, with James Lloyd Collins
doing most of the damage. Collins got the call on six of ten plays of what turned out to be a scoring
drive, with his final carry being a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown. That run and Long’s PAT gave Winnfield
a 14-6 lead with only six minutes to go in the game. Since Winnfield had an eight-point lead, Ruston would need to score twice
in those six minutes.
For the first time in a generation of Winnfield football players, a victory over Ruston suddenly seemed probable. That
became even more apparent when Winnfield fell on a fumble on the center-quarterback exchange on Ruston’s next series
at the Ruston 17-yard line.
After a first down play was stopped for no gain, Winnfield fullback Rusty Melton went through a hole
opened by Cecil Taylor, plowed through heavy traffic, and then broke into the clear for a 17-yard touchdown
run. Long converted his third kick of the night to make the score 21-6, which is where the score stayed the
rest of the game.
Streak” was finally over. After 25 years of trying, Winnfield finally succeeded in defeating Ruston on the football
field. Several Tiger players hoisted Coach Newman onto their shoulders and gave him a ride off of the field.
statistics were about even, except for one category. Winnfield took advance of more turnovers as they picked off 3 Ruston
passes, with the first two interceptions leading to the Tigers first two touchdowns.
The significance of
the win could hardly be over-dramatized. It was clearly one of the most important victories in the entire history of the Tiger
football program. The win firmly established Winnfield as the team to beat for the 1961 Class A crown. It gave the program
statewide recognition, though the Tigers had held onto the No. 1 ranking in the Class A polls since the preseason polls came
out. The win gave the Tigers an untold measure of confidence as they headed into the last half of the season. The win would
be one of the crowning achievements of the 1961 season.
Poor Many. Winnfield headed into their sixth game of the season and their third district game of the year with an overall
record of 5-0-0, a 2-0-0 record in district play and a No.1 ranking in Class A. Many hoped to derail the Tigers, though they
were looking for their first win of the year. Many was hoping Winnfield would be looking past them. Sometimes, teams will
suffer a letdown after a big win and Winnfield was coming off one of the schools biggest. On the other hand, sometimes they
Winnfield traveled to Many and played as if they were competing against a junior varsity team. Good teams can make
inferior teams look that way. The Tigers had the ball eleven times in the game and they scored on nine of those eleven possessions.
A total of eight different players got in on the scoring parade. In a game like that, the outcome of the contest was clear
by the end of the first quarter. The only question at that point in the game was how many points the Tigers would score. Winnfield scored on all four of
its first half possessions, with two being of the long-range variety (55-yard run by Mack Martin and 69-yard run by James Lloyd Collins) and
the other two coming on much shorter runs (5-yard run by Tinnerello and 17 yard run by Bolton).
Linebacker Gerald Long added a touchdown on a 35-yard interception return and his brother Carroll
added three PAT kicks to account for the Tiger’s 33 first half point.
Since the beginning of the
second half of the Homer game (the third game of the year), the Winnfield offense had taken possession of the ball 27 times
and scored on 17 of those possessions. That meant that the Tigers were scoring almost two out of every three times (63%) they
had the ball. The Tiger opponents during that span were Homer, Coushatta, Ruston and Many. The Tigers had only been forced
into a punting situation on 5 of those 27 possessions and 2 of those possessions came at the end of the game when Winnfield
was simply running out the clock.
The Tiger defense gave up a touchdown just before the half when Many resorted almost exclusively to a passing game,
with the touchdown coming on a 20-yard completion. Charles Machen, Tiger defensive lineman, broke through
and blocked the PAT kick, leaving the score 33-6 at the half.
Though Many added one second half score against the Winnfield
reserves, Winnfield added four more touchdowns, with one coming on a five yard run by fullback Rusty Melton
and two by Bob Wyatt, Melton’s replacement. Also, on Winnfield’s final possession of the night
Ronnie Parker became the eighth Tiger to score a touchdown when he bolted in from 5 yards,
making the final score 58-12.
The 58 points the Tigers scored was the most single-game points a Tiger team had scored since the second game of the
1933 season when the Tigers defeated Grayson 59-0. Already, the team had scored 194 points in six games, an average of 32.3
points per game. They were easily on pace to become one of the most prolific scoring teams in the programs history.
the Tigers ground out 356 yards rushing and gained 16 first downs. So proficient was their rushing attack that they only attempted
2 passes and completed one of those for 11 yards. Tinnerello, who had shown so much skill through the air
as a sophomore, was hardly ever called on to throw the ball as a senior. That was due to one thing - the Tiger offense didn’t
have to throw the football.
The win upped the Tigers record to 6-0-0 and their district-leading mark to 3-0-0. The Tigers were one win shy of tying
the school record for most wins to start a season, a record set by the 1919 state champion team. They could tie that mark
and avenge one of their losses from the season before the following week when they traveled to Pineville to play the defending
Class AA State Champions.
Winnfield was still riding high from their big win against Ruston two weeks earlier and they hoped that win would propel
them to similar success against their fourth AA opponent of the year. Pineville was 4-2-0 for the season, but their two losses
had come against AAA competition. Sulphur had defeated the Rebels 34-7 and Lake Charles eked out a 9-0 win.
had to be aware of Winnfield’s gaudy record. In fact, Pineville had to be thinking the Tigers would be a challenge.
That is exactly what the Tigers wanted Pineville to be thinking. Champions have the opposition doubting themselves before
the game ever starts.
Winnfield had avoided the one thing that had plagued the 1960 team and so many other Winnfield teams - injuries. The
Tigers came into the seventh game of the year with all of their starters healthy and in the game. Coach Newman
needed all of those players because Pineville was just the type of team that could derail the Tiger express.
the game was a bruising defensive battle throughout. That would not be so evident in the final score, as the Tigers used touchdowns
in the second, third and fourth quarters to take a 20-0 win over Pineville. Tinnerello and David
Adams hooked up on two scoring passes (one from 11 yards out and the other from 30 yards out) to account for two
of those scores. During his sophomore season Tinnerello had three games in which he threw multiple touchdown
passes. This would be the only other game in his career where that would happen.
was also in on the only other score of the night, that coming in the fourth quarter when he picked off
a pass at the Pineville 45, got into the open, and returned the ball the distance for the Tigers final touchdown of the night.
Long converted on two of three PAT attempts.
Talk about momentum - the Tigers were
on a roll. With four games remaining in the regular season, Winnfield had made it to the eighth game with an undefeated record.
In doing so they had beaten most of the strongest teams on their schedule by whipping Mansfield, Ruston and Pineville. Mansfield’s
stock rose the same night Winnfield defeated Pineville when the Wolverines ran all over LaSalle 27-0 to take over sole possession
of second place in the district. The district race could still end up in a three-way tie for first place if LaSalle could
beat Winnfield in the closing game of the regular season. However, since Winnfield had handed Mansfield a convincing defeat,
most assumed that Winnfield had already faced their biggest challenge for the district title. Winnfield’s third straight
trip to the playoffs lay in their own hands, though the Tigers still had some other business to take care of.
a seven-game win streak and filled with a ton of confidence, Winnfield had an opportunity to accomplish something no other
Winnfield team had ever done. With consecutive non-district games remaining against Natchitoches, Jonesboro and Jena, the
1961 Tigers had a chance to be the first Winnfield team to go through the season undefeated against every single one of their
rivals. Through the first 52 two years of Winnfield High School football (1909-1960) Winnfield had played 6 teams 15 or more
times. Understandably, those six teams became Winnfield’s biggest rivals. Included in that bunch were the following:
1909 to 1960
Winnsboro 7- 7-2
1961 season, Winnfield was scheduled to face four of those six. Winnfield had already beaten one of those when they whipped
Ruston in week five. Weeks eight through ten had the Tigers playing Jonesboro, Natchitoches and Jena. So, the Tigers had a
chance to knock off all of their closest rivals before they met LaSalle, a team that had become one of the biggest rivals
to the seniors of the 1961 team.
Coming into the 1961 season, the seniors had never played on a team that had beaten Ruston, Pineville or Natchitoches;
not only in the same season but even a single time. The Tigers had already knocked off Ruston and Pineville, and Natchitoches
was two weeks down the road. Before the Tigers played Natchitoches, they had a little matter to settle with a team just up
the road - the Jonesboro Tigers.
The 1961 group of seniors had a chance to go through their sophomore through senior seasons with the claim of never
having lost to Jonesboro, as Winnfield had a two-game winning streak against Jonesboro. No other group of seniors
could make that claim. Jonesboro led the overall series with a 19-11-2 record. Jonesboro came into the
game with a 3-4-0 record, with all of their losses coming to larger schools. Had the Winnfield players known how Jonesboro
was going to close out their season, they would have known they were about to play a very good Jonesboro team. History would
show that after playing Winnfield Jonesboro would defeat Pineville (14-6) and Ruston (19-7). Then, Jonesboro would end the
season with a 7-7 tie against Mansfield. So, this was no ordinarily Jonesboro team - they were good.
The crowd for the Jonesboro
game was believed to be the largest for any Jonesboro - Winnfield game or any other game in the two school’s history.
It was homecoming night at Jonesboro’s Caldwell-Peacock Stadium and post game attendance
figures estimated the crowd to be close to 5,000. Though it would be hard to find a bad game in the series, this one would
end up being one of the classics.
Coming into the game you knew that both
teams had excellent defensive units. Therefore, the contest was “supposed” to be a defensive battle. The first
quarter lived up to that expectation, as Jonesboro was the only team to score. When the quarter ended with Jonesboro leading
by a score of 7-0 that marked only the second time that Winnfield had trailed in a football game.
The remainder of the game was anything but a defensive show because the two teams combined to score three touchdowns
in each of the three remaining quarters, making that ten touchdowns in a game that was “supposed” to feature two
Sometimes a high scoring game does not necessarily indicate poor defense. Such was the case in this game. In fact,
the Winnfield defense stopped Jonesboro cold throughout the first half as the first quarter touchdown that Jonesboro scored
would be their only score of the first half.
In the mean time, Winnfield’s offense finally got cranking in the second quarter when the Tigers scored three
unanswered touchdowns to move to a 21-7 halftime lead. The first two of those touchdowns were products of long drives, with the first score coming on a 9-yard pass from Tinnerello to an open Billy
Barton in the back of the end zone and the second coming on a 5-yard keeper by Tinnerello. Long
booted both PATs to give Winnfield a 14-7 lead at the five minute mark of the second quarter.
Then, after Jonesboro moved
deep into Winnfield territory Gerald Long came up with an interception and returned it to the Jonesboro 19-yard
line. The Tigers then drove the length of the field where Rusty Melton capped that drive with a 2-yard plunge.
That gave Winnfield three touchdowns in three consecutive possessions. Long was 3 for 3 on the extra point
Though Winnfield appeared to have full control of the football game, the second half would be a lesson in playing four
quarters of football. That became immediately clear when the two teams exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter.
Jonesboro got the first of those touchdowns which temporarily made the score 21-14 Winnfield. However,
Winnfield answered that score when Mike Tinnerello connected on his fifth touchdown pass of the year and
second of the game when he hit a streaking David Adams near the goal line. The touchdown came from 22 yards
away and moved the score to 27-14.
The 14 points scored by Jonesboro was already the most points Winnfield had allowed in a single game up to that point
of the 1961 season. Jonesboro was just getting cranked up, though.
Jonesboro erased half of the 13-point
deficit when they scored on their opening possession of the fourth quarter. The score was set up when Jonesboro returned the
kickoff following Winnfield’s fourth touchdown to the Winnfield 12 yard line. With the score reading 27-21 and a whole
quarter to go it was still anyone’s ball game.
The Winnfield defense took over at that point as they stopped two fourth down conversion attempts by Jonesboro on consecutive
possessions. Both stops enabled Winnfield to gain good field position and the Tiger offense took advantage of that by posting
two more touchdowns; both by Bolton. Jonesboro did score on the final series of the night to make the final
score 39-28 Winnfield.
The win wasn’t as sweet as the Ruston win but it wasn’t far behind. The victory over Jonesboro allowed
the 1961 team to join the 1923 and 1928 teams as the only squads to defeat both Jonesboro and Ruston in the same season.
a season filled with highs, the Jonesboro game offered a thrill a minute, or so it seemed. Winnfield had possession of the
ball ten times in the game. Six of those possessions ended in a touchdown, with one other ending in a fumble. The Tigers got
the ball right back after that fumble and went on to score.
Winnfield had a breakdown in the kicking game, allowing
Jonesboro to get off two good returns - one for 76 yards and another for 79 yards to set up two of Jonesboro’s scores.
By allowing Jonesboro to score 28 points, Winnfield nearly doubled their points allowed total for the season, moving from
38 points allowed to 64 points allowed.
Winnfield’s record improved to 8-0-0 for the season. The eighth win gave the 1961 Tigers the distinction of opening
the season with the most number of consecutive wins of any team that had played for Winnfield High School, surpassing the
7 wins of the state champion 1919 team. Talk increased of the Tigers chances of repeating the 1919 team’s feat of completing
the season with an undefeated record. The 1919 team had been the only team in Winnfield High School football history to complete
the regular season undefeated. One thing was becoming clear by the week – the 1961 team was staking a claim to being
the best Winnfield team the program had ever fielded up to that point in time.
When you are having a good season you often
begin talking of “streaks” and records. Such was the case with the 1961 team. The win over Jonesboro increased
the program’s regular season win streak to 10 games. That broke the school record 9-game win streak set during the 1927-1928
seasons. There were other team accomplishments that were within sight of the 1961 team. As the final games of the season approached,
the Tigers were closing in on virtually every school record. The 39 points the Tigers put on the board against Jonesboro moved
the team past the 1960 team into second place on the all-time single-season scoring list with 256 points. The record holder
was the 1928 team who scored 385 points. The 1961 Tigers needed to score 130 more points in the final three games to surpass
that record. To accomplish that they would need to score at a 43.3 pace per game. That seemed like a bit much to ask, but
everyone knew that was not out of the question considering how proficient this offensive unit was. With ten possessions a
game, the Tigers would have to average scoring after at least half of those to catch the 1928 Tigers. The Tigers had scored
after 14 of the previous 21 possessions, so the scoring title was certainly within reach.
The Tigers would begin that
quest against Natchitoches, a program that held a four-game win streak against Winnfield. It was Winnfield’s homecoming
and the fans were pumped for the game. Principal Eugene F. Love made sure the fans weren’t too pumped.
He issued a letter to the fans in the local paper asking for the supporters to “refrain from doing anything that might
cause Winnfield High School to be penalized and eliminated from the state playoffs.” He went on to caution the fans
that "hazing the coach, players, or official’s decisions could lead to (Winnfield’s) disqualification.’
What prompted Mr. Love’s plea was a warning the Winnfield program had received from the Louisiana High
School Athletic Association following a complaint filed by Pineville High School. Winnfield fans have always been very serious
about their football team.
Winnfield scored on the first play from scrimmage when Jimmy Bolton broke clear for a 67-yard run.
Carroll Long kicked the extra point while fans were still filing into the stadium. After that, Winnfield went at Natchitoches like they had something to prove. The first half of the Natchitoches game
was arguably the most dominant display of football by any Winnfield team up to that point in history. The Tiger starters had
the ball for four possessions and scored on each of those on drives of 67, 55, 89 and 5 yards. Other than Bolton,
other players scoring for the Tigers were Tinnerello (1 yard run), Mack Martin (15 yard
run), and David Adams (5 yard pass from Tinnerello). Carroll Long converted on three of
four extra points to contribute to Winnfield’s 27-0 halftime lead.
But, it was the Tiger defense that played like
a college-level team. That defense held Natchitoches to no first downs in five first half possessions. In doing so, Natchitoches
ended the half with a net gain of minus 33
yards of offense. In five possessions, Natchitoches only ran 13 plays from scrimmage.
It was more of the same in
the second half. About the only thing Natchitoches was able to do in the second half and fourth quarters. James Lloyd
Collins got the first of those when he scored from 50 yards away. That was followed by a 25-yard scoring run by reserve
quarter Cully Warren later in the third.
The reserves repeated that performance
the next two times the Tigers had the football when Bob Wyatt scored on a five-yard run
and Ronnie Parker scored from 15-yards away. Carroll Long connected on
four of five extra point kicks and Jerry Price ran in the extra point after the final touchdown
to make the final score 53-0 in favor of Winnfield.
The win moved Winnfield to 9-0-0 for the season and extended
the regular season win streak to 11 games. The playoffs were still three weeks away and Winnfield was playing championship
Against Natchitoches, the Tigers had the ball for 11 possessions and scored on eight of those. The starters scored
on all six of their possessions and the reserves scored on two of their four possessions. Winnfield’s
first and second team offense combined to rush for 450 yards, a new school record. They added 31 yards passing for 481 total
yards, also a school record at the time.
The 53 points Winnfield scored against Natchitoches
moved the season total to 309. That made the 1961 team only the second team in school history to score 300 or more points
in a season. With two games remaining they were 76 points shy of the school record for most points scored in a single season.
off Ruston, Jonesboro and Natchitoches, the lone remaining rival on the Tiger schedule was the Jena Giants. That is who the
Tigers would face next.
Jena came into the game holding an overall record of 9-4-2 in the series. All of those wins came during the 1950s when
Jena beat Winnfield 9 times in 11 meetings. Recent Tiger fortunes had changed when the 1960 Winnfield team beat Jena 21-6.
Never in the history of the series had Winnfield defeated Jena in consecutive seasons. The 1961 team had a chance to change
It would be easier to summarize what Winnfield did to Jena with a simple chart. Here is a summary of the first quarter:
Plays Yardage Result
60 yd. TD run by Mack Martin; Long kick
75 yd. TD run by Mike Tinnerello, Long kick
5 yd. TD run by James Lloyd Collins, Long miss
The summary of the first quarter would be simple. Winnfield ran six offensive plays and scored touchdowns on half of
those on runs of 60, 75 and 5 yards. Jena had run six offensive plays as well with only 6 total yards gained and no first
downs. Winnfield hadn’t gained a first down either to show how misleading that statistic can be. The rest of the first
half looked like this:
Plays Yardage Result
10 yd. TD run by Jimmy Bolton, Long kick 27-0
46 yd. TD run by Ronnie Parker, Long run 34-0
2 yd Td run by Harley Gordon, Long Kick
After the Natchitoches
game it hardly seemed possible that Winnfield could duplicate that dominating performance. By this point in the season, Winnfield
was not only winning, they were completely controlling the opposition and, in the process, completely demoralizing them.
first half of the Jena game Winnfield set a school record for most first half points scored. They did that by scoring 6 touchdowns
in 6 possessions. Winnfield scored touchdowns on five of the first 9 plays from scrimmage. Those scores came on runs of 60,
75, 5, 10 and 46 yards. It took Winnfield 9 plays to score their sixth and final touchdown of the first half, making that
18 plays and 6 touchdowns in half.
In the five offensive possessions by Jena, the Tiger defense held the Giants to net gains of 5, 1, 2, 2 and 6 yards
for a total of 16 yards gained. Jena punted five times and fumbled the ball away to end the other first half possession. Not
only had Jena not been in Tiger territory, they had not moved past their own 35-yard line. Dominant would be one word used
to describe the No. 1 Class A team in the state.
Coach Newman stayed with his reserves in the second half and by doing so gave Ronnie Parker
the opportunity to gain some notoriety. On the first play of Winnfield’s first series of the half Parker
broke through a hole opened on the left side of line and ran 85-yards for a touchdown. Parker's run was tied
for the second longest touchdown run from scrimmage in school history. John G. Jackson held the record of
97 yards set during the 1943 season. The second longest run since then had been an 85-yard run by Dan Carr
during the 1948 season. In fact, there had only been eight touchdowns scored by any means that were longer than Parker's
run. Three of those were scored on kickoffs and two more on interceptions. The two additional scores were made on punt returns
and, ironically, one of those had been scored by Eddie Parker, Ronnie Parker's father. During the 1943 season,
Eddie Parker ran back a punt for 87 yards and a score.
Parker's run made it 47-0
Winnfield midway through the third quarter. The attempted run for the PAT failed but the stands were still electrified by
Parker's run. Combined with his other touchdown run of the game, the junior running back had gained 131 rushing
yards on those two carries alone.
Winnfield intercepted a Jena pass in the fourth quarter and Coach Newman did everything he could to
call off the dogs at that point. He sent in Carroll Long to attempt a 32-yard field goal on first down, also
thinking he might need a field goal somewhere down the road. Long sailed the ball through the uprights, making
that the first field goal ever made by a Winnfield football player.
The kick made the score 50-0. That marked the
fourth time the 1961 team had scored 50 or more points during the season. Prior to 1961 only eight other Winnfield teams had
scored 50 or more points in at least one game. Included in that group were the 1924, 1927, 1926 and 1929 teams who
did that once. Only two teams had accomplished that feat twice, including the state champion 1919 team and the 1923 team.
However, it was the 1928 team that had scored 50 or more points the most times in route to their 385 points for the season
when they scored 50 or more points in three different games. So, the 1961 became the first Tiger team to score 50 or more
points in four games.
Those 50 points gave the team 359 points for the year. That put them only 27 points behind the school’s single-season
scoring record of 385 points, scored by the 1928 team. With one regular season game and at least one playoff game, the Tigers
seemed to be a cinch to get that record also, needing only 41 points to become the first team to score 400 points in a season.
Jena got their
lone midway through the fourth quarter. When Winnfield got the ball back they did something no other Winnfield had ever done,
or ever had the need to do when the Tigers punted on first down. Coach Newman was trying to hold the score
down the best way he saw fit. Some people wouldn't see it that way, thinking Newman was trying to show up
Jena. At those times a coach is often in a no-win situation. In the end Winnfield manhandled Jena in a 50-6 win.
The win by
Winnfield had been completely and utterly overwhelming. Winnfield gained 353 yards rushing and only lost yards on one play.
That rushing total pushed the season total to 2,704 in 10 games. That was already a school record and the team still had games
remaining to be played. Against Jena, the Tigers scored 8 of the first 9 times they had the ball and they punted the ball
away on first down the tenth time they had the ball.
The 6 points given up to Jena moved the total points allowed to 72 pts. Only four teams since the 1920s had held their
opponents to under 100 pts. for the whole season, including the teams of 1932 (96 pts.), 1933 (75 pts.), 1940 (94 pts.) and
1946 (95 pts.).
The win enabled the team to move to 10-0-0 for the season. That gave them the most wins by any Winnfield High School
team in a single season, surpassing the 9 wins posted by the 1923 and 1928 teams. Four more wins would give the Tigers a state
championship but the Tigers had a more immediate win in mind. The Tigers had to beat LaSalle in the regular season finale
the following week to sew up the schools fourth district title and third consecutive crown.
In the final week of the
regular season the possible outcomes needed explanation. Winnfield faced LaSalle, with the opportunity to clinch the District
1A title with a win. A Tiger loss meant a one-game playoff against Mansfield for the district crown. The District 1A champ
would face the District 2A champ in the first round of the playoffs. In District 2A Tallulah would close their season against
Delhi, with the District 2A title on the line. If Delhi pulled an upset and beat Tallulah, the Trojans would face Ferriday
in a one-game playoff to determine the champion of that district. Regardless of any outcome, the winner of the District1A
crown would host the first round playoff game.
Winnfield also had the opportunity to complete the regular season with an undefeated record, an accomplishment made
by only one other Winnfield team - the 1919 team (7-0-0). Comparisons between those two teams began to be made, but few people
had first-hand knowledge of the 1919 team since they had played 42 years earlier. Besides, a comparison between two teams
in general is virtually impossible, much less two teams from a different era. Nevertheless, all of that talk about undefeated
teams and "best team" in Winnfield history would all be a moot point unless Winnfield got past LaSalle in the final
game of the year.
LaSalle, and especially their head coach Lowell Morrison, came into the Winnfield game wanting nothing
more than an upset win over Winnfield. In the previous two seasons, Winnfield had knocked off LaSalle in district competition,
but then again Winnfield hadn't lost a district game in over three years. The Winnfield High School football program was riding
a 14-game win streak in district games, with the last district loss coming in the third of five district games played in the
1958 season. That district loss had come at the hands of the LaSalle Tigers. Winnfield had rolled over LaSalle by a score
of 25-6 in the 1959 match-up, but the Tigers had eked out a 7-6 decision over LaSalle to just barely take the district crown
in 1960. Since the series began, Winnfield had won 6 of 9 games, but it was the chance to knock off the No. 1 team in the
state that motivated Coach Morrison, as well as the opportunity to shut down Mike Tinnerello
and the Tiger offense. Coach Morrison of LaSalle stated that he believed Winnfield's No. 1 ranking gave his
team an edge. "The kids feel they've got something to work on," said Morrison in an interview for
Winnfield, on the other hand, had been both the irresistible force and the immovable object in their previous three
district games. In those three games, Winnfield had possession of the football 24 times. Those possessions produced 18 touchdowns,
meaning they scored a touchdown 3 out of every 4 times they touched the football in district competition. Only three of those
series ended in punts and only one ended in a turnover. Winnfield won those three games by a combined margin of 121-32.
hemmed up LaSalle throughout the first half, but Winnfield only scored two first-half touchdowns themselves to take
a 14-0 lead into halftime. It was as if everyone expected Winnfield to score every time they had the ball and it was the Tigers
themselves who had created that persona.
The two touchdowns were products of short drives, with the first coming after an interception was returned to midfield
and the second coming after Winnfield downed a punt at the LaSalle 33 yard line. James Lloyd Collins
got both touchdowns, with one coming on a 1-yard run and the other coming from four yards away. Carroll Long
booted both extra point tires.
The Tiger offense stumbled out of the blocks in the second half, going three and out on their first series and fumbling
the ball over to over to LaSalle on another series. In spite of themselves, the offense did manage to put together one third
quarter scoring drive which was capped by a 27-yard Tinnerello-run on a now-familiar bootleg that
Coach Morrison had vowed to stop. Long's kick was wide but the 20-0 lead now seemed like a comfortable
margin. The Tigers had now scored 379 points for the year, which was six points (or a single touchdown) from tying the school
Heading into the fourth quarter, Winnfield had been held on downs three of their first nine possessions of the game
and been forced to punt after two other possessions. A fumble on one drive and penalties on another killed two other drives.
All of that is the kind of play that sends teams packing early in the playoffs. Coach Newman was not getting
the kind of game he wanted in preparation for the playoffs.
The story was different on the defensive side of the ball.
Up to that point in the game LaSalle had been in control of the football for ten possessions. Seven of those possessions had
ended after three plays and one other possession had ended with a punt. Two other possessions ended after two plays and an
interception. Those ten possessions had netted LaSalle a total of minus 7 yards. LaSalle’s longest drive of the game
came when they moved from their own 16 to their own 43-yard line, for a total of 27 yards. So, it was the lack of productivity
of the Tiger offense that concerned Coach Newman the most.
Winnfield did score three more touchdowns in
the fourth quarter, but give credit to the Tiger defense for two of those. After the Tiger offense pushed the score to 26-0
at the start of the fourth quarter on a touchdown by fullback Rusty Melton the Tiger defense went to work.
Wyatt intercepted a LaSalle pass at the Winnfield 34-yard line and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. Long
grabbed a high snap from center and ran for the extra point to up the Winnfield lead to 34-0. Then, with less than three minutes
to go in the game, Jimmy Brazzell blocked a LaSalle punt and the ball was recovered at the LaSalle 10-yard
line. The Tiger second unit came in and rolled in for the 399th point of the year when Ronnie Parker dove
over from the 1-yard line. Bob Wyatt added the extra point to give the team an even 400 points for the season,
enabling the 1961 team to become the first Tiger team to score 400 points.
The win gave the team the school its third
consecutive district title. It had been over forty years since the program had put together three straight winning seasons,
much less three straight district titles and three straight playoff appearances. That is how far the program had come. Three
titles in three years had brought the program recognition. Winnfield had been picked as the No. 1 team in Class A in the preseason
poll and had held on to that ranking all season long. In the process, the team had broken nearly every school offensive and
defensive team record.
The team became the schools second team to go through the regular season undefeated. In compiling their 11-0-0 record,
the Tigers had beaten four of the program’s biggest rivals in Ruston, Jonesboro, Natchitoches and Jena. The team’s
11 wins represented two more wins than had ever been won in a single season. They accomplished that with the strongest rushing
attack that the school had ever produced. The team rushed for 2,975 yards during the regular season, by far the most productive
rushing total ever achieved. An additional 436 passing yards were added to give the team 3,411 total yards for the regular
season, another school record. Coach Newman didn't use the pass much and in 1961 he didn't need to. There
was only one game where the Tigers threw 10 or more passes, that being the Mansfield game where the Tigers completed 9 of
16 passes for 140 yards, by far their most productive night passing of the season. Otherwise the Tigers averaged throwing
just over 4 passes a game in the other ten games. Winnfield didn't have to punt much in 1961. In only 3 of the 11 games were
the Tigers in punt formation more than three times. For the eleven game season, Winnfield only punted 28 times.
ability to score once they had the football has been documented. The final regular season tally reads as follows:
Possessions||RESULTS OF POSSESSIONS|
|Touchdown||Punt||Turnover||Ended on Downs||End of Half||Field Goal|
|105||54 (51%)||28 (27%)||9||6||6||1|
Most (59%) of those 54 touchdowns covered over half the field, with the breakdown of Winnfield's scoring-drives
being as follows: 26 (48%) being 60 yards or longer, 40 (74%) being 40 yards or longer and 46 (85%) being 20 yards or longer.
So, only 8 of the Tigers 54 scoring drives were under 20 yards. Defensively, the Tigers gave up 72 points, the fewest number
of points given up in over thirty years. The starting defensive unit only allowed 7 touchdowns all year, with 5 of those coming
in two games - the Mansfield and Jonesboro contests. For the season, the starting unit allowed 4 touchdowns in the first half
of play and 3 in the second half, however, 2 of those second half touchdowns came against Jonesboro. The team combined for
5 shutouts, the most by any team since the 1920s.
No opponent managed to rush for over 200 yards against the Tigers, and only two teams put together a 200+ yard total
yardage game, with those being Mansfield (214) and Pineville (228). All total, the defense allowed the opposition to gain
1,119 on the ground and only 360 yards through the air for a total of 1,479 yards. Winnfield's defense intercepted at least
one pass in every game, ending the season with 26 interceptions, a school record. The defensive gems of the season were the
Natchitoches and LaSalle games, where those two teams rushed for -17 and 13 yards respectively.
There were only two times
Winnfield trailed in a football game, that being early in the first quarter of the Ruston and Jonesboro games. Otherwise,
the Tigers had leads of over 30 points at halftime of most games.
But the Tigers hardly had time to sit back
and gloat over those numbers. They moved to the playoffs and a chance to be the first team to win a playoff game and the first
team to win a state championship on the football field. The 1919 team was declared the state champion after the end of the
season when Winnfield had no takers in their challenge to play anybody.
To realize those dreams Winnfield would have
to get by their biggest playoff nemesis - the Tallulah Trojans. In two of the Tigers three previous playoff appearances they
had played Tallulah. The Trojans had won both of those games and had done so in convincing fashion, winning the 1957 game
by a margin of 27-6 and the 1960 game by a score of 32-7. In both of those years, Tallulah went on to capture the Class A
In a perfect world, Winnfield and Tallulah would have never met in the first round. Winnfield and Tallulah were arguably
the best two teams in Class A, prompting some people to say that the “real” state championship game would be played
in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite being the defending state champions, Tallulah began the preseason ranked No. 2 in the sportswriter’s poll behind Winnfield and had stayed in that position all season
long. These clearly seemed to be the strongest two teams in Class A. The winner of the contest would have a big edge in the
championship race and would be the biggest contender for the crown.
Tallulah had put together a season much like
Winnfield, though not nearly as impressive. The Trojans record for the season was 9-2-0, with the two losses coming to Neville
(13-0) and to Vicksburg, Ms. (46-7). During their eleven-game schedule they scored 285 points.
Like Winnfield, individual
stars were in abundance on the Tallulah squad. Their strongest player was returning All-State fullback Leonard Neumann,
who was the leading ground-gainer for Tallulah. However, Tallulah was known more as a defensive team. Like Winnfield, they
had shutout five opponents during the season and had given up a total of 85 points. Only 39 of those points came against teams
other than Vicksburg. During the eleven game schedule, only Neville and Vicksburg had scored more than two touchdowns against
Tallulah. The team had struggled somewhat offensively during the final three games of the season; closing the year with a
21-0 win over Winnsboro, taking a close 13-6 decision over Ferriday and finishing with an 18-0 victory against Delhi in the
On paper the Tigers were the favorites. Tallulah wasn't the scoring unit that Winnfield was. Winnfield’s defense
had proven they could shut down anybody and had certainly stopped other offenses tougher than the one Tallulah appeared to
possess. When comparing Winnfield’s defense to Tallulah’s offense, the edge clearly went to Winnfield.
got the ball it was strength against strength. It appeared that was where the game would be decided. The Tigers ability to
score was well proven. Winnfield had not been held to under three touchdowns all season long, so Winnfield's offense
seemed to have a much stronger chance of putting points on the board than did Tallulah’s. However, Tallulah represented
the strongest defense Winnfield had faced all year. In comparing Winnfield’s offense to Tallulah’s defense, that
appeared to least be a standoff. It was hard to conceive of a defense that would completely shut down Winnfield.
Tigers were fairly healthy for the game, with every player suited up. The most severely injured player was offensive and defensive
lineman Don Jones. He had injured his ankle in practice two weeks before the contest and basically had to
put a wrap around his ankle to immobilize that joint.
When you add to the mix the fact that the game would
be played in Winnfield, virtually everything indicated that the Tigers had an edge. One thing was certain - this would be
the biggest football game ever played on Winnfield’s home field.
Like the season before, the game would be played
on Thanksgiving Day, with a 2:30 kickoff. The largest crowd to ever watch a football game on Winn Parish soil showed up, filling
every seat in the stands and taking up standing room space around the field. The playing conditions were ideal so weather
wouldn’t be a factor.
Winnfield looked like they were going to jump to an early lead when, on the Tigers second play from scrimmage, Jimmy
Bolton burst through a hole opened by Cecil Taylor and ran 42 yards before he was downed at the
Tallulah 3-yard line. After that Tallulah stuffed Winnfield in four straight line plunges, meaning Winnfield squandered their
first scoring chance. That would be a pattern that would repeat itself time and time again in the first half. Two other times
in the first half the Tigers moved the ball near the Tallulah 20 yard line only to be repelled by the Trojans when a fourth
down play failed. All total, Winnfield had the ball for seven possessions in the first half. None of those drives produced
points as the Tigers had to punt the ball away five times and turned the ball over on downs the other two times they had the
ball. The first half was a game of field position, which Winnfield won decisively, but they didn’t capitalize on that.
What was most frustrating about that was the fact that Winnfield had begun five series in are near Tallulah territory, yet
Winnfield never crossed the goal line. At halftime the Tiger offense was one frustrated bunch. It was an equally frustrating first half defensively
for the Tigers but for an entirely different reason. Tallulah also had the ball seven times in the first half and punted the
ball six times. The Trojans net gain for six of those series reads as follows: 1, 2, 6, 5, 4 and 30. In other words, Winnfield’s
defense held Tallulah to 48 yards, 20 plays and two first downs on six of their seven first half series. It was that other
first half possession that was the deciding series of the first half. On Tallulah’s third series of the game, the
Winnfield defense had Tallulah in a third and six situation from the Tiger 31. On the next play, Neumann
got the first down and then some after he broke through the Winnfield defensive line for what would be one of the key plays
of the game. The Tigers were weakened on that series when solid defensive lineman Don Jones was relegated
to sideline duty after he aggravated his ankle injury when he was clipped. Though Jones was the type of player
you practically had to tie to the bench to keep him out of the game, his lack of mobility was of enough concern that Coach
Newman had no choice but replace him.
Winnfield’s defensive backs didn’t
make many tackles in 1961 because the ball carrier seldom got that far down the field. But, it was Tiger defensive back James
Lloyd Collins who had to be the one to stop Neumann on the big third down play and that wouldn’t
happen until Neumann went 33 yards, giving Tallulah the ball at the Tiger 36-yard line. That was Tallulah’s
first and what would be only venture into Winnfield’s end of the field in the first half.
Two plays later Neumann
took a handoff, swung to his right and rounded the corner. What he saw was an open field and he took full advantage of it,
racing 26 yards for the score. Tallulah tried to run for the extra point but the Tiger defense stopped that, leaving the score
have asked much more from the Winnfield defense. It was the Tiger offense that simply had to execute better in the second
half, particularly when the Tigers got into scoring position. Since the Tiger offense had moved into scoring position three
times in the first half, it only seemed to be a matter of time before the Tigers cashed in on that kind of field position
shifted to the Winnfield side of the field on the opening drive of the second half when Tinnerello recovered
a fumble at the Tallulah 45 yard line. That gave the Tigers their fourth starting position inside Tallulah territory.
moved to a first down at the Trojan 16-yard line, the Tallulah defense buckled down and gave up only three yards in four plays.
Neither team did anything offensively the remainder of the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, it appeared
that the Tigers got what they were looking for when Neumann coughed up the ball and Rodney Lenard
fell on it at the Tallulah 26-yard line. After three plays netted 7 yards, the Tigers were back in a fourth down situation
deep in Tallulah territory.
Coach Newman called
for Tinnerello to throw on fourth down. The play was designed for Billy Barton and he was
open momentarily but that was all. Tinnerello drilled the ball to Barton but the defender
got a hand on it, ending the play and yet another Tiger scoring opportunity.
When Tallulah took over there were but
four minutes remaining in the game. The strategy for Winnfield had boiled down to two basic premises. The Tiger defense had
to stop Tallulah and the quicker the better. Then, Winnfield had to score the next time they had the ball because
it would likely be their last opportunity. With the score still reading 6-0 in favor of Tallulah it was white-knuckle time.
accomplished the first task, holding Tallulah short of a first down in three plays and forcing a punt. The Trojans ate two
precious minutes off of the clock so Winnfield needed a good return. What you need and what you get are two different things
and Winnfield found that out when the worst happened. The Winnfield return man fumbled the ball away, which Tallulah recovered
less than 25 yards away from the Tiger goal line.
Just prior to the fumble, the fact that the Tigers would likely gain possession with nearly the whole length of the
field away from a touchdown seemed like a tall enough mountain to climb. But, in football, possession is everything. So, failing
to gain possession, when every tick of the clock is precious appeared to be the final, killing blow. Never mind that Tallulah
had the ball in immediate scoring position and that a score by Tallulah would almost completely put the game out of reach,
barring a total miracle.
The Tigers did hold the first down play to a 1-yard gain, but Tallulah made sure of the outcome on second down when
Neumann bolted 22 yards for a touchdown. The attempted PAT kick sailed wide, but Tallulah had moved to a
12-0 lead with just over a minute to go in the game.
Two touchdowns in sixty seconds suddenly seemed more difficult than walking to the moon. It would take a full scale
Tinnerello-aerial assault to get back in this game and that is what Coach Newman tried.
The Tigers went nowhere on the next series and the clock ran out with Winnfield in possession at their own 26-yard line.
A large amount of credit is due
to the play of the Tallulah defense throughout the game. They simply did what they had to do to stop repeated Winnfield scoring
threats. Winnfield began four series inside Tallulah territory, including two starts at the 45-yard line, one from the 34
and the other from the 26. Winnfield never scored on any of those or any other drive.
Likewise, the Winnfield defense
shut Tallulah down all game long. The Trojans had to punt the ball eight times in the contest, which was more than any other
Winnfield opponent had been forced into. The Trojans put together a seemingly impossible 73-yard scoring drive, which alone
was enough to win the game. There were only two other drives during the game when Tallulah picked up a first down. Tallulah’s
second touchdown was, for the most part, simply a side note in the game.
The game boiled down to two main factors
then. First, Winnfield did not capitalize on the great field position they had all game long to start most possessions. Secondly,
they did not execute once they got into scoring position. Tallulah put together one great drive that produced a touchdown.
Had the Tigers stopped that drive, like they had all of the others, the game could have very well ended in a 0-0 tie. Ironically,
had that happened, Winnfield would have won the game by virtue of having more first downs. To make matters better or worse,
however you look at it, two weeks later Tallulah went on to repeat as the Class A state champions when they defeated Plaquemine
14-7. Winnfield players and fans had every reason to think they were just as good as the state champions.
The 1961 season
brought the Winnfield High School football program to the highest level it had ever been and the brand of football played
was as good as had ever been witnessed. The team accomplishments would live on for years to come and the players would serve
as standard-bearers for the next wave of Tiger football players, all who drew inspiration from the feats of the 1961 team.
to 1961, only seven Tiger teams had a single player score 50 or more points in a game and no previous team had more
than one player score more than 50 points. The 1961 team had three players who accomplished that feat, with
Mike Tinnerello leading all scorers with 66 points and Jimmy Bolton and James Lloyd
Collins scoring 54 points each. Tinnerello’s total was the second-most points ever scored by a Tiger player
in a single-season up to that point; trailing only Frank Brewer’s 69 points scored during the 1928
season. But the scoring for the 1961 team didn't rest in those three players.
of 15 players scored points for the team. That was, by far, the most players to score from one team up to that point in Tiger
football history. Prior to 1961, the leaders in that category was the 1928 team that had 12 players score points.
season Tinnerello rushed for 9 touchdowns, giving him 16 rushing touchdowns for his career. That tied him
with Hovey Harrell for the most rushing touchdowns in a career. It was, by far, the most touchdowns ever
scored by a quarterback up to that time and that record remained intact throughout the remainder of the twentieth century.
But, Tinnerello's most impressive individual record was for passing, something he did very little
of his junior or senior seasons. For his career he threw for 21 touchdowns. The previous high career mark was 8, set by Dan
Carr between 1948 and 1950.
Other individual leaders during the season included Jimmy Bolton, who was the Tigers leading ground
gainer. He rushed for 696 yards in only 58 carries, for a 12.00-yard per carry average. Carroll Long set
a school record by kicking 31 extra points, which shattered Durwood Swilley’s school record of 22 set
during the 1948 season. Long ended his career with 48 extra point kicks, also a school record. Additionally,
Long kicked the school’s first field goal during the season, a 32-yarder against Jena.
The team established
new records in virtually every category that mattered. Some of the more impressive records the team set are: (* Includes part of the 1960 & 1962 seasons) ( ** Includes
part of the 1960 season.)
Highest Winning Percentage – Regular Season
1.000 (tied with the 1919 team)
Most Wins In A Season
Most Wins To Start A Season
Longest Regular Season Win Streak
Most Points Scored – Reg. Season and Overall
Most Consecutive Home Wins
Most Rushing Touchdowns
Longest Scoring Streak
Most Rushing Yards (Game)
450 vs. Natchitoches
Highest Rushing Average (Season)
Most Total Yards (Season)
Fewest Total Yards Allowed (Game)
-17 vs. Natchitoches
football program went 19-4-1 (.813) between the 1960 and 1961 seasons. That was the most successful two-year run in the school’s
football program up to that time and was the seventh best two-year winning percentage in the twentieth century. The highest
two-year winning percentages include:
Above all, the biggest effect that the teams of the late
1950s and early 1960s had on the Winnfield High School football program was that they changed the entire psyche of the program.
Many of the teams prior to the late 1950s hoped to win but just couldn’t/didn’t. Beginning in 1959, Winnfield
teams began to expect to win, and win they did, posting 25 wins between 1959 and 1961. Winning begets winning. Winning
gets the talent out and it’s much easier to keep the talent out when the program is successful. The mood of the fans
is so much different with “winning programs”. During the last half of the twentieth century, Winnfield football
became synonymous with winning football. That all began with the teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The lettermen of the 1961 season included the following:
Seniors: Cecil Taylor, James Lloyd Collins, David
Adams, Mike Tinnerello, Gerald
Long, Wayne McFarland, Billy Barton, Carroll Long, Mack Martin,
Don Jones, Rusty Melton, Don Garrett, Richard Evans, Charles Machen, Eugene Edmonds, Jimmy Brazzell
Parker, Jimmy Bolton, Rodney Lenard, Bob Wyatt, Jim Warren, Ronnie Skains
Soph.: Tom Trawick
Post Season Honors:
All District, HM All-State
Wayne McFarland Tackle
All District, 2nd Team All-State
Mike Tinnerello QB
2nd Team All District
2nd Team All District
Enter content here
- 6-4-0; *District - 0-3-0) At the January meeting of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, the organization took up
redistricting like they did every two years. As always, the classification of schools would be based on the size of the male
enrollment for grades 9 - 12. Each school had to submit the average male enrollment for the previous two years. At Winnfield
High School, that average was 229, which was 28 students higher than the minimum necessary for Class AA. That
meant that Winnfield would be moving up to Class AA and would be one of the smallest schools in AA. That would be a pattern
that would repeat itself throughout the remainder of the twentieth century - that is, Winnfield having one of the smallest
enrollments in the particular class it was playing in.
Coach Newman had the option of joining either District
2-AA or 3-AA. The other teams represented in those two districts included Neville, Ruston and Jonesboro in 2-AA and Leesville,
Jena, Natchitoches and Menard in 3-AA. Newman chose 2-AA. The Tigers chances of taking their fourth straight
district title would obviously be much more difficult against the three teams of 2-AA. Neville was the defending Class AA
state champion and had won titles in 1955, 1959 and 1961. Between 1959 and 1961 Neville had risen to the heights of high school
football in Louisiana and were considered the premier program in the state. During that time, Neville had a record of 34-1-0,
with the lone loss being a 20-19 defeat to Class AA Pineville in the 1960 season. More about Neville later.
After Neville, Winnfield still had Ruston and Jonesboro to contend with in the district. Ruston’s dominance over
Winnfield had been stopped during the 1961 season, but would it be asking too much to expect Winnfield to defeat the Bearcats
two years in a row? That had never happened. Finally, Jonesboro and Winnfield seemed to trade wins from one season to the
next. All in all, Winnfield had their work cut out in the district race.
There would be big changes in the coaching ranks at Winnfield High School coming into the 1962 season. Leaving the
program were assistant coaches Frank Mobley and David Williamson. Mobley left after serving
five years as an assistant in the Winnfield program and Williamson departed after serving as an assistant
for only one year. Mobley had come to Winnfield straight out of Louisiana College after graduating in 1957.
His move was prompted by his acceptance of the head-coaching job at Newellton High School. One new assistant coach was hired
in the person of Ronnie Rigdon, while Thomas Straughan stayed on as an assistant.
things can happen to a football program when it experiences a season like Winnfield did in 1961. Some programs have outstanding
seasons because the talent pool is so high for that particular season. Then, when that talent graduates the program suffers.
The dream season thus becomes a one-shot deal. The more well-developed programs have a system where they develop talent young
and keep the kids involved in football so that there is not a drastic change in the program from one year to the next. The
Winnfield Tiger football program was beginning to fit the later description.
The fact remains that Winnfield lost a group of seniors that
were arguably the most talented group of seniors to ever play for Winnfield up to that point in time. There would be no hiding
the effects of such a loss. The hardest hit area of the Tiger lineup was the line, which was completely decimated by graduation.
As a result, the line of the 1962 team would be filled with a relatively inexperienced group of linemen.
a senior, led the group of returning linemen. He had played at the left tackle position the season before. He would likely
be joined by junior letterman Tom Trawick's, the only other returning lettermen in the line. Expected to
battle for the center position were senior Otis Peterson and sophomore Mike Milam. The starting
guards would have to come out of a group consisting of juniors Vernon Blair, Bob Taylor, Eddie McManus and
senior Joe Spence.
When you consider that Winnfield lost Mike Tinnerello (QB), Rusty Melton (FB),
James Lloyd Collins (HB) and Mack Martin (HB) in the backfield you would immediately conclude that
the picture was just as dim in the backfield as it was in the line - but it wasn’t. The 1961 team was deep in talent
in the backfield. The previous season eight different players were shuffled in and out of the backfield. Returning were juniors
Cully Warren at quarterback, Jimmy Bolton and Ronnie Parker at halfback
and Harley Gordon at fullback. But, Winnfield also had juniors Jerry Price, Ralph Riley
and Bob Wyatt to run the ball, as well as promising sophomores Jim Duncan and James
Wallace. The Tigers strongest area in 1962 was in the backfield.
The Tigers lost two ends from the season before, but returned
two experienced ends. Gone were the decorated David Adams and reliable Billy Barton. Coming
back for their senior seasons were Ronald Skains and Bill Read. Each had made contributions
to the 1961 team, with Skains being a regular on the defensive side of the ball the year before. Also returning
were junior Kenny White, who had gotten valuable game experience the season before, and senior Kenneth
The 1962 team served notice that the Winnfield Tiger football program was still a strong program when
they rolled over Ville Platte in the home and season opener by a score of 36-0. The Tigers scored four of those touchdowns
in the first half, with Bob Wyatt getting two of those (1 yard run, 90 yard punt return),
Jimmy Bolton getting one (17-yard run) and Dale Ladd scoring the other on 23-yard pass from
quarterback Bob White with under a minute to go in the half. Wyatt's punt return tied Vernon McDonald
(1948) for the longest punt return in school history up to that point.
The remainder of the scoring
came in the Tigers first two possessions of the second half, first when Ronnie Parker
ran one over from 15-yards out and then when Ladd got his second touchdown of the time, this one coming on
a 28-yard run.
The opening game win upped the Tiger's regular
season win streak to 14 games. Between 1930 and 1960 the longest regular season win streak was five games, that being accomplished
by the 1939 and 1948 squads. Otherwise, the only other winning streaks to even compare to the 14 game win streak was a 10-game
win streak put together by the 1927 and 1928 teams and a streak of at least nine games compiled between 1918 and 1919.
game win impressed the sports writers enough to move Winnfield to a No. 9 ranking in the Class AA polls. Neville was a unanimous
choice for first place and they were followed by fellow 2-AA opponent Jonesboro and Jennings in second.
momentum, the Tigers traveled to Mansfield for the second game of the season. Mansfield traditionally offered Winnfield the
strongest test of the Tiger defensive secondary, because the Mansfield program always possessed a passing game. Mansfield
traditionally ran out of the single wing and preferred to gain their yards in bunches. As
usual, the Wolverines were led by yet another championship quality quarterback. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Winnfield had
already faced two All-State quarterbacks from Mansfield in M. C. Reynolds (1952) and Donald Beebe
(1961). The Tigers were about to face their third as Sammy Clifton, the Mansfield quarterback for 1962, would
later be named the Class A All-State quarterback.
Mansfield had been one of the few teams Winnfield had dominated over the years, with the series record standing at
10-4-1 in favor of the Tigers. But, most of those games had been close encounters, with the strong 1961 squad only coming
away with a 20-13 win. No one on the 1962 squad had ever lost a game to Mansfield, but no one took the Wolverines lightly
As it were, only two touchdowns were scored and, Mansfield scored both in a 12-0 win. The shutout loss to Mansfield
marked the first time Winnfield had been shutout in a regular season football game since the fourth game of the 1958 season,
a period that covered 4 years and 40 games. That was by far the longest stretch of time that the Winnfield football program
had gone without being shutout. The only other times the Winnfield High School program had gone even ten or more
games without being shutout were between 1927 and 1929 when the Tigers scored in 16 straight games and between 1954 and 1955
when Winnfield scored in 18 consecutive games.
Winnfield’s hopes of getting back into the win column appeared good as they prepared for the third game of the
season. Coming to town were the Homer Pelicans. The Pels were seeking their first win of the season after losing their opener
and playing to a tie in their second game of the season.
The Tigers were a strong favorite but they would have to win
without the services of Jimmy Bolton. He sustained a hit to his kidney during the Mansfield game and would
be held out of action for at least one game. Otherwise, the Tigers were at full strength for the Homer tilt.
This time it would be
Winnfield who would administer a shutout-win in a 26-0 decision over Homer. The Tigers got two touchdowns each by Bob
Wyatt and Ronnie Parker in the contest, with all four being from approximately
10-yards away. In the end Winnfield gained 333 total yards, with 244 of that coming on the ground and 109 through the air
for a rare 100+-yard passing night for the Tigers.
After three weeks of the season, Winnfield’s record stood
at 2-1-0. Three of the Tigers remaining opponents had undefeated records for the season, including Neville (3-0-0), LaSalle
(3-0-0) and the Tigers next opponent, the Coushatta Choctaws (3-0-0). In fact, Coushatta had not even been scored on, taking
their three opponents (Plain Dealing, Farmerville and Arcadia) by a combined score of 74-0.
Coushatta offered Winnfield
a unique challenge. Like Mansfield, Coushatta was primarily a passing team. The Tigers faced two big questions as they prepared
for Coushatta. One, could the Tigers score against the strong Coushatta defense; and two, could Winnfield stop the Choctaws
powerful passing game? It would be the last non-district game before league play began.
Winnfield answered both
questions in convincing fashion as Coushatta’s vaunted passing attack never materialized against the Tigers and Winnfield
rolled to five touchdowns to take a 34-12 win. The Winnfield scoring was spread throughout the game.
The game was close at halftime, as the Tigers
only held a 14-6 lead. Those scores for Winnfield came on a 50-yard run by Jimmy Bolton and
a touchdown reception by Wyatt. Winnfield then
blew the game open in the third quarter with two touchdowns. On their first possession of the second half, Winnfield went
90 yards for a score, with Winnfield scoring from five yards out when Warren threw to Skains
in the end zone. Then, after holding Coushatta on their next series, Ronnie Parker got the ball on the first
play and sprinted 66 yards for a touchdown. Wallace came in and made his fourth PAT of the night to up the
Tiger lead to 28-6. That made Wallace only the fourth Tiger football player in history to kick as many as
four PATs in one game. Durwood Swilley did it first, kicking four extra points in two games during the 1948
season. John Harrington kicked four extra points in a game twice and had five extra points in single games
during the 1956 and 1957 seasons. Then, only a season earlier, Carroll Long had a four extra point game against
Natchitoches. Each team scored one more time in the contest, with Winnfield
getting theirs on a 65-yard run by Bolton. The win improved the Tigers record to 3-1-0.
the fifth game of the year Winnfield was about to face a stretch of the season that would define the season. In consecutive
weeks, Winnfield would face Ruston, Neville and Jonesboro - all district games. It would arguably be the toughest three-game
stretch the program the program had ever faced. The Tiger football program was riding a 15-game win streak in district games,
with the last loss coming during the middle of the 1958 season. Winnfield had not lost a district game in four years, but
that was all about to come to a crashing halt.
As for why this would be the toughest three-game stretch any Tiger team had ever faced, consider the following - Neville
was the defending state champions and were undefeated in 1962. They were riding a 17-game win streak over the past two seasons
and were the No. 1 ranked team in Class AA. Jonesboro had progressed through the first part of the season undefeated as well,
going 2-0-1 in the process. They too were ranked in the top five of the Class AA polls. Ruston was simply the most dominant
program the Winnfield High School football program had faced during the previous two decades, as the Tigers had only defeated
a Ruston team four times in 37 tries.
Of the three, Winnfield played Ruston first. If the Tigers had
any chance of staying in the district race they had to beat Ruston, because the Bearcats clearly represented the
weakest of the Tigers district foes; with the term “weakest” being a relative term. Ruston was 2-2-0 for the season,
as compared to the undefeated records of the other two district opponents. For Winnfield to be in a position of having to
beat Ruston in order to keep up with stronger competition was a rarity indeed. It seemed almost impossible to expect a Winnfield
team to beat Ruston in an important game.
Ruston was led by three-year starter Melvin Shows at quarterback. Any Tiger football fan or player
remembered his name from the previous two seasons. That is where the similarities between the two Ruston teams ended. Winnfield
would be facing a different look in the Bearcats. Coach Hoss Garrett of Ruston abandoned the Notre Dame box
formation before the season, opting instead to run out of the T formation. Ruston, like most of Winnfield's previous opponents,
relied much more on the forward pass than they had in previous years, and with good results. Shows had already
thrown touchdowns in each of the opening four games of the season. Winnfield had proven that they were quite capable of shutting
down passing attacks, though.
The game turned out to be a defensive battle and in fact neither offense tallied a score. There was only one touchdown
scored all night and that came when the Ruston defense picked off a halfback pass at the Ruston 17-yard line and returned
that 83 yards for a touchdown. The game was a punting exhibition, with the two teams combining for over 15 punts and both
teams return units providing good coverage. That meant that virtually every possession by either team began deep in their
end of the field.
To add further heartbreak to the loss, the Tigers did make their best penetration of the night on their last possession.
On that drive the Tigers moved inside the Ruston 10-yard line
with 52 seconds remaining. However, a fumble, which was recovered by Ruston, stopped that drive and preserved the Bearcat
The most frustrating aspect of this game was how Ruston had pulled out the win. Winnfield had lost its share
of games to Ruston, but most losses were of the three or four-touchdown margin of defeat variety. Two plays had decided the
1962 Ruston game - the Ruston interception that was returned for a touchdown and the Ruston fumble recovery that stopped Winnfield’s
drive in the closing seconds of the game. Both plays halted the only two scoring drives Winnfield had mounted all night. Since
Ruston had not driven into scoring position on any of their other possession, the game could have easily ended with Winnfield
scoring two touchdowns and posting the first shutout against Ruston since the 1940 season. But, games are not played on “could-haves”
In 1962, the most potent football team in Louisiana was the Neville Tigers. Coach Bill Ruple
had built a dynasty on Forsythe Ave. in Monroe. Since losing the 1958 title game to Reserve by a score of 25-14, Neville had
gone 40-1-0. The lone loss in that stretch came in the 1960 Class AA title game when Pineville narrowly defeated Neville 20-19.
Otherwise, Neville had won the 1959 and 1961 Class AA titles with defeats of Thibodaux (21-13) and Lee (7-0). For 1962, Neville
was 6-0-0 overall and 2-0-0 in district play. Neville would lock up the district championship with a win over Winnfield, since
they had already beaten Ruston and Jonesboro. Neville had scored 150 points in the opening six games of the season and only
given up one touchdown during the year.
Even though Winnfield had a good football team, that is the only thing that kept the game from being a blowout. Winnfield
held Neville to a single touchdown in the first quarter, but after that Neville scored twice in the second quarter and once
in the third quarter to take a 27-0 win. Winnfield could not answer any of those scores, as the deepest penetration Winnfield
made was the Neville 33-yard line.
Neville went on to an undefeated season and successfully defended
their Class AA title when they defeated Reserve 14-7 in Monroe for the 1962 state title. In doing so, they stretched the program’s
winning streak to 25-games. That was the longest win streak in that schools history up to that point.
Winnfield dropped to 3-3-0
for the season and were eliminated from the district title race, falling to 0-2-0 in district play. As the Tigers prepared
for the seventh game of the year, all they were playing for was pride, their fans and personal competitiveness. For the first
time since the 1958 season, the Tigers were not competing for a title - either of the district or state variety. But, the
Tigers had no trouble getting up for their next opponent - the Jonesboro Tigers.
Winnfield had enjoyed recent success against Jonesboro. The
last time Jonesboro had defeated Winnfield was during the 1958 season. That three-game win streak by Winnfield was the most
consecutive wins Winnfield had ever strung together against Jonesboro. Winnfield’s hopes of winning four straight against
the visiting Tigers hinged on them playing their best game of the year because Jonesboro was no slouch. Coming into the game,
Jonesboro enjoyed a 5-1-1 record, with their lone loss being a slim 6-0 defeat by Neville. In that game, Jonesboro moved inside
the Neville 10-yard line twice, only to be kept out of the end zone both times. The game was Winnfield’s homecoming.
Like the week
before Winnfield put up a strong effort in the first half and that is what kept the game from being a blowout by halftime.
Jonesboro put together two scoring drives in the second quarter to take a 13-0 lead at halftime.
Jonesboro never let up
in the second half, taking their first drives of the third and fourth quarter in for touchdowns and then getting one more
touchdown in the final quarter to rack up 33 points against Winnfield. That would be the most points any Tiger opponent would
score in 1962.
Winnfield avoided being shut out by all three district opponents when they got two second half touchdowns. The first
came when Rodney Lenard broke through and blocked a Jonesboro third quarter punt, which Bill Read
fell on in the end zone. Winnfield put together their only scoring drive of the night on their final series of the game. The
touchdown was made on a 15-yard toss from White to Skains. Wallace made his second conversion
of the game to make the final score 33-14. It was
sweet revenge for Jonesboro. The loss dropped Winnfield’s record to 3-4-0. That marked the first time that a Winnfield
team had been below the .500 mark since losing the opening game of the 1959 season. With three games remaining on the schedule,
the team still had a chance to give the school its third straight winning season, a feat that had only happened once before;
that being the period 1917 and 1919, which was Brother Stokes’ first three years as head coach. To
gain a winning record, the Tigers would have to win their final three games, and they would have to win all of them on the
road. All three of Winnfield’s final opponents were familiar to the Tigers as they included Natchitoches, Jena and LaSalle.
For the year, Winnfield was 3-1 against non-district competition and 0-3 against district foes. The Tigers pinned their hopes
on turning the season around by having the same luck against the remaining non-district opponents as they had against earlier
non-district squads. Winnfield got
one step closer to a winning season when they defeated Natchitoches by a 19-6 margin. The Tigers got all of their touchdowns
on runs by Jimmy Bolton. The game was tight at halftime as Winnfield only held a 7-6 lead.
However, Bolton’s two second half touchdowns proved to be the difference as Winnfield
improved their record for the year to 4-4-0.
Winnfield’s final two games of the season would be played
in LaSalle parish. The first match-up against their neighbors from the east would be the Jena Giants. After being totally
dominated by the Jena football program in the 1950s, Winnfield had won both games played by the two in the 1960s. In 1962,
not only would Winnfield preserve that win streak, but they would do so with their biggest offensive night of the season.
allowed Jena to return the opening kickoff of the game all the way down to the Tiger 6-yard line. Jena scored two plays later
to take a 6-0 lead and it’s a good thing they did. They would have been shutout had they not posted that touchdown because
Winnfield roared back and scored 53 unanswered points to gain their fifth win of the season.
scored once in the opening quarter on a 3 yard run by Bob Wyatt. Then the Tigers exploded for 27 second quarter
points to break the game wide open. That was the most productive quarter since the 1928 season. Bolton and
Parker scored two touchdowns each in the quarter to take a 33-6 lead into halftime.
Cully Warren got two touchdowns in the third quarter and
Ronnie Parker made school history late in the third quarter when he ran 73 yards for a touchdown. That made
him the first player in Winnfield High School history to have more than one touchdown run from scrimmage that covered 70 or
more yards. His run must have felt like déjà vu for Jena because Parker had scored on an 85-yard
run against the Giants the season before. His two 70 plus yard touchdowns matched his father’s two touchdowns of equal
length, thus upping the Parker families 70 plus yard touchdowns to four. Eddie Parker, Ronnie's
father, had a 75-yard run from scrimmage and an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown while playing for the Tigers in the early
Winnfield’s win over Jena moved the series record to an even 8-8-1. Equally important, the win moved the Tigers
to 5-4-0 and assured them of finishing no worse than .500 for the season.
The Tigers finished the season with their third straight win
when they took a close 7-6 win over LaSalle. The only two scores in the LaSalle game came in the first
half and for Winnfield that touchdown came when Bob Wyatt intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
James Wallace made the important PAT kick to give Winnfield a 7-0 lead. That PAT proved to be the difference
in the game, as LaSalle’s 203-lb. fullback Billy Masters got LaSalle in the end zone
late in the first half, but Masters was stopped on the PAT attempt when Harley Gordon shoved
him out of bounds before he could turn the corner. That prevented LaSalle from tying the score, preserving Winnfield's 7-6
lead and eventual win.
The win gave the team a 6-4-0 record and the program its third consecutive winning season. Through the 1930s, 40s and
50s, a single winning season was a mark of excellence. It was a testimony of how far the program had come when the 1962 team
had to settle for only a winning season. The win over LaSalle gave the seniors of the 1962 team the opportunity
to be part of three teams that had won 25 games. That matched the 25 wins that the 1961 group of seniors had been a part of,
the most wins in any three-year period up to that point in time.
The Tigers were clearly out-manned by Neville and Jonesboro.
Those were the only two games the Tigers were out of. Playing the game of “ifs” and “buts”, Winnfield
could have conceivably won 8 of 10 games. But, the difference between good teams and championship teams is that championship
teams find a way to win close games. Winnfield didn’t do that in close losses to Ruston and Mansfield.
Tigers had a solid 6-1-0 record against non-district opponents. But, playing in arguably the toughest district in the state,
the Tigers went 0-3-0 in district play, scoring only two touchdowns in those games.
The 1962 team’s
place in the school’s football history is quite simple: they were a good team but not a great team. They would not be
mentioned among the schools elite teams.
After the 1962 season the football program ended its 54th year
of football. Plans were well under way to build a new high school, including a new football field and stadium.
Land had been purchased north of town on Hwy. 167 for the school complex. One month after the 1962 season ended, the Winn
Parish school board passed a resolution to name the new football stadium Stokes-Walker Stadium. That name
honored the legendary Alwin Stokes, the “father” of Winnfield High School football, and W.
D. Walker, the long time superintendent of schools in Winn parish.
1963, (Overall - 5-5-0; *District - 0-4-0) In 1963 Coach Charles “Hoss” Newman was preparing for his eighth season
as the head coach at Winnfield High School. He had already coached at Winnfield longer than all but one coach. That list was
headed up, of course, by Rev. Alwin Stokes who guided the Tiger program for nine years (1917-1923 & 1933-1934).
In Newman’s first seven years he had compiled a record of 43-32-3, for a winning percentage of .570.
That percentage was the second highest in the program, behind Stokes, among coaches who had served as head
coach for more than one year. Since 1917, fifteen men had served as head coach at Winnfield and ten of those had served two
or more years. Stokes and Newman were the only two from the latter group that had
a winning record at Winnfield.
Stokes achieved his success in textbook fashion.
He taught fundamentals and he was a player’s coach. He wasn’t stern but he didn’t have to be. Players wanted
to play for him. Newman’s success was due, in part to an abundance of talent. He also hired good
assistant coaches, with Thomas Straughan coming aboard in Newman’s second year. Newman,
Frank Mobley and Straughan guided the program during its rise to state wide prominence in
the late 1950s and early 1960s. Straughan was a homegrown boy, who many of the players watched when they
were grade school students.
Coach Newman was a study in contrast to the Stokes’ style. Hoss Newman
had a passion for the game and it came across in his intense manner. He drilled his players and expected perfection. Newman
often wore a solemn expression on his face, but when he became excited his whole face lit up. He could be a kidder, but he
was basically all business-like and was a disciplinarian. Strong, gruff and tough would be adjectives used to describe the
Newman-style and that is how his teams were characterized. Newman threw the ball when he
had to, but he much preferred to run over people. That is how he had learned the game and he expected his teams to whip people
at the line of scrimmage.
When Coach Newman began preparations for the 1963 season he would again be assisted by Thomas
Straughan, who served as backfield coach, and Ronnie Rigdon, who guided the defense. A total of
34 players filled the 1963 roster, including 12 lettermen. There were an almost equal number of sophomores, juniors and seniors
on the roster.
The Tigers had experienced players at virtually every position, but it was in the line where the Tigers were the most
experienced. Returning linemen included guards Vernon Blair (Sr.) and Bob Taylor (Sr.);
tackles Tom Trawick (Sr.) and Eddie McManus (Sr.); and center Mike Milam
(Jr.). Kenny White (Sr.) returned to fill one of the end slots, while junior Danny Sullivan
would be placed at the other end of the line. In the backfield, the picture was very similar, with senior players dotting
the lineup. Cully Warren held down the quarterback slot, a position he had handled the season before.
Bob White was an able backup at that position as well as a defensive specialist. Winnfield’s backs, while lacking
in star quality, were strong in number. Coach Newman had no fewer than seven players he could insert in the
backfield, including seniors Harley Gordon, Bob Wyatt, Jerry Price and Ralph Riley; juniors
James Wallace and Jim Duncan, as well as sophomore Tommy Gandy.
Tigers possessed experience, there was one thing they were short on: size. The starting eleven on offense only averaged 163
pds. per man. That’s not to say that Winnfield didn’t have some individual players that had some size. Tiger tackle
Tom Trawick tipped the scales at well over 200 lbs. and stood over 6' 5" tall. But, he was the only
Tiger lineman that weighed in at 200-plus pounds. Trawick’s fellow tackle, Eddie McManus,
was listed at 180 pounds, as was guard Bob Taylor. Vernon Blair, the other guard, weighed
in at only 150 pds. and center Mike Milam was listed at 160 lbs. The Tiger backfield was bigger than the
line, with the Tiger backs weighing the following: fullback James Wallace (178), halfback Bob Wyatt
(165), halfback Ralph Riley (170) and sophomore fullback Jim Duncan (175).
Winnfield would continue
to play in District 2-AA, a district that included Jonesboro, Neville and Ruston. As if that district wasn’t
tough enough already, Haynesville was added to the district for the 1963 season. The remainder of the 1963 schedule was a
collection of old foes in LaSalle, Jena, Natchitoches and Mansfield. Ferriday, a team the Tigers hadn’t played since
the 1958 season, was also added to the schedule. After opening the decade by winning all eight district games in 1960 and
1961, the Tigers had gone 0-3-0 in district games in 1962. The prospects of snapping that losing streak appeared to be the
biggest challenge facing the 1963 Tigers.
Just like the season before, the 1963 team started off the season by handling their first three non-district opponents.
Coupled with the three wins to close the 1962 season that gave the program six consecutive wins. In the season opener the
Tigers traveled to Tioga to
face a school that was playing only its second year of organized football. As expected, Winnfield had no trouble with Tioga.
The Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead before Coach Newman turned the game over to his reserves. Everybody
in uniform got into the game and even the reserves played well, scoring two touchdowns themselves and preserving the shutout.
In the end, Winnfield whipped Tioga 34-0 behind a pile-driving offense. For the night, eight different players carried the
ball for Winnfield, with the team gaining 296 yards rushing. Winnfield had five different players to score; including the
following: Bob Wyatt (33-yard run), Cully Warren (24-yard run), James Wallace
(8-yard run), Harley Gordon (37-yard punt return) and Hovey Harrell (20 yard fumble return).
scoring jaunt. Wallace also kicked four extra points.
Tigers followed that win with a second consecutive shutout the next week when they defeated Mansfield 8-0 in the home opener.
The lone Tiger touchdown came late in the first quarter when the Tigers capitalized on a short drive with a touchdown-scoring
run by James Wallace. Late in the game Winnfield got two more points when a Mansfield punter was forced to
run down a bad snap from center and was tackled in the end zone for a safety. That moved the score to its final margin of
The third win of the season-opening winning spree came against Natchitoches
and the Tigers got that win in the same manner they had beaten Mansfield: with good defense and a good enough offense. The
Tigers came away with a 13-6 win despite the fact that Natchitoches threatened Winnfield’s goal line several times.
The 3-0-0 start to the season gave cause for optimism. Winnfield was 3-0-0 for only the tenth
time in school history, a period that covered 55 years. On the other hand, the Tigers hadn’t faced the competition they
were about to face in district foes Haynesville, Ruston, Jonesboro and Neville. All of the Tigers four district games would
be played in the next five weeks.
By the end of the first half of the Haynesville contest nothing
was decided because neither team had scored. Haynesville had gone nowhere in all of their first half possessions
and the Tigers simply committed too many mistakes to keep any drive going. It was not a pretty half of football by either
The halftime talks that each team received paid off because both scored in the opening
minutes of the second half. The first time the Tigers got the ball they were 60 yards away from the Haynesville
end zone. Harley Gordon covered that distance in one play to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead. Haynesville knotted
the score up on their next possession, after which the game resumed the pace that had been set in the first two quarters.
Close games are decided on big plays and the biggest play of the game came late in the fourth quarter when the Tigers fumbled
at their own 30-yard line and the Haynesville defender picked up the ball on the bounce and ran untouched into the end zone
to give Haynesville a 12-6 lead. The Tors also converted on the extra point to make the score 13-6, which would be the final
The loss was a bitter pill to swallow. Except for one series, the
Tiger defense had completely shut down Haynesville. The Tornados had 6 of their 10 possessions end with punts, two possessions
end with interceptions and one possession end with a fumble. The Tigers turned the ball over twice on fumbles, but the fumble
in the closing minutes of the game was a game-breaker. Haynesville’s return of a Tiger fumble for a touchdown proved
that one play can make a difference.
Things only got tougher
for the Tigers the next two weeks as they first dropped a decisive 20-6 decision to Ruston and followed that with an equally
dominating loss to Ferriday by a 23-0 margin. Ruston came into the season tabbed as the favorite to win the district crown. Against the Bearcats
the Tigers played strong for one half, as they allowed Ruston only one touchdown and put together what was probably their
most impressive drive of the season, going 82 yards in 15 plays. Bob Wyatt got the Tigers on the scoreboard
when he plunged over from two yards out. The failed extra point left the Tigers trailing Ruston by one
point at the time, but that was all the scoring of the first half by either team. In the end, that would be all of the scoring
by the Tigers period and Ruston tacked on two second half touchdowns to secure the win.
played the favored Bearcats close. The Tigers actually out-gained Ruston in first downs 11 to 9 and had 125 yards rushing
to Ruston’s 138 yards. But, Ruston had 80 yards passing, with all of that coming on Ruston’s two touchdown passes.
Winnfield dropped to 3-2-0 for the
season and 0-2-0 in district play. That extended Winnfield’s losing streak in district games to five straight. For all
practical purposes, the loss knocked Winnfield out of the district race, though there were still two district games to be
played against Jonesboro and Neville.
Before Winnfield resumed
district play, they had a major hurdle to clear as the Tigers faced the Ferriday Bulldogs in week six. The 1963 Ferriday team
was ranked No. 1 in the Class A polls and were undefeated for the season. Ferriday also came into the game with a 22-pound
per man average weight advantage over Winnfield across the line.
Winnfield played a decent defensive
game, but Ferriday methodically pulled out a 23-0 win as they scored on their opening possession, added another touchdown
late in the first half, booted a field goal early in the fourth quarter and finished out the scoring with a late fourth quarter
touchdown. The closest Winnfield got to the Ferriday goal line was the Ferriday 30 yard line.
The loss dropped Winnfield’s record to 3-3 for the season. It seemed like a long
time ago when Winnfield was 3-0-0 for the season and had allowed only one touchdown. Since that time Winnfield
had dropped three games and that was primarily a result of the fact that it was the Tigers who couldn’t find the end
zone, as they had only scored two touchdowns in their three losses. It had been five years since the program had dropped three
games in a row. Winnfield’s hopes of breaking their three-game losing skid would not get any easier, as they faced Jonesboro
and Neville, their final two district foes, in the coming weeks.
The Tigers still
had plenty of incentives. For one, the team still had rivals Jonesboro and LaSalle to face, but more important, the team still
had the opportunity to extend the program’s streak of winning seasons to four and non-losing seasons to five. Either
would be the longest in school history.
Winnfield approached their final two district games, it would be Jonesboro, not Neville, who would appear to be the stronger
of the two teams. Coming into week seven of the regular season, Jonesboro was 4-2-0, with one of those wins coming against
Neville. As a result, Jonesboro was still very much in contention in the district race with 1-0-0 record, needing wins over
Winnfield and Haynesville to set up a showdown in the season finale against Ruston for the district crown. Jonesboro hadn’t shown much offense all year. However, in Jonesboro,
Winnfield faced the toughest defense they had faced all year. Jonesboro won with defense. That did not bode well for Winnfield.
In the end
Jonesboro prevailed in a 13-0 win, but the 13-0 score was no indication of how dominant Jonesboro was. Winnfield had the ball
for a total of seven possessions for the game. They were forced to punt to Jonesboro after 5 of those possessions, with all
5 of those possessions ending after Winnfield had only run three plays. One other possession ended after Winnfield was intercepted
and their final possession of the night ended when time ran out. Winnfield only gained 95 yards rushing to Jonesboro’s
289 yards. Jonesboro never had to punt and were never seriously in jeopardy of losing the football game.
The amazing thing is that the final score was only 13-0. However, a loss is a loss and in dropping that decision to Jonesboro
the team’s losing streak grew to four games.
Winnfield traveled to Monroe to close out district play
and attempt to halt the losing streak at the home of Neville. Considering the strength of the Neville program coming into
the 1963 season, few would have imagined that the Winnfield - Neville game would determine the last place team in the district.
Like Winnfield, Neville was looking for their first district win of the year, having already lost to Jonesboro and Ruston.
Graduation losses had hit Neville hard and losing wasn't something the boys from Monroe were used to.
Neville scored on two
sustained drives in the first half to take a 13-0 lead. Considering the fact that the Tigers had only scored two touchdowns
in the previous four games that lead seemed solid enough. Though Winnfield did make the game interesting
when they took their opening possession of the second half 68 yards for a touchdown to temporarily make the score 13-6, Neville
came right back on their next possession and got those six points back to move their lead to 20-6, which is where the score
stayed the rest of the game.
From a statistical standpoint, the game was about as close as a game can get. Neville out gained Winnfield 156 to 155
yards in rushing and 8 to 6 in passing yards. For the night, Neville picked up 14 first downs to Winnfield's 10. But, Neville
was ahead by 14 in the only statistic that matters - the final score.
With the loss, Winnfield moved to 3-5-0 for the season. All
of Winnfield's losses had come in consecutive weeks, making the 1963 Tigers only the seventh team in Winnfield Tiger football
history to lose five games in a row in a single season. The other teams that had lost five games in a row in their seasons
included the 1938, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1950 and 1958 Tiger teams. The most consecutive losses in a single season was six, first
set by the 1938 team and then tied by the 1944 and 1947 teams. One other streak kept alive by the 1963 team was the string
of district losses, which now stood at seven straight over the course of two seasons.. The 1959 through 1961 teams won three
consecutive district titles, going 14-0-0 in district competition in the process. Since then, Winnfield was 0-7-0 in district
With two games remaining on the schedule, Winnfield still had a positive streak to maintain. The 1959 through 1961
teams had combined for three consecutive non-losing seasons. The 1959 team went .500, while the 1960 and 1961 teams posted
winning seasons. The 1963 team had a chance to make it four non-losing seasons in a row if they could beat their final two
opponents. After playing four of their previous five games on the road, they would get the opportunity to play their final
two games of the season in familiar surroundings. The Tigers ended the season at home against Jena and LaSalle.
into the game with a 4-4-0 record and 3-2-0 record in District 3-AA play. They were a senior-dominated ball club, but they
only had 19 players on their roster, so their success on the field was somewhat remarkable considering their complete lack
of depth. Nevertheless, area sportswriters listed Jena as the pre-game favorite and they would be proven wrong.
game was played on a rain-soaked field, Winnfield shook off five straight weeks of scoring only three touchdowns by scoring
five touchdowns against Jena in a 33-12 win. The Tigers got short 1-yard runs by fullback James Wallace and
quarterback Bob White to make the score 13-0 in the first half. Jena’s offense did not cross the goal
line in the first half, but their defense did when they returned an interception 47 yards for touchdown to make the halftime
score 13-6. The game stayed close in the third
quarter but Winnfield erupted to two touchdowns in the first two minutes of the final quarter to take a commanding 26-6 lead.
Both touchdowns came on run by Tiger fullback Jim Duncan, with one coming after Tiger defensive end Jimmy
Gibson broke through and blocked a Jena punt and recovered the ball at the 1-yard line, while the other score came
at the end of a short drive. Both teams scored again the fourth quarter, with Winnfield’s tally coming on an 8-yard
run by Wallace, who also added the extra point to give Winnfield its
final 33-12 margin.
Winnfield came into the final game of the season with one thing on their mind - get a win and avert a losing season.
LaSalle would be the Tigers opponent and Winnfield came into the game with the knowledge that they carried a four-game win
streak against LaSalle.
Winnfield got a first quarter touchdown from Harley Gordon on a 10 yard run and a second quarter score
when quarterback Cully Warren tossed a 14-yard pass to Bob Wyatt. LaSalle got their only
touchdown of the night between those two Winnfield touchdowns. Meanwhile, James Wallace
added an insurance touchdown in the second half which made the final score 20-7 Winnfield.
With the win
over LaSalle the Tigers got their fifth win of the season and extended the school’s streak of non-losing season to five.
That was the longest such streak since the early 1920s. The five wins during the 1963 season came in relatively easy fashion,
with the average margin of victory in the Tigers five wins coming by an average of 17 points. All of the
opponents the Tigers lost to ended the year with winning records and all were so-called “quality opponents”. It
was Winnfield’s inability to score against the better teams that proved to be their downfall. In three of those losses
they entered the fourth quarter either tied (Haynesville) or trailing by a single touchdown (Ruston and Neville). However,
in each of those games as well as the other two losses, the Tigers were unable to score any points in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Winnfield was a notch below the good teams they faced and clearly superior to the below average teams they faced.
The missing ingredient - an offense that could score. Winnfield was held to one touchdown or less in 6 of their 10 games.
The Tiger defensive kept the team in all but the Jonesboro game. Winnfield’s defense held 7 of 10 opponents to two touchdowns
or less. The remaining three opponents scored three touchdowns. Considering the quality of the overall schedule, the 1963
team finished about where they should have.
1964, (Overall - 3-5-1; *District - 0-3-0) One
of the biggest changes in the history of the Winnfield High School football program came about prior to the 1964 season. During
the spring and summer of 1964, finishing touches were being made to a new high school facility in Winn Parish that would house
Winnfield Senior High School. The new facility brought several changes that significantly impacted the high school football
program. A restructuring of grades had all elementary students in Winnfield attending either Westside Elementary School or
Eastside Elementary School. These facilities housed grades K through 6. The facility formerly known as “Winnfield High
School” became a building that housed the 7th through 9th grades. This building became known as the “Winnfield
Jr. High School”. The new facility would house grades 10 through 12 and be known as “Winnfield Senior High School”.
be a full-fledged athletic program at the Jr. High School. Thomas Ray Straughan was lured away from the assistant
coaching position he had held at Winnfield High School since 1957 to become the first head football coach at the Jr. High
program. It was at the Jr. High where he and his assistant coaches would begin teaching boys the fundamentals of football.
The Jr. High School would have a 7th grade team and a varsity team, which consisted of 8th and 9th graders. The mascot selected
for the Jr. High School was the Bears, with green and white selected as the school colors.
Straughan had immediate success. His first varsity team at the Jr. High School went 10-0-0. That first varsity
team consisted of 33 players, including twelve 9th graders and twenty-one 8th graders. But, his 7th grade team also raised
eyebrows when 42 boys turned out for football. That number included over half of the entire 7th grade class and bode well
for the future, both at the Jr. High and at the Sr. High.
repeated that success the following year when the Bears went 5-2-0. Straughan left the program after his
second term to enter private business. He was replaced by another former Winnfield High School football player, Hershel
Machen, who had quarterbacked the 1954 Tiger team.
When Coach Straughan left the Senior High post,
so too did the program’s other assistant coach Ronnie Rigdon. Replacing those two at the Senior High
school were Mason Dunn, who would coach the line, and Randall Walker, who would assist with
The other major change that the new high school facility brought was the addition of a new football stadium. At the
time of its completion, the facility was one of the finest high school facilities in the state. The new stadium was a major
improvement over the increasingly dilapidated Winnfield Athletic Field facility, which became home to the Jr. High program.
The seating capacity at the new stadium was approximately 2,600 on the home side, with an additional capacity of just under
1,000 on the visitors side.
The home side offered excellent seating. Since the front row seats were raised approximately four feet off of the ground,
no spectator had their view obstructed by players on the sidelines. The structure had a covered press box, a total of four
restrooms (two for males and two for females), two concession areas and dressing rooms at both ends of the stands. The main
entrance to both dressing rooms was located at the back of the stadium. Entrance and exit to and from the field was gained
through a short walkway that was located on the side of the stadium. When a player exited the dressing room, he had to walk
up a short stairway. The home team dressing room contained lockers for the players, a coach’s office, a taping room,
a storage room, a large restroom and a community shower. The visitors dressing room had showers, restrooms and lockers. The
field was surrounded by a track and a new scoreboard was placed at the north end of the field. Later, chair-back seats would
be added for season ticket holders.
The school board had taken action the year before to name the new stadium “Stokes-Walker Stadium”.
That recommendation was made to honor the Rev. Alwin Stokes, considered by many to be the father of Winnfield
High School football, and W. D. Walker, long time Superintendent of Schools in Winn Parish.
As the 1964
season approached, Coach Newman had an air of newness all around, what with the new stadium and new coaching
staff. Unfortunately, that also included the football team. Graduation losses took 12 players from Newman’s
5-5-0 1963 team, which included only 33 players to begin with.
Coach Newman called the 1964 season “a
rebuilding year”. For starters, the roster entering the fall season only included 35 players, a small number of players
by 1960s standards. Fortunately, almost half of those players (15) were seniors. But, only four starters from the previous
season returned. In the backfield, Newman had two players at quarterback. Senior Bob White
(155 lbs.) had alternated with Cully Warren the past two seasons and would be thrust into his first full-time
role as starting quarterback. In the backup role would be sophomore Steve Heard, a small but intelligent
underclassman. The lone returning starter at running back was fullback James Wallace (183 lbs.), who also
served as place kicker. Wallace had two years of playing experience under his belt, including reserve duty
as a sophomore. Running backs with playing experience at the varsity level included senior Jim Duncan (180
lbs.) and junior Tommy Gandy (136 lbs.). Those two would join Wallace in the starting backfield.
Rounding out the backfield were seniors Dale Ladd and Jacque Derr, junior Mike Cockerham
and sophomore Charlie Dawson. At end, senior Danny Sullivan (154 lbs.), a starter from the
season before, returned to man one terminal position, with another senior, Darrell Peddy, filling in at the
opposite slot. Junior Mike Kelley came in at one of the end position on the defensive side of the ball.
The Tigers only
returned one letterman across the line, that being Mike Milam (170 lbs.) at center. Slated for backup duty
at that slot was sophomore Mike Kennedy. At guard, the Tigers had one of their best players in junior Danny
Erskins (155 lbs.). Tommy Milam (155 lbs.), brother of center Mike Milam, filled
the other guard position. Byron Powell, a junior, could ably play guard on either side of the ball. Where
the Tigers were deepest was at the tackle position. Slated for starting duty were seniors Jimmy Gibson (180
lbs.) and Rusty Russell, but juniors Hovey Harrell (195 lbs.) and Lawrence White
and sophomore Ronald Griffin would also be called on for extensive duty.
Other players who Coach Newman
would rely on for general duty included seniors Bobby Horton, Larry Crain, Billy Henderson
and Tommy Kenderick. Those and other players that had only seen spot duty would have to gain experience as
the season progressed. During the previous season, Winnfield played a number of close games, thus preventing Coach
Newman from substituting as he would have liked. As a result, he had a number of players that had not logged much
playing time at the varsity level.
Winnfield remained in District 2-AA in 1964 and were joined by Haynesville, Ruston and Jonesboro. Neville dropped out
of the district when they moved up to play in Class AAA.
The 1964 team inherited a couple of legacies, one good and one
bad. It was up to the 1964 team to continue the school’s five-year streak of finishing the season with a non-losing
record. The 1964 team also had a chance to become the first team in three years to win a district game. So, two modest goals
heading into the season were a .500 record or better and a single win against a district foe. In a season that began with
so many uncertainties, even those two goals seemed to be a stretch. It’s not like the program was on life-support, because
the previous two teams still ended the season with .500 records or better. Most Tiger teams that played between 1930 and 1956
would have gladly accepted that accomplishment alone. Still, it was clear that Winnfield-football was not the powerful force
that it had been in the earliest years of the decade. The downward slide would continue in 1964 because beginning with the
1964 season, the whole notion of “just winning a game” that had become so familiar throughout 1930s through 1950s
would return to the program.
On September 11, 1964, Stokes-Walker Stadium hosted its first football game. A crowd estimated at
2,500 filed into the stadium that night. Winnfield would take on Tioga in their brand new stadium, a team entering their third
season of high school football competition. Before the night was over, it would be a true coming-out party.
In a night full of answers
to future trivia questions, the Tigers themselves became the first team to score in the new venue and that came on their first
possession of the night when they drove 52 yards for a score on a drive capped by a 9-yard run by Tommy Gandy,
making him the first Winnfield player to score a touchdown at Stokes-Walker Stadium. The Tigers also scored
the next time they got and ball and after missing his first PAT kick, James Wallace was true on his second
attempt to become the first player to successfully kick a ball through the uprights at Stokes-Walker Stadium.
That made the score 13-0. That is where
the score stood the rest of the first half, but Jim Duncan and James Wallace (his second
of the night) got touchdowns in the third quarters to enable the Tigers to open up a 26-0 lead as the fourth quarter began.
Newman inserted his reserves in the fourth quarter and they came through as well as Charles Dawson
set up a touchdown with an interception (the first interception in Stokes-Walker). After the Tigers scored
on a 25-yard run by Mike Cockerham. Sophomore quarterback Steve Heard ran the ball in for
the extra point (thus becoming the first player to run for an extra point in Stokes Walker Stadium) to make
the final score 33-0.
The 1964 team recorded the first win in Stokes-Walker Stadium in convincing fashion. For the game,
Winnfield ground out 301 yards rushing, while limiting Tioga to a mere 24 yards rushing. Winnfield never punted and the starting
offensive unit scored 4 of the first 5 times they had the ball, with the fifth drive being stopped by the second quarter clock.
The next week
the Tigers found themselves locked in a defensive battle on the road against Mansfield. The Wolverines took the ball 72 yards
for a score on their opening drive, but after that the Tiger defensive unit held Mansfield out of the end zone. The Wolverines
were doing just as good of a job against the Tiger offense, however, so the Tigers needed a big play. That
came late in the third quarter when Danny Sullivan blocked a punt, retrieved the ball and nearly returned
it for a touchdown, carrying the ball 56 yards down the field before he was downed inside the Mansfield 5-yard line. Two plays
later halfback Jim Duncan got the ball into the end zone to knot the score at 6-all. The
extra point attempt was blocked.
The fourth quarter gave Coach Newman an indication of how strong his defense was. Twice the Wolverines
moved inside the Winnfield 2-yard line and twice the Tigers held. When the final horn sounded, the scored remained tied at
6-6. The Tiger offense never got anything going, ending the night with only 105 yards on the ground and their usual minimal
passing yards, gaining only 12 yards through the air. Mansfield gained 150 yards on the ground and 40 yards passing.
as the Mansfield defense was, it was Tiger miscues that stopped Winnfield’s offense as much as anything. The Tigers
turned the ball over to the Wolverines three times on fumbles. Winnfield didn’t have the kind of team that could overcome
many mistakes of their own making. In reality, the 1964 Tigers would find that they would have to work for everything they
got during the season.
The Tigers did jump back into the win column the next week when they traveled the short 35 miles to the home of the
Natchitoches Red Devils and came away with a 12-6 win.
The two teams played to a 6-6 draw in the first
half, with the Tiger score coming on a 6-yard run by Jim Duncan to culminate a short 38-yard drive. Winnfield
then took possession first in the second half and put together a time-consuming 11-play, 70-yard drive, which tallied 6 first
downs. The drive was climaxed by a 1-yard plunge by Jim Duncan. Winnfield again missed the extra point, leaving
the score 12-6 and with Natchitoches only needing one big play to tie the score. The Tiger defense protected against that
lead the rest of the way and in fact only gave up 74 yards on the ground and 30 yards in the air all night.
games, there was reason for optimism in the Tiger camp. Winnfield had proven they could move the ball, averaging more than
200 yards rushing per game. Like the season before, the Winnfield offense didn’t score much, but, with the way the Winnfield
defense was playing, they didn’t have to. In three games the Tiger defenders had only given up two touchdowns and were
making first downs a hard to come by commodity. With six games to go in the season, Winnfield would only have to win two more
games to assure the school of a sixth straight non-losing season.
The 1964 season had gotten off to the same start that every
season since the 1961 championship season had. In pre-district games played in 1962, 1963 and 1964 the program had gone 8-1-1.
Both the 1962 and 1963 teams had lost all of their district games (0-7-0), with those district coming in the middle
portion of the schedule. The 1964 was heading into the district portion of their schedule as they prepped
for Haynesville in week four. So, the early success of the 1964 represented a pattern that fans had seen for the past two
seasons. The challenge facing the 1964 team was one of breaking the 7-game losing streak in district games.
two games on the road the Tigers returned to their new stadium the fourth game of the year to begin district play. In the
coming weeks, the Tigers would face Haynesville and Ruston at home. In fact, three of the next four games would be district
games, with the first two coming against Haynesville and Ruston and the final district game coming against Jonesboro. All
things considered, Winnfield appeared to have the best chance of putting a halt to the district-game losing streak against
their next opponent - the Haynesville Golden Tornado.
The Haynesville game would be a night of celebration. For starters, the game had been designated as Winnfield’s
homecoming game for 1964. The occasion would also be used to dedicate the new stadium. The dedication ceremonies occurred
prior to the game and were handled by Mr. D. E. Sikes, former Superintendent of Winn Parish Schools.
had the game well in hand in the first half as they moved to a 13-0 lead on a 50-yard run by Jim Duncan and
a 2-yard run by James Wallace. Both scores came late in the second quarter. The Tigers chances of breaking
the district losing streak seemed good.
However, the Tiger offense went nowhere in the second half and the visiting Tors made the game interesting when they
got on the scoreboard in the third quarter to move the score to 13-7 with a whole quarter to play.
Early in the fourth quarter
the Tigers repelled one Haynesville drive that moved all the way down to a first and goal from the 10 yard line. However,
the Tiger defense was soon right back on the field after the Winnfield offense went three and out. When Haynesville got the
ball back they were only 58 yards away from pay dirt.
In agonizing fashion, Haynesville methodically moved to the
Winnfield 19, with no gain amounting to more than 8 yards. In the process, Haynesville ran four minutes off the clock. Then,
with just over a minute to go in the game, Haynesville quarterback Tom Allen found a receiver open in the
end zone and hit him with game-tying touchdown. On the PAT attempt Allen swept into the end zone to give
Haynesville the lead at 14-13 which they never surrendered.
The loss to Haynesville was a heartbreaker and was Winnfield’s
first loss in their new stadium. More important, the loss put serious damage to any hopes the Tigers had of competing for
the 1964 District 2-AA crown. It also extended the school’s losing streak in district games to eight. The loss, in and
of itself, was hard enough to take. The manner in which the Tigers lost only magnified the effects. Not only had Haynesville
overcome a 13-point deficit, but, the Tiger defense had played like warriors all game long, turning away the Tornado twice
inside the Winnfield 10-yard line. Matters only got more difficult the following week when Winnfield entertained the Ruston
There would be little drama in the Ruston game as the visiting Bearcats opened up a 12-0 lead in the first fifteen
minutes of the game, moved that to 19-0 at the end of the third quarter and gave up only one fourth quarter touchdown to Winnfield
in a 19-6 win. The loss moved Winnfield’s record to 2-2-1 for the season and 0-2-0 in district play.
hit the road for their sixth game of the year to face the Ferriday Bulldogs in a non-district battle. The Tigers had hopes
of spoiling Ferriday’s homecoming festivities and they were successful in doing that in a 13-6 win which broke the two-game
losing skid. Bob White threw for two touchdowns, with one being an 8-yarder to Jim
Duncan and the other one being a 44-yarder to a wide-open Danny Sullivan. Sullivan's
46-yard touchdown reception was the sixth longest touchdown reception in school history at that point. Others that exceeded
Sullivan were Brooks Broussard’s 80-yard reception in 1955, Elton Long's
75-yard catch in 1940 and David Harper's 65-yard touchdown reception in 1936. Also, Tommy Wyatt
caught a touchdown pass that covered 49 yards during the 1959 season and Clifford Hughes had a 47-yard catch
By throwing his second touchdown pass of the game, Bob White joined seven other Winnfield players
who had thrown multiple touchdown passes in a single game. Ray Jenkins led that group by throwing three touchdown
passes against Oakdale in 1936. Other Winnfield players who had thrown two touchdown passes in a single game were: Charles
Coody (1938), Roger Smith (1941), Jackie Givens (1946), Dan Carr
(1948 & 1950), John Harrington (1957), Mike Tinnerello (1959 & 1960) and Cully
Winnfield didn't have the statistics of a winner, gaining only 102 yards on the ground. However, two pass plays, good
for two touchdowns proved to be the difference in the game. The win gave Winnfield a 3-2-1 record for the year. With three
games remaining on the schedule, Winnfield was one win away from clinching a .500 season.
Winnfield met Jonesboro for the first time in Stokes-Walker
Stadium the next week for the final district game of the year for Winnfield. In the end, Jonesboro's house-warming gift was
a 21-0 defeat of Winnfield.
The game started out like it would be a defensive battle the whole way. Then, with only 11 second remaining in the
first half, Jonesboro got on the board when they tallied a touchdown run from 7 yards out. Jonesboro then put together two
touchdown-drives in the second half, one covering 57 yards in the third quarter and the other covering 64 yards in the final
the loss, Winnfield concluded their third straight season where they had failed to win a single district game, extending the
losing streak in district games to 10. Winnfield moved to 3-3-1 overall for the season. They would need no worse than a split
in their final two games of the season to get the .500 season they wanted. The Tigers final two opponents were Jena and LaSalle,
programs that Winnfield had won eight straight games against.
Jena moved to a 13-0 lead against Winnfield when they converted
two Winnfield fumbles into touchdowns. The Tiger offense seemed to get jump-started after the second Jena score because that
is when the Tigers finally held on to the ball long enough to score, with the tally coming on a 4-yard run by Bob
White which culminated a 59-yard drive. The important PAT kick by James Wallace was wide of the
mark, leaving the score 13-6 late in the third quarter.
The Winnfield defense promptly stopped Jena, after which the
Tiger offense moved the ball back down the field for another touchdown. After the Tigers moved to a first and goal from the
5, Wallace got the call on three straight plays and he finally pushed over the goal line on the final carry.
That made the score 13-12 and the would-be game-tying extra point attempt by Wallace was blocked.
The remainder of the game was played without either team getting near the others goal line. Despite Winnfield's furious
second half comeback attempt, the game would be decided by PATs, where Jena converted one of two extra point attempts and
Winnfield failed in two attempts.
Winnfield dropped to 3-4-1 for the season. As a result, there were put in a position of having to win the final game
against LaSalle, on LaSalle’s home turf, to avoid getting the programs first losing season since 1958. LaSalle came
into the game with a 6-4-0 record, so Winnfield would have to earn a win. Winnfield would need the services of all of their
players but they wouldn't get that. Injured and listed as doubtful for the LaSalle game were Tiger backs Dale Ladd
and Charlie Dawson, as well as two-way standout Danny Erskins.
on their first two possessions to take a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. That was a margin the Tigers hadn't overcome
Winnfield made a game of it in the second quarter when they put together a 45-yard, 13-play scoring drive. Out of necessity,
the Tigers had to resort to their seldom-used passing game to move into scoring position. Four of the final six plays of the
drive were passes, with Bob White connecting with Sullivan for 9 and 8 yards to set up White's
2-yard touchdown run. Wallace booted the extra point to make the score 13-7 with seconds remaining before
Winnfield never did get back in the end zone, however, and LaSalle added an insurance touchdown in the second half
to take a 20-7 win.
Winnfield ended the season with three straight losses to conclude the season with a overall 3-5-1 record. For the year,
Winnfield only allowed 105 points in nine games, an average of 11.6 pts. per game. But, for the first time in five years,
the Tigers gave up more points overall than they scored as the Tigers only tallied 102 points during the year. As was true
the year before, Jonesboro was the only team to record a convincing win, beating the Tigers by 21 points. Ruston and LaSalle
gained their wins over the Tigers by margins of 13 pts. and 14 pts. respectively. The Tiger defensive unit kept the Tigers
in every game, but for the second straight year, Winnfield was plagued by an inability to score.
1965, (Overall - 2-8-1; *District - 0-3-0) Nothing
helps a program more than winning. Head Coach Hoss Newman had shown that during his first
six seasons when he posted a 37-28-4 record and guiding the program into the playoffs in four of those six seasons. He had
no difficulty getting boys to come out for football or packing the stands when the varsity was winning. All of that was changing.
Beginning with the 1962 season, the momentum that Coach Newman had built up during his first six seasons
began to decline. Newman’s teams went 14-14-1 between 1962 and 1964, with his teams being less and
less competitive each year. That is most noticeable in district games, where 10 of those 14 losses had come and, in fact,
accounted for every district game played since 1961. The losing record posted by the 1964 team was the first losing record
since 1958, a period of six years. Coming into the 1965 season, his previous two teams had the smallest
numbers of players out for football since the early 1930s. When he ran a scrimmage in practice, he hardly had any boys standing
on the sidelines. What he needed from the 1965 team was wins. He would have to right the ship with one of the most inexperienced
teams to play for the Tigers in years.
High school football teams need senior leadership. The 1965 team had senior leadership, just not enough of it, as only
seven seniors completed the team roster. The team had one of the largest groups of players in years, totaling almost 50 in
number. But, almost half (22) of those players were sophomores. Since 1930, only four teams fielded fewer seniors than the
1965 team, those being the 1934 and 1945 teams, who only had five seniors apiece, and the 1959 team who only had six seniors.
starting unit had players who had played on the varsity level, but only two had started every game the season before, those
being Tommy Gandy at halfback and Danny Erskins at guard. Otherwise, the team would have
to be developed around players who had never known what is was like to go through practice knowing they would be in a starting
role and knowing that the outcome of the game would be influenced by their effort. It is one thing to contribute, but it is
another thing to know that the job depends on you. As a starter, these players would go through pre-game gitters, something
they had never experience before. Mainly, though, as starters these inexperienced players would be called on to help get Winnfield
back on a winning track. Maybe that was asking too much.
“Inexperienced” does not necessarily equate to “untalented”.
The 1965 team came into the season with talented football players at every position. They simply had never worked together
as a unit, so no one knew what to expect. Coach Newman had three players at the quarterback position and
they were all underclassmen. Those included Steve Heard (Jr.), Ricky Jordan (Jr.) and Gary
Green (Soph.). None had ever started for Winnfield, but Heard had seen spot duty the season before
and had been the holder on extra points. Jordan and Green were gifted but untested. Tommy
Gandy (Sr.) would be the lone returning starter in the backfield. Mike Cockerham was the only other
senior running back returning, so the backfield would be the youngest part of the Tiger team. Junior Jerry Hightower
competed with Cockerham for the halfback position alongside Gandy; however, the remainder
of the backfield would have to be filled by sophomores. Expected to play for the Tigers were sophomores Charles Dawson,
Ronnie Brazzell, Ralph Roberts and Woody Brazzell. Of all of the positions on the Tiger team, the
backfield posed the most number of question marks.
end, the Tigers were talented, but young. That group would be led by senior Mike Kelley, who had played mainly
a defensive position the year before. Coach Newman also had junior Houston Ethridge and
a pair of sophomores in Wayne Wood and Mike Spangler. Winnfield’s group of ends, symbolized
the whole team - talented but unproven.
Across the line, Winnfield had talent but no depth. Danny Erskins, at guard, was one of only four
linemen that had lettered the season before. The other lettermen included fellow seniors Byron Powell at
guard, as well as Lawrence White and Hovey Harrell at tackle. Juniors Ronald
Griffen, at tackle, and Mike Kennedy at center, rounded out the starting line. Sophomore James
Lowery also got some pre-season mention by Coach Newman as a possible starter at the center position.
Another sophomore, Steve Stroud, would become the team’s place kicker, and was also available for duty
in the line.
The team had little depth, and, as a result, most players would be called on to go both ways, something teams were
beginning to get away from. If the Tigers were to have any success, they would have to avoid something the 1964 team wasn’t
able to - the injury bug. The talent level on the team gave cause for optimism, however you simply can’t over estimate
the importance of playing experience and that is the one thing that the 1965 team lacked.
Winnfield’s schedule remained the same as it had the year
before, with the addition of Bastrop and Caldwell. Winnfield continued to compete in District 2-AA, along with Haynesville,
Ruston and Jonesboro. Because of the nature of the district schedule set two years prior, 1965 would again be a season when
Winnfield played no home district games. In fact, as far as away schedules go, the 1965 Tigers away schedule was as tough
as a Tiger team had played in some time. Winnfield began the season on the road against the AAA Bastrop Rams. That was followed
by road trips to Haynesville, Ruston and Jonesboro, three of the elite programs in north Louisiana high school football. The
other two road games came against Caldwell and Tioga.
Winnfield faced a group of traditional rivals at home,
taking on Mansfield, Natchitoches, LaSalle, Jena and Ferriday at Stokes-Walker Stadium. As was true during
the past two seasons, Winnfield faced the meat of their schedule during October and the first of November. So, it was important
for the Tigers to get off to a good start.
Winnfield started off the season against Bastrop, a team that was everything the Tigers weren’t.
Bastrop had experience at every slot and returned 10 starters from the season before. Bastrop outweighed Winnfield
by close to twenty pounds per man. Winnfield boasted only two players who tipped the scales at over 200 lbs., those being
Hovey Harrell (210) and Lawrence White (200). However,
the average weight of those two was the average weight of the entire Bastrop line. Bastrop had no trouble with Winnfield as they rolled up 27 second quarter points
in a 39-2 win. That was the most points ever allowed by any Winnfield High School team in a single quarter. Winnfield averted
a shutout in the third quarter when Houston Etheridge and Hovey Harrell pulled down the
Bastrop quarter in the end zone for a safety.
The 39 points that Bastrop scored against Winnfield was the most points a Tiger team had given up in ten years, dating
back to the 46-6 loss to Menard in the final game of the 1955 season. Winnfield had relied on good defense all during the
1960s, so fans weren’t used to seeing Winnfield get shelled like they had against Bastrop.
up one class in the opening week, Winnfield moved down a class the second week when they took on Mansfield. Things didn’t
exactly get any easier because Mansfield had taken the District 1-A crown the season before and were reported to be an even
better team. In the opening week of the season, Mansfield had knocked off Natchitoches 13-0. Mansfield had limited Natchitoches
to a mere 43 total yards for the game. On paper, it appeared Winnfield had little chance against the Wolverines. It would
take a supreme effort by the Tigers just to stay in the game and that is what they gave. A “bend-but-don’t-break”
defensive effort and record-breaking run by Winnfield gave the Tigers the chance they needed.
defense repelled on Mansfield onslaught after another in the first half and were facing yet another Mansfield drive deep in
Tiger territory as the first half was coming to a close. The Tiger offense, meanwhile, went nowhere in the opening half.
got the ball with just over four minutes to go in the half and proceeded to move inside the Winnfield 10-yard line. With only
25 ticks remaining on the first half clock, Mansfield quarterback Chuck Maroney took the
snap and lofted a pass across the field. Standing in the end zone was a Mansfield receiver, but between him and Maroney
was Winnfield defensive end Mike Kelley. The ball did not have enough loft on it, enabling Kelley
to step in front of the ball before it reached the Mansfield receiver. After coming down with the ball on the Tiger goal line,
Kelley had nothing but open space ahead of him, so he took off. The closest man to Kelley
nearly caught him 30 yards up the field and nearly knocked him out of bounds. That would have ended the half, but Kelly
wasn’t interested in simply running out the clock. Kelley tiptoed down the sidelines, regained his
stride and again tore out for the Mansfield goal line. From there, it was clear sailing. The horn sounded ending the first
half during Kelley’s run. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted the play any better. Kicker Steve
Stroud came in and converted the first PAT kick of his young career, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead as they jubilantly
ran into the dressing room for halftime.
Mike Kelley’s 100-yard interception return tied him with Brooks Broussard for
the longest touchdown run in school history. Broussard's run had come ten years earlier and had come on an
interception return as well. When the century came to a close 35 years later, those two were only matched one other time,
that coming on another 100-yard interception return by Anthony Riggs during the 1984 season. Kelley
and Rigg’s runs were both scored in Stokes-Walker Stadium, making
those the longest touchdowns ever scored there.
Kelley's run made more than history, though. It gave the Tigers confidence, allowing the Tiger defense
to play the second half knowing they were protecting a lead rather than keeping the team in a game that was a scoreless tie.
defense played like champions throughout the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. At one point they allowed Mansfield
to drive to the Tiger 8-yard line before stopping that drive.
With less than five minutes to go in the game, Mansfield got
the ball back and like they had done so many times before in this game moved back inside the Winnfield 20 yard line. In what
appeared to be yet another huge play by the Winnfield defense, the Tigers forced and recovered a fumble at the Tiger 11-yard
line, which seemingly put a stop to their comeback bid. There was but two minutes remaining on the clock and the remaining
120 seconds show by you must play the full 48 minutes.
At that point, the mission for the Tiger offensive became different. Now, all the offense had to do was run out the
final two minutes of the game to enable Winnfield to gain its first win of 1965. Mansfield had to get the ball back, so Winnfield
had one other mission - protect the ball. It was the latter that the offense didn’t do that as they too fumbled on first
down, with Mansfield recovering on the Tiger 7-yard line.
Give the Tiger defense credit. They came in a shut Mansfield
down on first and second down, however the Wolverines pushed over a touchdown on third down, leaving them
1 point shy of tying the game. The ensuing PAT kicked appeared to sail to the right, but it sailed just inside the upright
giving Mansfield a tie.
Considering the way the defense had played all game long, the tie was disheartening. But, considering the way the offense
had performed, the Tigers should have been more than happy to walk away with anything but a loss. Winnfield was held to 23
yards rushing and 12 yards passing for 35 total yards for the game. Both the rushing total and total yardage amount were the
fewest any Winnfield team had ever been held to. For the game, Winnfield only picked up two first downs, which was also the
lowest total ever achieved by a Tiger team up to that point.
The Tiger defense yielded 197 yards rushing and 55 yards passing
for 252 total yards. Yet, that same defense turned Mansfield away from the goal line three times from inside the 10-yard line.
As it turned out, the Mansfield game would be one of the few highlights of the 1965 season.
When Winnfield and Natchitoches
met in the third game of the year the two teams were looking for the same thing - their first win of the season. Winnfield
was 0-1-1 for the year and Natchitoches began the season by dropping their first two games. In fact, Natchitoches had yet
to score during the season. Considering the strength of the Winnfield defense, that bode well for the Tigers.
turned out to be the coming out party for junior quarterback Ricky Jordan. The Tigers scored first,
with that coming in the second quarter when a series Jordan passes moved the Tiger offense down the
field on a drive capped by a 2-yard Mike Cockerham scored to give the Tiger offense their first
touchdown of the year. Stroud came in to attempt the extra point but the kick was no good, leaving the score
Momentum is a slippery thing in high school football. You can have it one minute and lose it the next. That was evident
on the ensuing kickoff, when Natchitoches' Charley LaCaze returned the Tiger kick 76 yards for a touchdown
to tie the score. But, the Red Devils took the lead when Petey Johnson booted the extra point to give Natchitoches
a 7-6 lead, a lead that held up until halftime.
The Red Devils upped their lead to 14-6 lead in the third quarter
and that is when Jordan took over the game. Jordan jump-stared the comeback bid when he
began a fourth quarter series by cutting behind a block thrown by Mike Kelley and bolted to the Red Devil
24. From there, Jordan passed to Dawson, who caught the ball at the 10 and rambled down
to the 2-yard line. Then, Jordan scored on a keeper to make the score 14-12, after which a successful PAT
toss from holder Steve Heard to Mike Kelley made the score 14-13, as the two-point conversion
rule was not established yet in high school football. There was only 2:22 remaining in the game.
was in the same position the Tigers were the week before. Their sole task was to hold onto the ball, run out the clock and
go home with a win. Tiger linebacker Charles Poisso would have none of that as he recovered a fumble which
gave the Tigers the ball at the Natchitoches 42 yard line, though, the Tigers had less than a minute to travel those 42 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Gary Green was sent in to direct the final drive. On first down, he hit Kelley
with a 13-yard pass that took the Tigers to the 29, with just under a half-minute to go in the game. Green’s
second down pass fell incomplete and the clock showed 00:06 remaining in the game.
On third down, Green
dropped back for what would obviously be the final play of the game. Green spotted Wayne Wood
near the end zone, but he was double covered. Green lofted the pass anyway, but the pass was intercepted,
or so it appeared. An alert Wood shoved his way between the two Natchitoches players and pulled the ball
away from the Natchitoches defender who had the ball. Wood then stepped across the goal line to score one
of the most decisive touchdowns in school history. Winnfield had taken an 18-14 lead with no time remaining on the clock.
Winnfield players flooded the field, but they had to be called back to allow Winnfield to try the meaningless extra point.
Stroud booted through the extra point to give Winnfield a 19-14 win.
Winnfield had scored on the final play of the first half the
week before when Mike Kelley returned an interception 100 yards. Against Natchitoches, the Tigers scored
on the final play of the game to overcome a two-point deficit. Winnfield had scored on the final play of the game once before
to pull victory from defeat. During the 1955 season, Winnfield upset a strong Neville team in the opening game of the season.
That win was made possible by an 80-yard run by Brooks Broussard on the final play of the game. While Broussard's
run was arguably the single-most decisive play in Winnfield football history up to that point, Wood's touchdown
was equally as dramatic and certainly as improbable.
The game should have never come down to that, however. Winnfield dominated the Red Devils statistically, rushing for
222 yards to Natchitoches' 124. For the night, Jordan connected on 4 of 11 passes for 60 yards and scored
two of the Tigers touchdowns. Green was 2 of 2 for 42 yards, but the 29 yards that came on the final play
of the game was one of the most important pass completions in Tiger football history up to that point.
What is most
important, the Tigers broke into the win column and evened their season record at 1-1-1. Winnfield needed momentum heading
into the fourth game of the season, because the Tigers opened up district competition the following week.
Every season has a turning point.
That is usually thought of in positive terms, but in the case of the 1965 season the turning point of the season came
in week four and the “turn” would be toward losses – with that total being 7 in a row before it was all
over. The first two of those losses came in the first
two district games of the year against Haynesville and Ruston. In the Haynesville game, Winnfield actually
jumped to a 6-0 second quarter lead when Jordan hit Wayne Wood with a 19-yard scoring toss
down the sideline for the first score of the game. However, Haynesville came back and scored two touchdowns
before the end of the half to account for all the remaining scoring of the game in a 14-6 win over Winnfield. For the contest
Winnfield only gained 42 yards rushing and got 73 yards passing, for one of the few times in Winnfield football history the
Tigers gained more yards passing than they did rushing.
The next week Winnfield would face Ruston, who would be the
Tigers fourth straight opponent the Tigers would face who had a losing record. Ruston would be the second
straight opponent to get their first win of the season against the Tigers as the Bearcats rolled to a 26-7 win.
only one touchdown in the first half, but Winnfield only managed one first down. Since most of the Winnfield players played
both ways, the biggest question at halftime was how long the Tigers could hold up in the second half. The
Tigers did make it interesting when they scored first in the second half on a 2-yard run by Charles Dawson.
Ronald Howard was called on to attempt the extra point kick and he split the uprights, giving the Tigers
a rare lead over Ruston at 7-6. After that the Tigers ran out of steam as Ruston scored 20 unanswered points
to get their 26-7 win.
By the end of the game the Tigers were banged up, and it showed mainly in the line. Lawrence White, Danny Erskins
and Hovey Harrel came into the game injured. By the end of the game that list grew to
include reserve quarterback Steve Heard; end, Houston Ethridge and Charles Poisso.
Tiger defense played reasonably well in the first half, Ruston played as if they were in a different league than Winnfield
in the second half. The Bearcats ended the night with 302 rushing yards, one of the highest rushing totals ever allowed by
a Tiger team. Ruston rang up 20 first downs, which was the most ever allowed by a Tiger team. The one thing that seemed to
stop Ruston the most was fumbles. The Bearcats lost 5 fumbles during the game, which tied a Winnfield High School record for
most fumble recoveries. Ruston never punted during the game. That was because of the unique combination of a potent running
game and the fact that five of their series ended with fumbles.
Winnfield barely gained more yards rushing than the number of
first downs Ruston tallied as the Tigers only gained 22 yards rushing for the night. That combined with the Tigers 23 yards
passing gave Winnfield only 45 total yards for the game. Thirty of that came on the lone Winnfield scoring drive and two of
Winnfield's four first downs came on that same drive. Three weeks earlier Winnfield had set a school record by only gaining
35 total yards against Mansfield. Winnfield's 45 yards against Ruston was the second lowest total yards gained in a single
game. For the night, Winnfield punted 7 times, the most punts by any Tiger team in a single game.
The mood in the Tiger camp was
down to say the least. With the loss, Winnfield dropped to 1-3-1 overall and 0-2-0 in district play. With so many players
injured and tough games in the coming weeks, no relief was in sight. Just like winning begets winning - the opposite can happen
too. Once a team gets on a roll in either direction, the momentum is sometimes hard to break.
Week six would
mark the Tigers return to Stokes-Walker Stadium for the first time in three weeks. For the fifth straight
week, the Tigers faced a team with a losing record in Ferriday who was only 1-4-0 for the season, with their first win coming
the week before against Menard.
Ferriday jumped to a 7-0 first quarter lead and the Tiger offense was its usual sluggish self throughout the first
half. Sometimes desperation leads to success and that is what happened for the Tigers when they got the
ball back one final time just before the half. With only two minutes showing on the second quarter clock
and Winnfield in possession of the ball at the Tiger 21 yard line Coach Newman went for it all when he sent
Wayne Wood on a fly pattern up the sidelines. Ricky Jordan took the snap from center, dropped
back and threw the ball about as far as he could throw it. Jordan saw a streaking Wood,
but two Ferriday defenders arrived at the ball before Wood did. The ball hit the two Ferriday defenders first,
but they essentially knocked each other away from the ball. As a result, Wood was able to catch the deflected
pass at the Ferriday 30-yard line and jog into the end zone. The PAT hit the goal post and was deflected, leaving the score
7-6 at the half.
79-yard pass completion to Wood was the second longest touchdown pass in school history up to that
point. Brooks Broussard and Dale Reeves’ famous touchdown pass on the final play of
the game against Neville during the 1955 season covered 80 yards, though virtually all of those yards came after Broussard
caught the pass in the flat. In a season in which the 1965 team was entering the record books on a weekly basis for achievements
of futility, they finally added their names to a list of distinction.
However, the Tigers would not find the end zone again and Ferriday
added another touchdown to get a 14-6 win. With the loss Winnfield fell to 1-4-1 for the season and extended their losing
streak to three straight.
bad as the most recent three weeks were it was about to get even worse as the Tigers gave up 75 in the next two losses to
extend the losing streak to five. Forty one of those points came in a 41-6 loss to Caldwell in week seven. Caldwell beat Winnfield
through the air like no team ever had before. For the night, Caldwell attempted 21 passes and completed 14 of those for 242
yards. In doing so, Caldwell became the first school to pass for more than 200 yards against a Tiger football team. Their
21 pass attempts were the third most by an opponent and their 14 completions were the second most.
were 1-5-1 for the season and had lost four straight. Desperate times call for desperate measures. To shake things up, Coach
Newman decided to bench his seniors in the next game. That action was taken partially in response to the dismal season
and partially in response to disciplinary action Coach Newman saw fit to take against several senior players.
As a result, as the Tigers prepared for Jonesboro, the Winnfield starting lineup would be composed of eight sophomores and
Against Jonesboro, the seniors never got in the ball game and it showed. Winnfield's only serious scoring threat came
in the final quarter after the outcome of the game had long since been established. Trailing by a score of 34-0, Winnfield
moved to the Jonesboro 11-yard line, but that is as far as the Tigers got, turning the ball over to Jonesboro on downs.
It was another
offensive feast for the opposition, as Jonesboro racked up 328 yards rushing, the sixth most rushing yards allowed in Tiger
football history. Jonesboro only attempted 3 passes, completing 1 for 37 yards, which came on their third touchdown of the
To say the team was in disarray heading into the ninth game of the year would be putting it mildly. The loss to Jonesboro
guaranteed that the season would end below the .500 mark. And, since the Jonesboro game was the final district game that meant
that Winnfield had gone through the fourth straight year without winning a single district game, a streak that now stretched
to thirteen games. With six losses overall and three games remaining the Tigers would have to rally to keep from becoming
only the sixth team in school history to end the season with more than six losses. The school record for single-season
losses was 10 set by the 1938 team, so there was no way that the 1965 team would duplicate that record. However, the second
most losses ever sustained by a team came in 1950, when that group lost 9 games. Winnfield would have to lose all three remaining
games to match that, but with the way things were headed that appeared to be a distinct possibility.
That became even
more of real possibility when the Tigers dropped the next two games to Tioga and Jena respectively. The Tioga game was played
on a field made less than ideal by day long rains. Tioga scored the only points of the night on a first quarter touchdown.
That would be all the scoring Tioga would need as the Tigers never threatened to score and only made it into Tioga's side
of the field once. Winnfield only gained 30 yards rushing and 48 yards passing for 78 total yards. Though the Tigers returned to Stokes-Walker
Stadium the next week and had their seniors back in the starting lineup none of the supposed advantages that Winnfield had
seemed to matter as Jena rolled to a 33-0 win. Jena gained 370 total yards from scrimmage, with 208 yards coming through the
air. They thus became the second team ever to pass for more than 200 yards against the Tigers, after Caldwell had become the
first three weeks earlier. Jena gained 238 yards on their touchdowns alone. The Tiger record moved to 1-8-1 for the year,
the third most losses ever sustained in a single season.
Winnfield headed into the final game of the season against LaSalle
with two main goals - get another win and get the season over with. A win would break the seven-game losing streak the Tigers
were riding. That streak was the third longest losing streak in school history, topped only by an eleven-game losing streak
running from the end of the 1937 season and extending until the middle of the 1938 season. That streak was halted by a 0-0
tie between Winnfield and Natchitoches. After that, Winnfield lost 10 straight games. So, the 7 game losing streak that had
come about solely within the 1965 season topped the 6 game losing streak of the 1947 season as the longest losing streak within
a single season.
In the LaSalle game only one touchdown was scored and fortunately for Winnfield that score was made by the Tigers in
a 6-0 win. The touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from Ricky Jordan to Wayne Wood and the
shutout was the first of the year for the Tigers.
Winnfield ended the season with a 2-8-1 record.
The Tigers scored only 59 points and allowed 228 points. There had only been six teams in the history of the program
that had won fewer games; with those including the zero wins of the 1938 and 1944 seasons, and the single wins of the 1931,
1932, 1937 and 1950 seasons. Three other seasons had ended with two wins, including the 1935, 1949 and 1958 seasons. The 1965
Tigers became only the sixth team to allow more than 200 pts. for the season and moved past the 1958 unit into second place
for most points allowed in a season. That list was headed by the 1938 team who gave up 302 points. The 59 points the Tigers
scored during the 1965 season was the 10th lowest in school history and the lowest since the 1944 season.
the season, Coach Newman knew he had his work cut out for him. With only seven seniors on the roster and
a starting lineup full of inexperienced players, the team was handicapped before the first ball was kicked off. Combine that
with injuries during the season and Newman's benching of his seniors late in the season and the reason for
the Tiger's continued fall was fairly obvious. The 1965 team relied on no more than a dozen and a half players to get them
through every game. That lack of depth was the downfall during many games.
Three straight winless seasons are not good for a coach’s
career and a 5-12-2 record over two seasons is downright disastrous. Add Winnfield's 13-straight losses in district play and
the grumblings for a change grow very loud. In the December meeting of the Winn Parish School Board, the governing body voted
to relieve Coach Hoss Newman of his coaching duties after ten seasons at the helm of the Tiger program.
In his first
six years, Newman guided the school to its first four district titles. During that span, he compiled a 37-26-3
record. However, over the last four years of his coaching tenure, he went 16-22-2. Still, he left the program with an overall
record of 53-48-5. That enabled Newman to join Alwin Stokes as the only coaches up to that
point to hold the Winnfield head-coaching job for more than a year and leave with a winning record. Though Newman
never won a playoff game in four tries he was the first Tiger coach to direct a Tiger team in post-season play. Hoss
Newman’s 53 wins broke, by six, Alwin Stokes’ record for most wins by a coach. No other
Tiger coach had ever won as many as 20 games. In a decade known for the return of winning football teams, give Hoss
Newman credit for guiding the first three teams of the decade to winning seasons. That was the first time that had
happened since the 1920s. In fact, those three winning records were more winning teams that had been produced in either the
1930s, 1940s or 1950s.
Coach Newman moved Winnfield football to the “next level”.
Winnfield again became known as a "winning program" during the early 1960s. However, after four straight seasons
of being the doormat in District 2-AA, the program seemed to have forgotten what the players of the early 1960s had learned.
The resurgence of the Tiger program during the late 1950s and early 1960s gave everyone a taste of what winning football does
to a community. More than anything, that’s what the fans of Tiger football wanted back because once you get a taste
of it, nothing less is acceptable.
Enter content here
KEY SEASON: 1966 (Overall - 9-4-0; *District - 4-2-0)
W, 27-12* (HC)
W, 33-13 (Tiebreaker)
L, 7-27 (Tiebreaker)
The town of Winnfield has always wanted a winning high school football team.
That is why the coaching change between the 1965 and 1966 seasons was so important. In a game where attitude and preparation
are so important, the program needed a coach who spent as much time on the mental aspects of the game as he did on the physical
aspects. The School Board believed they had found just that type of man when they hired Tommy Bankston as
their new head coach
Coach Tommy Bankston came to Winnfield from Ferriday High School and he brought with him a simple
message: If you come out for football and you stay, you'll find one major reward in doing that. The reward is that I’ll
teach you how to be a winner.
graduated from Louisiana College where he played football. His first coaching stint came at Farmerville High School where
he was an assistant coach for three years. Following that, he took a leave of absence to obtain his master's degree at Northeast
State University. Upon graduation, he returned to coaching as an assistant at LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. After
staying there for three years, Coach Bankston moved to Ferriday to accept the head-coaching job. The previous
year, Coach Bankston had guided the Bulldogs to a 4-6-0 record. One of those four wins was a 14-6 win over
the Winnfield Tigers.
There was no real secret to Coach Bankston's method - "It just takes hard work and dedication",
was something you would often hear Coach Bankston say. Certain key words are associated with the "Bankston
Style.” Pride pushes a button and triggers discipline and commitment and preparation and character.
He wanted players who were physically tough, but above all he preached that if you were mentally tough you could move mountains.
“You can if you think you can” was one of Coach Bankston’s favorite motivational quotes
(and he had several). He got his boys physically prepared for the fourth quarter by intense practices. He got his boys prepared
for the whole season by preaching winning. He wanted his players to think that it was an honor to play for the red and white.
He wanted his players to believe they were upholding a winning tradition and nothing less than total dedication would be tolerated.
Most of all, he wanted his players going into every game thinking (believing) they were going to win. If anyone could get
the incoming Winnfield Senior High School football players to believing they were winners, Coach Tommy Bankston
could. It appeared that the School Board had their man. But, talkin' the talk is one thing. The proof would come on the football
field. The School Board and the Tiger football fans wouldn't have to wait long to find the answer to their questions about
the "new man.”
There were many new faces in
the coaching ranks at Winnfield Senior High School as the Tigers prepared for the 1966 season, though there was one holdover.
Bob Edwards was the only coach on the staff with any past ties to the football program. Edwards
had first assisted with the football team during the 1947 season and had moved back into an assistant coach’s position
at the Sr. High for the 1965 season. Edwards, a kicker in his collegiate days, worked with the kickers and
guards. Two new coaches were hired to assistant Coach Bankston. Jerry Bamburg, a young 25-year old coach,
was hired to coach the ends. After graduating from Louisiana Tech in 1962, Bamburg went to work at Tallulah
High School, coaching under the legendary Racer Holstead during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. Bamburg
left Tallulah for a coaching assignment at Benton High School, where he coached during the 1965 season. Joining Bamburg
as a new assistant coach was former LSU football player, Joe Dosher, who was hired to take over the duties
of molding Winnfield’s tackles and centers.
When Coach Bankston took over the Tiger program, he soon found that he had no shortage of talent.
Not only that, but by the time the season approached, Coach Bankston had sorted and shifted that talent in
such a way so as to guarantee that he had depth at every position. The team totaled slightly less than 40 in number, but during
the season Coach Bankston would rely on over half of those players for regular duty. On the one hand, virtually
all of his starters would go both ways. But, Bankston’s 1966 team had approximately 22 starters who
could play both ways.
Consider the following: At the
offensive and defensive end positions, the Tigers had one of the strongest groups to ever wear the red and white. Those included
Wayne Wood, Ronald Howard and Mike Spangler - all juniors. In the interior line, Coach
Bankston had four players who could man the offensive tackle position, including seniors Mike Kennedy and
Ronald Griffin, and juniors Steve Stroud and William Jones. At the guard
position, Winnfield had Layton Long, a senior, Larry Gibson, a junior and Herschel
Long, a sophomore. All of those tackles and guards would be called on to play in the offensive and defensive lines.
At center, Winnfield had a player cut out of the same mold as Kidd Farr in the 1930s and C. C. Carter
in the 1940s. That player was Charles Poisso. Like Farr and Carter, Poisso
was quick and strong and he liked to hit. Poisso’s strength lay in his versatility. He was clearly
a two-way player, holding down the center slot as well as the linebacker position. When Poisso played the
game, he played it with intensity. Those attributes served him especially well on the defensive side of the ball.
Winnfield was solid in the backfield. Coach Bankston soon
found that he had two able quarterbacks and would have the luxury of having to decide which one would play in any given situation.
Senior Ricky Jordan had a slight edge over junior Gary Green because of a little more playing
experience. If anything, Jordan was a more dangerous runner and Green was a truer passer.
Coach Bankston wouldn’t hesitate to use either in the defensive backfield either. At the halfback position,
senior Jerry Hightower anchored Winnfield's rushing attack. He too was just as capable on
the defensive side of the ball as he was at handling the running back duties. The remaining halfbacks were a group of underclassmen,
led by returning starter Woody Brazzell, junior Jimmy Dale Zimmerman and sophomores Glenn
Stewart, Randy Poisso and Tommy Tinnerello. All of those halfbacks would see regular duty in the
defensive backfield, with Poisso and Zimmerman being more defensive specialist than running
backs and Hightower carrying the load on both sides of the ball. Finally, Winnfield had two starters returning
at the fullback position in Charles Dawson and Ronald Brazzell. Dawson
played alongside Charles Poisso on the defensive side of the ball at the other linebacker position. Kicking
specialists were Glenn Stewart as the punter and Steve Stroud as the place kicker.
All total, the 22 “regulars” represented a spread of six seniors,
twelve juniors and four sophomores. Since the program graduated only seven seniors the season before, most of the starters
on the 1966 team had gained playing experience the season before, as the team returned 16 lettermen. Since the 1965 team won
only two games and since Winnfield’s 1966 starting unit was still dominated by underclassmen (16 of 22 players, or 73%
of the starting unit) the most optimistic Winnfield fan hoped that the 1966 team would finish the year with no worse than
a .500 record, win at least one district game and then gain momentum for the next season when those twelve juniors would be
seniors. All of that would represent improvement - a lot of improvement. The program had not won a district game since 1961,
going 0-13-0 in district competition during the 1962 to 1965 period.
Coach Bankston didn’t approach his new assignment with
simple goals of getting a .500 record or winning a single district game. He didn’t think that way. He preached winning
every game and winning the district title. He felt like the only thing that stood in the way of those goals were
the Tigers themselves. “If you are willing to pay the price, you will ___________”, Coach Bankston
would often start off a sentence and then fill in the blank with any number of goals. Prior to the
season, the LHSAA went through its biannual reclassification process. Winnfield remained in Class AA and even stayed in District
2-AA, but the makeup of the district was radically changed. Winnfield was the only remaining team in District 2-AA, with Jonesboro,
Ruston and Haynesville departing. Joining Winnfield were several traditional rivals, headed by Tallulah and Jena. The remainder
of the district would be composed of Ferriday and Caldwell. In a preseason poll, the sportswriters unanimously voted Tallulah
as the favorite to win the district, with Ferriday picking up the second most votes and Jena placing third. Winnfield was
voted a distant fourth and Caldwell gained the fewest votes of any team. Considering the Tigers recent history and the youth
of the team, a fourth place finish seemed like a reasonable vote. But, preseason polls are as reliable as Louisiana weather
and Coach Bankston clipped the article for possible future bulletin board material. Aside from
the four district games, Winnfield was slated to play Class A Rayville, District 3-AA opponents Pineville, Tioga Menard and
Natchitoches, as well as traditional rival Jonesboro. All total, the Tigers played six home games during
the regular season and four away games. Season tickets for the Tigers six home games cost nine dollars per ticket.
Winnfield fans would see a more wide-open offense under Coach Bankston’s
system than what they had seen in recent years. He had the quarterbacks to throw the ball and he had every intention of capitalizing
on their talents and well as the abilities of his gifted receivers. He also had halfbacks with speed and fullbacks with brawn,
enabling him to mix his offensive plays as he wished. On defense, Coach Bankston used the Oklahoma Style
defense, which relied on the play of the defensive ends.
Coming into the season, Winnfield was already hit by the injury bug. Houston
Etheridge, returning letterman at guard, injured his neck and suffered a concussion during summer drills. He was
thought to be out for the season. Charlie Dawson was also held out of the opening game after tearing a stomach
muscle during summer two-a-days.
Winnfield opened the season after two good showings in scrimmages against Leesville and Merryville. The Tigers played
Bolton in the Alexandria Jamboree and were defeated 7-0. The Tiger defense had looked better than the offense but that is
usually the case for most high school teams early in the season.
In the opening game of the regular season Winnfield faced Class A Rayville, who were
picked to win the District 2-A title. Fans were cautiously optimistic about the new regime, but like most football fans, when
change occurs fan expectations are usually quite high. Coach Tommy Bankston wouldn’t want it any other
What fans would see was the
first of what would be seven games decided by one touchdown or less. They would also see the brand of defensive football that
typified all Bankston-coached teams as Rayville only scored twice against the Tigers. For Coach Bankston
that was two touchdowns too many because he almost took it as a personal assault when a team scored on one of his defensive
The first half was a defensive battle,
with Rayville scoring the initial touchdown of the game I the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. Then, just before halftime
Ricky Jordan a pass at the Hornet 28-yard line which gave the Tigers their best field position of the night.
It took a pounding ground game, but the Tiger offense converted on that turnover when Jerry Hightower scored
from four yards out. The PAT was missed, due in part to a bobbled snap on this rainy night. That allowed
Rayville to maintain a 7-6 lead at the half.
One of Coach Bankston’s strengths was his ability to make half time adjustments. But, maybe
his biggest strength was his skill in convincing his troops they were better than the opposition. All of that showed when
the Tigers came out in the third quarter and took their opening possession of the half in for a score on a 1-yard run by Ronald
Brazzell. The PAT kick was no good leaving the score 12-7 in favor of Winnfield
The Tigers played excellent defense the rest of the way, including a goal line
stand in the third quarter. But, when the Tiger offense got the ball back they fumbled the ball back to Rayville at the Winnfield
5-yard line. This time Rayville capitalized and in doing so moved the score to 13-12, which is where it stayed.
Winnfield dropped the initial game of the Bankston-era and, like
every other loss, this would eat at Coach Bankston. It would also make him even more determined and that
is what he used to inspire his players. “We’ve just got to work harder,” Coach Bankston
told the local Lions club four nights later. That is what Coach Bankston believed - hard work was the cure
for almost anything that plagued a football team.
One thing about Bankston’s coaching style was his cerebral
approach to the game. He had his assistants dissect game film, where individual players and the offensive and defensive units
as a whole were graded on their performance. As a result, each player got quantitative feedback on how they had performed
the week before. Each player was graded on every play relative to whether or not they played their position according to several
grading criteria. Coach Bankston also instituted a weekly award, which would be known as the Savage Award.
This honor was given to the player who threw the hardest hit on an opposition player. The recipient of the first Savage Award
was Jimmy Dale Zimmerman, who upended the Rayville quarterback with a vicious blow.
After the one-point loss to Rayville, the Tiger defense would post three consecutive
shutouts in helping the Tigers move to 3-1-0 on the season. The first of those wins was also accomplished
by the most productive offensive outing of the season as the Tigers scored five touchdowns in a 32-0 win over Pineville. Games
have turning points, seasons have turning points and even coaching tenures have turning points. The second half of the Pineville
game would have all three, as the payoff to hard work and never giving up that Coach Bankston had been preaching
was seen in full force. In short, Coach Bankston made believers out of lot of the people he had been “preaching”
The first half of the Pineville
game was a defensive battle which was reflected on the score board at halftime that showed that neither team had scored. So,
Winnfield scored all of their 32 points in only two quarters of football and it took a complete offensive, defensive and special
teams effort to do that. Here is how that happened.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard after blocking a Pineville punt near the Rebel goal line. That was only the
start of stellar defensive and special teams play as the Tigers Mike Spangler blocked Pineville’s next
punt, which was returned by Wayne Wood for a touchdown. Then Woody Brazzell, Winnfield’s
return man, set up his own 1-yard touchdown run with a 43-yard punt return on the following Pineville punt. What also made
that possible was the Tiger defense who stuffed Pineville deep in their own territory before forcing those punts. The Tigers
had moved to a 19-0 lead in less than six minutes. From that point forward, Coach Bankston would never have
to convince his team how important special team play was. When your defense and special teams are playing that well, who needs
an offense? However, the Tiger offense came to life too in the fourth quarter when Ricky Jordan
connected on two touchdown passes; one a 72-yarder to Hightower and the other a 17-yarder to Wood.
The game had become fun. All of the hard work during the grueling summer two-a-days seemed to be paying off. The game itself
was a testimony of what Coach Bankston had been preaching. There really was a payoff to hard work.
If you believe you were better than your opponent you really could win.
In one of the most dramatic turnarounds in school history, the Tigers had changed
a defensive slugfest into a scoring feast. Winnfield scored five touchdowns - all in the final seventeen minutes of the game.
It was a game where excellent special team play, solid defense and a capable offense came together to take over a football
game. It was that kind of overall execution that pleased Coach Bankston the most.
win over Pineville, Winnfield posted another shutout win in a 6-0 victory over Natchitoches. Against Natchitoches Winnfield’s
defense played even better than they had against Pineville and it’s a good thing. Winnfield broke a scoreless tie in
the second quarter when Jordan connected with Wayne Wood for a 17-yard touchdown pass. That
was the only scoring threat the Tigers made all game.
For the night, Winnfield only gained 117 yards rushing, but the Tiger defense held Natchitoches to 87 yards rushing.
As a result, the Tigers moved to 2-1-0 for the season, which marked the first time the Tiger football program had won two
games in a row since the 1963 season.
Those two wins gave the Tigers some momentum as they headed into their first district game the fourth week of the season.
The opponent would be an old nemesis, the Tallulah Trojans. Coming into the game, the 1966 Tiger team specifically and the
Winnfield program in general was at a crossroads. Tallulah had been the team to knock Winnfield out of the playoffs three
of the four times the Tigers had made the playoffs. In the Tiger’s move to reestablish itself as a championship caliber
program they had to win against tough opponents. Tallulah was such an opponent.
Trojans came into game as the preseason favorite to take the District 2-AA crown. Tallulah carried a No. 9 ranking in the
Class AA polls and had opened the season with a whipping of AAA Bastrop and seemed to be following the path they were predicted
to follow when they defeated Caldwell in their District 2-AA opener.
As he would
do throughout the season, Coach Bankston shuffled his alignment for the Tallulah game and virtually all of
the changes would come on the defensive side of the ball. Jimmy Dale Zimmerman would get the nod over
Mike Spangler at one of the end positions, allowing Spangler to focus solely on offensive duties.
The defensive backfield included sophomore Tommy Tinnerello, junior Gary Green and sophomore
Randy Poisso. Those moves freed up Jerry Hightower and Ricky Jordan for
offensive duty only. Finally, Coach Bankston moved Steve Stroud into a starting position
at defensive tackle. That strategy by Coach Bankston was designed to give the offense fresh men throughout
the game because he knew he would need 48 minutes of play by his team to beat Tallulah.
On the night
of the Tallulah game, Winnfield faced one element they had no control over - the weather. For the third time of the season,
Winnfield would have to play a game where they had to contend with rain. That played into Winnfield’s style of play
somewhat because Coach Bankston knew he had a good defense. Prior to the game, Coach Bankston
stated matter-of-factly, “It’ll just (come down to) who picks up the most fumbles tonight.”
possession first, after winning the coin toss. The Tiger defense sent Tallulah three and out after allowing only five yards
on the Trojans first passion of the night. That immediately put Tallulah in a precarious position, having to kick from deep
in their end of the field in adverse weather conditions. When Tallulah lined up for the punt, they had seven men across the
line, three safety men positioned behind the line and their punter. They had scouted Winnfield and knew that the Tigers were
a threat to block any punt. Despite being prepared, Tallulah couldn’t stop either Mike Kennedy or Mike
Spangler once the ball was snapped. Kennedy took out one of the safety men, while Spangler
simply jumped over the other two Trojan blockers. In the process, Spangler made a full block of the Tallulah
punt, but he wasn’t through. Spangler quickly sprang to his feet, located the loose football, scooped
it up and carried it the final 5 yards into the end zone. The play, coming when it did, had an effect on both teams. The extra
point was no good, but Winnfield had jumped to a 6-0 lead in the opening minutes of the game.
for the rest of the first half came down to two items – goal line stands and fumbles. Each defense was credited with
a goal line stand in the first half, with Tallulah stopping Winnfield after the Tigers moved to a first and goal at the Tallulah
2-yard line. In the second quarter Winnfield put together a goal line stand of their own after Tallulah had advanced to the
Tiger 5-yard line. Needing only 5 yards to tie the game, the Trojans were stopped in their tracks by Poisso
and Dawson on the fourth down attempt. After stopping Tallulah short of the goal line the Tiger
offense went nowhere and a Charlie Dawson punt sailed off the side of his foot and rolled
out of bounds at the Tiger 11-yard line. Tallulah promptly turned the ball back over to Winnfield when they fumbled the ball,
making Coach Bankston seem like a prophet. In a night filled with fumbles, that was the biggest fumble recovery
of them all.
Tallulah put one more scare in the Tiger faithful in the closing minutes of the first half. After gaining possession
at the Tiger 44-yard line, Tallulah began a march that seemed destined to tie the score. That series pitted strength against
strength, in a display of sheer power on both sides of the football. Tallulah, led by Jerry Copes, their
bruising fullback, mounted a drive in which Copes seemed to will the team down the field. After moving inside
the Tiger 10 yard line Copes was stopped by Mike Kennedy for a short gain on first down.
On second down, Ronald Howard broke through and dropped Copes for an 8-yard loss in what
would be one of the biggest plays of the game. That forced Tallulah into a passing situation on third down. Ricky
Jordan almost intercepted the Tallulah pass but the wet ball slipped through his hand, giving the Trojans one more
chance. On fourth down, Gary Green broke up another pass to shut down that drive as the first half came to
a close. In the end, that would be Tallulah’s final assault at the Tiger goal line.
remainder of the game was played in a veritable deluge that wrecked havoc on both teams. Spangler’s
first quarter touchdown loomed larger and larger, especially as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter with the Tigers
still clinging to their one touchdown lead. In the final quarter Tallulah never threatened Winnfield’s goal line and
to the delight of everyone in Stokes-Walker Stadium connected with the Tiger program, the Tigers finally
beat the Tallulah Trojans.
The win was a huge one for the Tiger program in general
and for the 1966 team in particular. After the Tigers started the season by winning two of three games there remained skeptics
(there always are). There could be no question now. Winnfield had knocked off a ranked team, and had disposed of a team clearly
capable of winning the District 2-AA title. In doing so, Winnfield moved into a tie with Jena for the district lead. Not lost
in the win was the fact that the 1966 team finally snapped the schools losing streak in district game that had stretched to
13 games and had began with the fist district game of the 1962 season.
The Tigers were back all right,
but no one assumed anything, though the team had jumped to a 3-1-0 record with the win over Tallulah. After all, it had been
four years since the Tigers had won three games in a row and five years since Winnfield had been in first place in a district
race. Coach Bankston always gave credit when it was due, and he repeatedly talked about the fine play of
his defense. In Winnfield three wins, the Tiger defense had pitched three consecutive shutouts. That had happened only twice
since the 1920s, with both the 1946 and 1947 teams getting three consecutive shutouts. The following week,
Winnfield had the opportunity to test their game against a 2-0-2 Menard team who was the first place team from District 3-AA.
In the end the Tigers won that battle by a 13-6 margin in spite of the fact that the Tiger offense did not score a single
point. As had been the pattern throughout the season it was special teams play and the Tiger defense who
came to the rescue. In the first half the Tigers first got on the board when Ricky Jordan
returned a punt 40-yards for a touchdown. Though the game was a tight defensive battle throughout, the Tigers gained some
breathing room in the third quarter when Tiger end Wayne Wood stepped in front of a Menard pass and returned
it 42 yards for a touchdown. At the point the Tigers moved to a 13-0 lead. Menard scored a touchdown in the final 75 seconds
of the game to account for the final 13-6 margin. Good football teams find ways to win games and the 1966 team was doing just
Winnfield's sixth opponent of the year was an opponent Coach Bankston would have rather not faced.
However, his next opponent was a district foe, so it’s not like he could have gotten out of this game had he really
wanted to. Besides, he was not a man who dodged any challenge. In the next game Winnfield would face Coach
Bankston's previous team, the Ferriday Bulldogs and the game would be played in Ferriday.
Bankston didn't expect a warm reception. Plus, when you are dealing with high
school kids, it doesn't take much to give a team extra incentive. On the other hand, the Winnfield players were just as fired
up and for the same reason. Winnfield had a bunch of competitors.
The Bulldogs weren't in awe
of the Tigers and their Top Ten Class AA ranking, and that showed as they moved to a 12-0 lead through nearly three quarters
of play. That is when Coach Bankston opened up his offense and that paid off with huge dividends.
Late in the
third quarter the Tigers used their passing attack to move in for their first score of the game to narrow the margin to 12-7.
The Tigers did the same thing on their next possession as they used a series of Jordan passes to set
up a 6 yard touchdown-scoring toss from Jordan to Mike Spangler. Winnfield missed the ensuing
extra point, but moved to a 13-12 lead. The Tiger defense did their job the remainder of the fourth quarter and the ride back
to Winnfield wasn't nearly as long as it could have been. Winnfield had overcome a 12-point deficit and they did it in the
second half. Winnfield continued to show how good teams find a way to get the job done, or, as Coach Bankston
would continue to say, "You have to want to win."
only gained 46 yards rushing against Ferriday. That was offset by the Tiger passing attack. The passing
game numbers showed quarterback Ricky Jordan completing 11 of 24 passes for 160 yards. Jordan
spread those completions around to six different receivers, with Hightower catching three; Spangler,
Howard and Wood getting two each; and Roberts and Dawson
snaring one apiece.
Winnfield did suffer one casualty during the game when
Tiger punter and defensive halfback Glynn Stewart broke his hand. This meant that Charlie Dawson
would resume the punting duties he had carried the season before. Other players nursing nagging injuries were Mike
Kennedy, with a bruised shoulder; Charles Poisso, with multiple bruises and Woody Brazzell
with a bruised back.
It was now time for Coach Bankston to pull out the preseason predictions and tack them to the bulletin
board. Sportswriters had picked Winnfield to finish no better than fourth in the five-team district, with Tallulah, Jena and
Ferriday predicted to finish better than the Tigers. Coach Bankston also included the current rankings that
showed Winnfield in first place with a 2-0-0 mark. Tallulah stood in second place with a 2-1-0 mark, after knocking off Jena
the week before by a 28-12 margin. That moved Jena into third with a 1-1-0 league record. Caldwell and Ferriday were both
winless in loop play. After the program suffered through 13 straight district losses between 1962 and 1965, the 1966 team
suddenly got another kind of streak going. By defeating Tallulah and Ferriday the team had won consecutive district games,
making that the first time that had happened in five years.
had not been concerned with the playoffs during the past three years because they were out of the playoffs well before playoff
time. In the January, 1966 meeting of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules for qualifying for the playoffs
had been liberalized in order to give more teams an opportunity to compete in the annual playoffs. That was made possible
when the membership of the LHSAA voted to allow not only every district champion, but also every district runner-up to participate
in the playoffs. If only the playoff format had been that inclusive throughout the history of Winnfield football. Many other
Tiger teams would have tasted playoff competition had that been the case.
As a result of those rule changes,
Winnfield was one win away from qualifying from the playoffs. A win against either of their final two district opponents would
clinch at least a tie for the runner-up slot in the district. Winnfield’s best hopes of getting that win came the next
week when they played Caldwell, the weakest team in District 2-AA. It would be Winnfield's homecoming game.
The mood of
the team couldn't have been much better as they prepared for Caldwell. The Tigers were riding a five-game win streak and had
parlayed their 5-1-0 record to a 7th place ranking in the Class AA polls. Caldwell, on the other hand, was heading in the
opposite direction. The Spartans were 1-5-0 for the year, but their first win of the season had come the week before when
they beat Wossman 14-7. Coach Bankston warned that Caldwell had the best quarterback and fullback the Tigers
had faced all year. Everything he said had a purpose, because it is hard for high school kids to take a 1-5-0 team seriously.
were ripe for an upset, though Caldwell hardly seemed like the team who would provide that. On the defensive side of the ball,
the Tigers were championship caliber. However, the Tiger offense still hadn’t exploded like a really potent offense
does. There had been times when the Tiger offense had executed like Coach Bankston wanted (and he was a man
of high standards). However, that seemed to be the biggest question mark about the team, even at this late date in the season.
A crowd of
3,000 turned out for the Caldwell game. What they saw was a good old fashion whipping administered by the Tigers as Winnfield
moved to a 27-0 lead through three quarters. The Tiger reserves gave up two fourth quarter touchdown to
make the score 27-12 and give the impression that the game was closer than it actually was. For the night, Jordan
tossed two touchdown passes and Hightower and Ronald Brazzell each scored
on short runs to account for all of the Tiger scoring.
With the victory
Winnfield moved to 6-1-0 for the season and 3-0-0 in district play. The win clinched at least a share of the runner-up spot
as the Tigers as they could finish no worse than the district runner. They could claim the title outright with a win two weeks
later when the Tigers put their 3-0-0 district mark on the line against their final district foe, the Jena Giants.
Before that could happen the Tigers had two non-district foes to take care of and the first of those was no ordinary
non-district foe because the opponent was the Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers. The 39th meeting of the two teams would be waged in
Stokes-Walker Stadium. Jonesboro came into the game with a series-leading 22-12-2 record and had beaten the
Tigers in each of the past four seasons. In fact, Winnfield had not even scored against Jonesboro in four years, so the 1966
Tigers had something to prove against Jonesboro. Jonesboro came into the game with a 5-2-0 record. In compiling that record,
Jonesboro had played a veritable Who’s Who of north Louisiana high school football teams. Jonesboro’s five victims
had been West Monroe, Natchitoches, Minden, Caldwell and Haynesville. Jonesboro’s two losses came by a combined total
of 7 points. Earlier in the season Springhill had won a squeaker over Jonesboro by a score of 14-13 to take an early lead
in District 1-A. Then, two weeks earlier, Jonesboro was defeated by Jesuit of Shreveport by a score of 13-7. The previous
week, Jesuit had knocked Springhill from both the Dist. 1-A lead and a No. 3 ranking in the Class AA polls. Make no mistake
about it - this was a very good Jonesboro-Hodge football team.
Winnfield came into the
game with a No. 5 ranking in the weekly statewide poll and Jonesboro was ranked 12th. That made only the second time that
both teams came into the annual contest as ranked teams, the first being the 1962 season. Both schools had a history of good
football teams, but when Winnfield was up, Jonesboro was usually down and vice versa. In 1966, the two teams came into the
game with a combined record of 12-3 -0. That was the most combined wins and highest winning percentage the two schools had
ever achieved coming into the annual match-up. This one had all of the makings of being a good one.
it be said from the start that the game lived up to its billing. It was a game in which each team’s defense dominated,
while each team’s offense showed flashes of brilliance.
Winnfield got the game going
with a power-oriented drive in the first quarter that produced the first points of the night. Though power sweeps by Charlie
Dawson set up the touchdown, the play that got the Tigers into the end zone was a pass from Jordan
Winnfield's "bend but don't break" defense put a noose around two first half drives inside the Tiger 20 yard
line, however Jonesboro did get into the end zone late in the second quarter. The Tiger’s proficiency
in blocking (of any type) proved timely again when Wayne Wood got a hand on the ball on the extra point,
deflecting the ball away, thus preserving Winnfield's slim 7-6 lead, which held up until halftime.
had some scoring opportunities throughout the game that they just didn’t take advantage of. Once in the first half and
twice in the third quarter Winnfield made it inside the Jonesboro 10 yard line, only to be repelled by Jonesboro each time.
As often happens
after goal line stands, Jonesboro found the going exceptionally tough after their third such stand when Charles Poisso
dropped Jonesboro halfback Rodney Mize twice for losses, the final hit resulting in Mize
being carted off the field.
Clinging to a slim one point lead, Winnfield moved inside
the Jonesboro 10 yard line yet again late in the fourth quarter and for the fourth time of the night Jonesboro put up a brick
wall; this time from one yard away. That was when the Winnfield defense took matters into their own hands. After the huge
stop, Jonesboro moved out to the 25-yard line in three plays, giving them a new set of downs with only minutes to go in the
game. One big play would enable Jonesboro to take the lead, and, the play of the game did in fact occur on the next play.
On first down, Charlie Dawson hit Jonesboro quarterback Randy Phillips and separated him
from the ball. Winnfield defensive end Wayne Wood caught the ball in stride and in sudden, dramatic fashion
broke the game open with a 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Jordan connected with Ronald Howard
on the PAT attempt to give the Tigers some breathing room at 14-6. Since the two-point conversion rule wasn't in effect in
1966, Jonesboro would need two scores to overtake Winnfield and they had less than two minutes to do that in.
did score on their next possession, however they got their touchdown on the final play of the game, which when the PAT was
added only changed the final margin to 14-13. Though Winnfield didn’t capitalize on every opportunity they had, Jonesboro
had absolutely horrid field position all game long. The biggest difference in the two teams had to be Winnfield's defense
and Dawson’s punting. The visitors did not have enough offense to overcome their poor field position.
With the win, Winnfield moved to 7-1-0 for the season. Since Winnfield had gone 1-7-0 over the final eight games of
the previous season, the program had made a complete about-face. That margin was the biggest turn around in school history.
Coach Bankston said that if you had a good attitude you would work hard. And, he followed, if you worked
hard you would win. He was right.
Winnfield’s seven game
win streak matched the second longest win streak within a single season in Tiger football history. The 1961 team held that
mark with 11 wins in a row, but the 1966 team’s 7-game win streak tied the second longest streaks set first by the 1919
team and then tied by the 1923 team. There had only been one team, the 1961 team, that had held a better record after the
first eight games of the season. The 1961 team was 8-0-0 after their first eight games. Matching the 1966 team’s 7-1-0
record were the 1923, 1928 and 1948 teams. The 1966 team had already established themselves as one of the best teams in school
history, but with the district title still up for grabs and the playoffs looming they could enhance their status even more.
were riding a wave of excitement that had spread throughout the whole community. After the Jonesboro win, the Tigers vaulted
to a No. 3 ranking and football was the talk of the town. During the week following the big Jonesboro win, the Winnfield Junior
High School varsity team wrapped up a 7-1 season when they took a 20-6 win over a Donald Fulford-led Ferriday
Jr. High School team. The 7th grade Bears also finished the season with a winning record, going 2-1-1. All combined, the Senior
and Junior high varsity teams were 14-2-0 at that point in time. The Jr. High teams obviously had talent and, since the Senior
High varsity was made up of a large number of underclassmen, the future of football at Winnfield Senior High School seemed
But, it was the present that was of utmost concern to Coach Tommy Bankston and his Tigers. The Tiger's
final non-district opponent of the year would be the Tioga Indians. Besides the task of getting his Tigers ready for Tioga,
Coach Bankston’s biggest challenge was keeping his troops focused on Tioga rather than on their final
opponent of the season - the Jena Giants. The Jena game would mark the final game of the regular season and the outcome for
the district race both teams hinged on the outcome of that game.
came into that game with a 3-4-1 record and a fourth place standing in District 3-AA. Against Tioga, Coach Bankston
got the kind of effort he wanted prior to the big season finale against Jena. Late arrivers didn’t get to see Winnfield’s
first touchdown because the Tigers scored in the opening minutes of the game. Charlie Dawson intercepted
a pass on Tioga’s first series, giving the Tigers the ball on the Winnfield 30-yard line. Three plays later Jordan
hooked up with Hightower for a 44-yard touchdown. Winnfield missed on the PAT, leaving the score 6-0.
are simply satisfied to just get the job done in the kicking game, but Coach Bankston worked on the punt
return more than others and so he expected more than others. That had paid off all season long with rushed kicks and blocked
punts. Midway through the first quarter, Winnfield again used the punt return to set up a touchdown when Mike Spangler
blocked Tioga’s first punt of the game. The ball was recovered at the Tioga 35-yard line and Jordan
connected with Hightower one play later for a touchdown. After Stroud converted the extra
point, Winnfield moved to a 13-0 lead.
That gave Winnfield 104 yards passing, all in the first
six minutes of the game. Fans were already witness to one of the most productive passing nights in Tiger history. With his
second touchdown catch of the night, Hightower became only the fifth receiver in school history to have multiple
touchdown catches in a single game. By throwing those two touchdowns, Jordan joined Ray Jenkins
(1936), Roger Smith (1941), Dan Carr (1948), John Harrington (1957), Mike
Tinnerello (1959 - twice) and Cully Warren (1962) as the only players that had thrown multiple touchdown
passes in a game.
The Tigers added two second-half touchdowns to walk away with a 26-0 win. It would be the team’s fourth shutout
of the year.
For the game, Jordan ended up with arguably
the finest passing night by any Winnfield player up to that time. He threw two touchdowns passes and completed 14 of 19 passes
for 199 yards. That moved Jordan to the head of the pack among Winnfield players for total number of passes
completed in a game and total yards passing in a game. Gary Green came in and threw 6 more passes, connecting
on three for 27 yards. That gave the team 17 completions and 226 yards passing, both team records. Hightower
ended the night with six catches for 126 yards, also a school record for single-game receiving yards.
improved to 8-1-0 for the year to move into rarified air. With the win, the team became only the sixth Winnfield team to win
as many as 8 football games in a single season. But, in posting their eight consecutive win, the Tigers moved into sole possession
of second place for the school’s longest win streak within one season.
The win was more than enough
to help Winnfield maintain its hold on 3rd place in the Class AA polls. Just behind the Tigers in the poll was the Jena Giants,
the Tigers next opponent. As the Tigers prepared for Jena, rarely before had a Winnfield team played in a regular season game
with so much riding on it.
The scenario heading into the final game of the regular season was as follows: Winnfield was leading the district with
a 3-0-0 record, while Jena and Tallulah remained close behind with 2-1-0 league marks. Winnfield would, of course, take the
district crown outright with a win over Jena. If that happened, Winnfield would face Springhill, the District 1-AA runner-up,
in the opening round of the playoffs in Stokes-Walker Stadium.
on the other hand, needed a win to stay in the district and playoff hunt. A loss to Winnfield would place Jena in third place
in the district and would knock them out of the playoffs altogether. A win by Jena would throw the district into a three-team
tie for first place. That would necessitate Winnfield, Jena and Tallulah meeting in a series of tiebreaker games to settle
first and second place in the district, something Winnfield didn't want. In the playoffs, the District 1-AA team awaiting
the District 2-AA runner-up was the Jesuit Flyers.
Jena had one thing going for
them in that the game would be played on Jena's home field. The Giants came into the game with the same record as Winnfield,
having gone 8-1-0, with their only loss being to Tallulah. Jena was led by a two-prong rushing attack of Tommy Wilbanks
and Gary Don Moseley.
Winnfield was at full strength for the game. Conventional
thought at the time suggested that the game would be a defensive battle and that was fine with Coach Bankston.
As usual, he talked of fundamentals coming into the game.
In close games, momentum is
everything. Winnfield grabbed that momentum early in the game. Winnfield’s aggressive defense caused
a fumble early in the opening quarter, after which the Tigers capitalized on that turnover by putting together a short drive
that enabled the Tigers to take a 7-0 lead.
That’s the way the score
stood until the eight-minute mark of the second quarter when a Tiger fumble gave Jena the ball at the Winnfield 7 yard line.
Two plays later Jena sophomore quarterback Mack Fowler ran it in from 5 yards out. The extra point was missed,
leaving the score 7-6. However, Jena shutdown Winnfield, got the ball back and put together a 70-yard drive that enabled them
to take a 12-7 lead into halftime.
The manner in which Jena got their second touchdown
was rare indeed. The Tigers had given up only nine touchdowns coming into the final game. Three of those had come in the fourth
quarter against the Tiger reserves and one had come by way of a kickoff return when Ferriday returned the second half kickoff
for six points. Only one of the five touchdown drives allowed by Winnfield starters had been more than 50 yards in length.
Jena’s 70-yard drive for their second touchdown was the longest drive an opponent had made against the Tigers all year.
had been a strong second half team all year and in fact had overcome a 12-point deficit against Ferriday in the second half.
So, nobody was anywhere near hitting the panic button just yet.
Winnfield did get back in the
game in the third quarter when Jordan and Wood hooked up on a 28-yard touchdown. The TD
came with 2:55 in the third, and gave Winnfield a 13-12 lead. The game now became one where Winnfield could win with good
defense. Jena had to score to win and Winnfield had the horses to keep them from doing that. At that point, Winnfield was
but a little over twelve minutes away from securing the schools fifth district title. Sometimes twelve minutes in a football
game can seem like an eternity.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Jena methodically
moved all the way to the Tiger 2-yard line where the Tiger defense put up yet another goal line stand. With only 8 minutes
to go in the game, the Tigers took possession but were met with strong resistance on the first two downs to set up a third
and eleven from the one. On third down, Dawson was targeted to carry the ball and the play called for a pitch
from Jordan to Dawson. The Jena defensive end met Dawson just as the ball
was leaving the hands of Jordan. That disrupted the play enough to cause the pitch to sail over Dawson’s
head and into the end zone. A mad scramble ensued, but Jena’s line backing corp fell on the ball to give the Giants
a touchdown and an 18-13 lead. The extra point made it 19-13 with only minutes to go in the game.
stood in stunned disbelief. In sudden fashion, the lead and sole possession of the district championship had slipped from
their grasp. Yet, the Tigers had enough time to put together a game-winning drive, if only they could. With the district title
on the line and the ball 80 yards away from pay dirt, the Tiger offense tried but couldn’t pull off the miracle. When
Jena got the ball back all they had to do was simply run out the clock, which they did.
In the Tiger dressing
room after the game some were sad and some were mad, but everyone was affected. The Tiger’s season wasn’t over,
but the Tigers had lost a large measure of control of their own destiny. They would now have to play at least one more game
to determine whether they were even in the playoffs. Winnfield’s loss to Jena gave District 2-AA Tri-Champions, with
Winnfield, Tallulah and Jena officially splitting the title. However, a district could only send two teams to the playoff.
So, there were still the matter of determining who would represent the district as the first place team and who would represent
the district as the runner.
Jena beat Winnfield with a solid ground game and good defense - the formula for many a good football team. For the
game, Jena rolled up 217 yards rushing. In doing so, they became the only team during the regular season to rush for over
200 yards against the Tigers. Giant quarterback Mack Fowler was the leading ground gainer with 83 yards rushing.
He also got the Giants first touchdown. Jena did not gain a single yard passing after failing to complete any of their three
But, the most telling statistic was turnovers. Jena had no interceptions and lost only 1 fumble. The Tigers fumbled
four times, losing two. To show how turnovers kill, Jena scored two of their three touchdowns after recovering those two fumbles.
Jena’s first recovery came at the Tiger 7-yard line and their second recovery came in the end zone. As hard as it is
to lose a close game, the effects of that loss are magnified when you practically give the game away.
A coin toss
was used to decide the district playoff format, with some combination of Jena, Winnfield or Tallulah meeting the following
Tuesday. The school receiving a bye would meet the winner of that game the following Saturday. The loser of the first district
playoff game was out of the playoffs. On the other hand, the team who received a bye was assured a spot in the playoffs as
either the first place team or the runner-up. The odds were greatly in the favor of the team who drew the bye because their
next game would come a week after the regular season closed, which would give them the normal seven-day routine they could
follow. The winner of the Tuesday game would end up playing three games in eight days, which doesn’t give any time for
players to recover from the physical pounding that all players take in a game.
Had the formula
instituted by the LHSAA in the late 1970s been used to settle such ties, the matter would have been settled after the first
Jena defeat of Winnfield. Since Tallulah had already beaten Jena by 16 points, but had lost to Winnfield by 6 points they
had a “score” of 10 points, indicating the combined margin of victory/defeat in games played against Jena and
Winnfield. Winnfield had defeated Tallulah by 6 and lost to Jena by 6, thus giving them a “score” of 0. Jena would
have been knocked out of the playoffs by having a “score” of -10, since they defeated Winnfield by 6, but lost
to Tallulah by 16. But, that system wasn’t in place in 1966, so Winnfield was faced with the prospects of having to
play two more games before the playoffs even started, while the other playoffs teams took two weeks to prepare for the playoffs.
Of the three teams, Jena and Winnfield were the highest ranked teams. Jena ended the regular season with a 9-1-0 record and
Winnfield closed with an 8-2-0 record, the same as Tallulah’s. Both Jena and Winnfield ended the regular season ranked
in the Top Five in the sports writers poll, which Tallulah received votes in but did not crack the Top Ten.
the odd-man out in the coin toss, therefore, the Trojans would await the outcome of the Jena - Winnfield game to find out
who they would play. That left Jena and Winnfield to meet in a rematch, only four days after the Tigers had let sole possession
of the district crown slip from their grasp. In true Bankston fashion, he welcomed the opportunity, as did
his players. The team’s psyche was such that if you fell off the horse you simply got back on it and tried again. Jena
thought they could beat Winnfield, because they had just done it. Winnfield, on the other hand, knew they
could beat Jena, given another chance - it’s all in the state of mind.
GAME: The rematch would take place at Jena,
but that didn’t matter to the Tigers. Winnfield only had to make minor adjustments because they had a sound game plan
four days earlier. One thing they had to do was hold onto the football. Coach Bankston also wanted more offensive
production and planned on letting Ricky Jordan air it out in the second game.
the coin toss, Jena found that the running lanes they had seen four days earlier simply weren’t there. Jena didn’t
get anything going on their opening series or throughout the first half and virtually the whole game for that matter. Jena
did not record their initial first down until just before the half and had minus rushing yards after the first twelve minutes.
Winnfield moved to a 13-0 lead with two Ricky Jordan touchdown passes. Both passes went to Jerry
Hightower, with the first covering 5 yards and the second going from two yards further. Stroud connected
on one of those extra point tries to account for the 13-0 margin. Coach Bankston’s troops made the
statement he was looking for - We are going to stop you and then we are going to score on you.
minutes to go in the half a turnover got Jena into the contest when the Giants recovered a Tiger fumble near midfield and
drove for a touchdown. That made the score 13-7, which is where it stayed until halftime. Winnfield didn’t
want this game to resemble the first game, but that touchdown after the turnover was all too familiar.
put some distance between themselves and Jena in the third quarter when Brazzell scored from 1-yard out,
allowing Winnfield to take a 19-7 lead. Stroud’s kick for the PAT failed. That margin stood up throughout
the remainder of the third quarter, a quarter in which Jena’s offense still didn’t figure out the Winnfield defense.
A week earlier, the Jena offense had gained 150 yards rushing through the same time period. Through three quarters, Jena had
managed only 1 first down and had less than 50 yards rushing for the game.
first possession of the fourth quarter the Tiger’s dealt the final blow of the contest for all practical purposes when
Coach Bankston had Ricky Jordan unleash a bomb to Wayne Wood.
With the ball resting on the Winnfield 45 yard line, Jordan dropped back and heaved the ball half the field,
hitting a wide-open Wood at the 10-yard line. Wood went into the end zone without having
a hand laid on him and suddenly the outcome seemed assured. Stroud sailed the ball through the uprights to
give Winnfield a 26-7 lead.
In the final six minutes of the game, Jena
had no choice but to abandon their running game and go for broke. On one series, Jena went to the well once too often when
Tiger defensive end Mike Spangler stepped in front of a Fowler pass and returned it 55 yards
for a touchdown. Stroud came in and converted the PAT to make the score 33-7.
the ball in for a touchdown on their final drive of the night after getting a good return on the kickoff following Winnfield’s
final score. That accounted for final 33-13 margin.
After a five-year absence the Tigers were back in the playoffs.
Against Jena, Winnfield played the most complete game they had played all year. After the game, Coach Bankston
told the Enterprise, “I don’t think there’s a AA school in the state that could have beaten us.
I don’t recall a mistake.” Considering the Tigers had dismantled a legitimate Top Five team, Coach Bankston's
words were not idle bragging.
The Tigers were impressive on
both sides of the ball. Jordan had the best night any Winnfield quarterback ever had when he completed 13
of 22 passes for 221 yards. That broke Jordan's school record performance of 199 yards passing against Tioga.
In doing so, Jordan became the first Winnfield player to throw for over 200 yards in a football game. He
also did something only one other player in school history had ever done. Jordan finished the night with
three touchdown passes; matching Ray Jenkins' 1936 performance for most touchdown passes in a single game.
was one of Jordan's favorite receivers, catching 5 passes for 120 yards. Hightower also caught 5 passes for
64 yards. Spangler was in on 3 catches for 31 yards. Though Winnfield's fortunes came primarily through the
air, the Tigers did get 112 yards rushing to end the night with 339 total yards. Jerry Hightower was the
leading rusher for the game, getting 55 yards on 5 carries.
On the other side of the ball,
the job Winnfield's defense did on Jena is nothing short of amazing. For the game, Jena only made 3 first downs. That was
because they only gained 45 yards rushing, 172 fewer yards than they had gained four days earlier. When you compare Jena's
individual rushing totals between the two games the difference is striking. Giant quarterback Mack Fowler
was the leading ground gainer in the first game with 83 yards rushing. He got 22 yards in 13 rushing attempts in the second
game. Fullback, Jerry Wilbanks rolled for 72 yards in the first game, but was limited to a mere 1 yard the
second time around. Finally, scat back Gary Don Mosely, who got 48 yards four days earlier, got 41 less in
game two. Had it not been for the 72 yards Jena got in a 5 for 8 passing night, they wouldn't have passed
the 100-yard mark for total yards. That's good defense against anybody, much less a top-ranked team. Jena ended the year with
a 9-2-0 record, the best in that school’s history up to that point.
The win clinched
a playoff spot for Winnfield, but it only got the Tigers into the second round of the district tiebreaker against Tallulah.
Because of the tie in district play, Winnfield would have to play another football game before the playoffs even started.
As a result, a big concern going into the Tallulah game was the stamina of the Tigers. Coach Bankston had
preached winning games in the fourth quarter all year. The game would the Tigers’ third game in a seven day stretch,
so a major question mark was whether the Tigers would have anything left once they got to the fourth quarter against Tallulah,
a game that was only four days away.
Tallulah came into the game with eight days of rest.
Since Tallulah was the bye team, they would be forced to travel for the second game. So, the game to determine the first place
representative for District 2-AA for 1966 would be settled at Stokes-Walker Stadium on Saturday, November
19. The outcome of the game would also determine the next opponent of each team. The loser would have to travel to Shreveport
to play Jesuit, the District 1-AA champion, and the winner would entertain Springhill, the District 1-AA runner-up.
The game was
a seesaw battle in the first half as Tallulah scored in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, while Winnfield tied the score
up in the second quarter on a 2-yard run by Ricky Jordan. That made the score 7-7, which stood until halftime.
a fumble recovery in the third quarter to regain the lead at 14-7 and then it became apparent that the
Tigers were running out of steam. On Tallulah’s next series they put together the second longest drive that anyone had
managed against the Winnfield defense all year when they drove 73 yards to completely break open the game and move the score
to 20-7, which only minutes earlier had been knotted at 7-all. Winnfield did not respond to that score or to another touchdown
that Tallulah got in the fourth quarter, thus Tallulah walked away with a 27-7 win.
had played Tallulah head’s up until the closing minutes of the third quarter. At that point, turnovers and fatigue took
their toll. For the night, Winnfield didn’t do a good enough job protecting the football, giving up three touchdowns
after turnovers. But, they didn’t generate enough offense anyway, getting only 81 yards on the ground and 105 yards
in the air. For the game, Winnfield fumbled the ball 6 times and lost 2. The Tigers were intercepted once.
up 261yards rushing, making that the most rushing yards the Tigers had given up all year. The Trojans only turned the ball
over once, that coming on an interception.
The loss dropped the Tigers
record to 9-3-0 for the season but the Tigers still had something to play for. Coming into the season, any Winnfield fan would
have been satisfied with a winning season, much less a playoff team. The Tigers had accomplished both of that. Looming six
days down the road was a first round match between Winnfield and Jesuit High School in a game to be played in State Fair Stadium
in Shreveport. That would be the fifth playoff game for the Tiger football program. Jesuit would be the first playoff team
from outside of northeast Louisiana that Winnfield had ever met. In the Tigers four other playoff appearances, they had played
Tallulah three times and Delhi once.
Jesuit was a parochial school out of Shreveport. During
the 1940s, Winnfield had faced the school when they went by the name of St. John's of Shreveport. Up to that point in time
former Tiger teams had met two other parochial schools, those being St. Mary's of Natchitoches and Menard of Alexandria.
the season with a 5-0-0 district mark in District 1-AA and were ranked 5th in the final LSWA poll, while the Tigers maintained
their hold on 3rd place. The Flyers had relied on a potent running game all year, with halfbacks Louis Casio
and Tony Rinaudo providing most of the offensive punch.
When it came
time for the kickoff, Winnfield found that they would have to contend with the elements yet again. The Tigers had played an
unusually high number of games on a wet track during the season so this was not unusual surroundings. Sloppy fields generally
tend to favor a good defense and that was Winnfield’s strong point. On the other hand, Winnfield had gotten good production
from their passing attack during the second half of the season. The weather was setting up for this to not be the type of
conditions where a team could rely on their passing game.
Coming into the first Jena game,
the tenth game of the year, the most points the 1966 Tigers had allowed to any opponent was thirteen. Jena scored 19 in that
game, but was held to 13 the following week. Then Tallulah erupted for 27 points the previous week. Before the first quarter
of the Jesuit game was over with, Winnfield would give up the second most points they had allowed in any game, let
alone any quarter as the Flyers scored three times in the opening stanza to take a 19-0 lead.
That lead was increased to 26-0 at half time when Jesuit scored one second quarter touchdown.
When the two
teams broke for the halftime intermission, Winnfield had not gained a single first down and had negative total yards. On the
other side of the ball, Jesuit’s one-two punch of Tony Rinaudo and Louis Cascio were
giving the Tigers fits.
Winnfield’s only shining moment of the game came
early in the second half. After halting Jesuit on their first possession of the half, Winnfield took the ball at the Jesuit
48-yard line. On first down Jerry Hightower broke free and raced the full distance for a touchdown. The extra
point was good, making the score 26-7.
Hightower was not the only thing that
broke loose in the third quarter. Any hopes the Tigers had of getting back into the ball game were significantly hampered
when the skies opened later in the third quarter and the remainder of the game was played in a monsoon. To top that off, high
winds cut power to the stadium, throwing State Fair Stadium into total darkness for over 40 minutes when the rainstorm knocked
out the electricity.
After power was restored, Jesuit scored two more touchdowns
and easily defeated the Tigers 39-7 to advance to the quarterfinals. Against Jesuit, Winnfield was faced with too much of
everything. The game was marred by miserable playing conditions, but Jesuit played on the same field and gained 264 yards
rushing and added 49 yards through the air to end the night with 313 total yards. The player of the game was Jesuit’s
Tony Rinaudo, who was the leading ground gainer with 114 yards on 20 carries. Rinaudo scored
four touchdowns and intercepted two passes.
Winnfield was never in the game. Tigers were held to
one of the lowest rushing totals in school history, gaining only 27 yards on the ground. Considering that Hightower
ran 48 yards for a touchdown, Winnfield would have ended the night with negative numbers in the rushing column had
the Tigers not been successful on that play. Three pass completions offered the Tigers little relief through the
air. Winnfield actually had more pass completions than first downs, getting only 2 first downs for the game.
record improved to 7-2-1 for the season and moved them on to the quarterfinals to play Eunice. Two weeks after eighth-ranked
Jesuit knocked off Winnfield, they played Central of Baton Rouge for the Class AA title, losing that game by a score of 7-0.
8-1-0 to begin the season, Winnfield’s record thereafter was 1-3-0. Turnovers played a strong role in Winnfield defeat
to Jena, as they did in Tallulah’s win. But, the Tigers seemed to run out of steam in the tiebreaker game against Tallulah,
and understandably so, considering they had played three football games in nine days. In the Jesuit game, the Tigers were
simply thoroughly whipped.
Losing is always difficult and
losing three of four games to end a season would lead one to assume that the Tigers couldn’t match-up with quality teams.
However, that simply wasn’t the case. The 1966 team was one of the strongest teams in school history in spite of the
way the season ended. The Tiger offense was a balanced attack, as shown by their rushing and passing totals. For the year,
Winnfield gained 1,305 yards rushing and 1,300 yards passing. That made them the first team to pass for over 1,000 yards and
also the first team to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in the same season. Team records were set in total pass attempts
(182) and completions (88).
The 1966 Tigers were strongest on defense, where they allowed only 88 points through the first eleven games. During
a comparable period the season before, Winnfield had given up 228 points. However, Winnfield gave up 66 points in the final
two games to end the season with 209 total points allowed. That made them only the ninth Winnfield team to allow 200 or more
Individual stars were in abundance. Ricky
Jordan established new school records in pass attempts (137) and completions (67). He tied Mike Tinnerello
for the lead in total touchdown passes during a season (12) and Ray Jenkins for most touchdown passes in
a game (3). Jordan also set single-game school records for most passing yards (221) against Jena, most passes
completed (14) vs. Tioga and most passes attempted (24) against both Tallulah and Ferriday. Jerry Hightower
led the team in rushing, with 483 yards in 83 carries. Hightower added 398 yards in pass receptions and he
scored 5 touchdowns. He was the team’s leading scorer, getting 54 points on five pass receptions and four on rushes.
The second highest scorer for the team was Wayne Wood, who scored 8 touchdowns, including five by pass reception,
one by interception return, one by fumble return and the other by a return of a blocked punt. But, a total of nine different
players scored touchdowns for the Tigers. Only three teams in school history had more players to score touchdowns in a single
season, including the 1961 team, with thirteen and the 1928 and 1959 teams with 10 each.
There are no statistics
to show how well linemen play, so there would be no quantifiable way to show the kind of year linemen Mike Kennedy,
Charles Poisso, Hoot Gibson and Steve Stroud had on both sides of the ball. Winnfield's corp of
ends, including Mike Spangler, Ronald Howard and Wayne Wood lived up to their preseason
billing and had banner years.
was named the Coach of the Year in AA for the job he did of rebuilding the program in only one year. By winning seven more
games than the season before, he guided the team to the biggest turnaround in school history. Once before, the Tiger’s
had won six more games in one season than the previous season, that coming between the 1938 (0-10-1) season and the 1939 season
(6-5-0). There had been two other seasons when there was an increase in wins by five over the preceding season, including
the 1932 (1-6-1) to 1933 (6-3-0) seasons and the 1918 (2-00) and 1919 (7-0-0).
the season with a 9-4-0 record, the team became the first Tiger team since the 1961 season to end the year with a winning
record. By defeating Tallulah in the first district game of the year, the 1966 squad snapped the program’s 13-game losing
streak in district games, a streak that began with the first district game of the 1962 season and extended through the 1965
Post Season Honors:
OE & DE All-District, All-State (DE)
HB & DB All-District
C & LB All-District Honorable Mention
All-District Honorable Mention
1967, (Overall - 5-4-2, *District - 2-1-1) If there is one time of the year when Coach Bankston was in his element that was
in the spring of the year. During spring practice, Coach Bankston was able to focus on one aspect of the
game that he loved the most - teaching fundamentals. For him, blocking and tackling was what the game was all about. He divided
spring practice into two sessions. During the first three-week session he devoted time entirely to offensive work. During
that time he had his players work on blocking assignments, play execution, pass routes, quickness drills and the like. Then,
after breaking for track season, the team came back for two more weeks of spring drills to work on defensive fundamentals.
In typical Bankston-fashion, when spring drills of 1967 concluded he told The Enterprise, “We
set out this spring to find out who wanted to play football and we found them. We say those who stay will play and we’re
proud of the 40 people we still have on the roster.”
No one ever had to “try
out” for one of Coach Bankston’s teams and he didn’t have to cut anybody. His program did
it for him. In his program, people weeded themselves out. Coach Bankston told every player what they had
to do to be a Winnfield Tiger football player. He told them that they would have to invest something of themselves in the
program, and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t make it. They (the player) made the decision, not Coach Bankston.
By the end of spring practice, and certainly by the end of the grueling summer two-a-days, anybody who wanted to make the
team so he could get a uniform and wave to his girlfriend was gone.
The spring of 1967 would be
no different. When spring drills began he had 27 returning juniors and seniors. Those players had already gone through summer
two-a-days under Coach Bankston and one football season, but they had never gone through spring drills. When
the spring sessions ended he still had 23 of them. Where the drop off was usually most noticeable was with the incoming sophomores.
When the 1967 spring session began, 26 incoming sophomores turned out for football and that number dropped to 15 by the end
of spring drills. Of those who stayed, Coach Bankston commented, “They’re going to make some
real fine football players.” Coach Bankston put up a sign in the dressing room that read, “Those
Who Stay Will Play.” Coach Bankston had every intention of fulfilling that vow.
proper execution, two things that Coach Bankston stressed were strength and conditioning. By the mid 1960s
the benefits of weight training were becoming widely known in high school circles. Coach Bankston stressed
the importance of weight training and, as a result, he transformed players with flab into players with strength.
The 1967 team
had a number of experienced players returning. Coach Bankston succinctly and boldly summed up the prospects
for the team in an interview for The Enterprise. “We’re going to be good and deep in the line and good
but shallow in the backfield. We could get into trouble if we get backs hurt next fall, but we don’t intend to wait
around to get hurt. We’re going to get after people.” That last sentence was one of Coach
Coach Bankston announced his intentions
of using a three-platoon system. In that system, Coach Bankston planned to use his most experienced players
on the offensive side of the ball. But, Coach Bankston would not hesitate to use any player both ways. He
planned on using his most gifted players to form the foundation of his defensive unit. His third platoon would be made up
of offensive and defensive specialists who would be used at any given point in the game. Coach Bankston made
his intention clear when we stated, "We hope to use nearly everybody in nearly every game. We figure to give our people
plenty of rest so they can play head-up ball all the time."
The offensive unit was
anchored by an experienced offensive line led by Charles Poisso (C) and Larry “Hoot”
Gibson (G). Both were seniors and both had earned All-District Honorable Mention honors the season before. Other
interior linemen with playing experience included William Jones and Steve Stroud at the
tackle positions; both seniors. Junior Hershal Long filled the other guard slot on offenses. There would
be no new faces at the end position with the return of seniors Mike Spangler and Ronald Howard.
Spangler had earned both All-District and All-State honors the year before.
talked about lack of depth in the backfield. While he was short on numbers, he certainly wasn't short on talent. For starters,
the team had a solid signal caller in Gary Green. He had logged a lot of playing time the season before in
spite of the fact that Ricky Jordan had been the All-District selection at that position. Green
was known to have a strong, accurate arm, so the Tigers passing game was in good shape with Green and his
receiving corp. Backing up Green at the quarterback position was junior Tommy Tinnerello.
Winnfield also had a transfer student who would certainly contribute to the Tiger backfield. Junior back Mack Fowler,
a transfer from Jena, had moved to Winnfield to complete his school eligibility. He had guided the Jena team as a sophomore
quarterback the season before. The reminder of the backfield would be talented, but young. Coach Bankston
shifted senior Wayne Wood to the backfield to take advantage of his athletic abilities. That was an especially
bold move since Wood had been the team’s leading receiver the season before as a junior. Wood
was shifted to the halfback slot, a position that also included juniors Glenn Stewart and Tommy Tinnerello.
The fullback position would be manned by Randy Poisso and Ralph Roberts, but both were capable
of playing anywhere in the backfield.
It was on the defensive side of the ball where the Tigers
looked especially strong. Spangler and Howard returned to man the defensive end positions.
Those two bookends had repeatedly shut the door to the outside for opposing teams the year before.
no question who would man the strong-side linebacker position because Charles Poisso returned for his senior
season. He had ruled the defensive side of the ball at his linebacker position the year before. Ralph Roberts
joined him at another linebacker slot. Across the line, seniors William Jones and Steve Stroud
provided bulk and experience. But, it was up the middle where the Tigers had quickness and meanness in Larry Gibson
and Ralph Roberts, both seniors.
In the defensive backfield,
Coach Bankston had a unit led by returning senior starter Jimmy Dale Zimmerman at monster
back. Rounding out the secondary were Tommy Tinnerello and Randy Poisso,
both juniors, who had held starting roles the season before in the defensive backfield. Likewise, senior Wayne Wood
was expected to get a lot of playing time on the defensive side of the ball.
be a disservice to call the third platoon "reserves" because the unit was made up of players who were good football
players in their own right. It would be on the defensive side of the ball where the third platoon would be used the most.
That group included the likes of Charles Eagles, Danny Tullos and Jimmy Thomas
across the line. Of those, Eagles was the only underclassman. At the end positions were sophomore Joe
Stewart and junior Doug Allen. Aside from Stewart, another pair of sophomores would
be used, including Ricky Hanna at linebacker and Robbie Richards in the backfield. Senior
Bobby Gates and Keith Rigdon rounded out the players who would be known as "defensive
The biggest loss the team would face all year came two months before the season even started. Incoming senior running back Woody Brazzell
was killed in an automobile accident during the summer prior to the start of the season. Woody had gained
267 yards in the first five games of the 1966 season before sustaining a season-ending back injury. Aside from the loss of
his skill on the football, the death of a teammate and friend took an emotional toll on the team. In a sport where team chemistry
is so important, the loss of a key member of the team leaves a gap that cannot be filled.
under Coach Bankston had an altogether different atmosphere than summer drills. During the spring,
Coach Bankston prodded and guided his players, yelling out encouragement and recognition when he saw anything he
liked. Once summer two-a-days began, he took on a different demeanor. Summer practices were all business-like and were very
intense practices. Those sessions always began with warm-up exercises and specialty drills that taught technique. The first
half of a summer practice ended with the dreaded "Daily Dozen.” That was a twelve minute drill
that kept the players moving from one station to another, and included tackling drills: brutal one-on-one encounters that
stressed hit-or-be-hit, head up, butt down, drive through the man. They also included blocking drills that required the linemen
to drive a sled, and a drill that taught linemen to stay low by driving through a steel cage, least they bang into a 2 X 4
that was positioned four feet off the ground around the perimeter of the steel cage. The end of those drills left every player
breathless, fatigued and cotton-mouthed. The drill came at the end to the first half of practice and signaled time for the
lone water break.
At the time, sports medicine taught that "too much" water was not good for football players. It was the lack
of salt that coaches were taught to guard against. As a result, Coach Bankston called only one water break
and only offered a token amount of water in a small Dixie cup. Players were encouraged to gobble a hand full of salt tablets
before each practice as the solution to the loss of salt during the hot two-a-days.
Once the short
water break was over the practice resumed with offensive and defensive work, mainly in the form of scrimmages. This is where
Coach Bankston expected proper execution, believing that you had to perform well in practice if you expected
to perform well in game time. Those not participating were expected to be attentive; to keep their helmets on, with chinstraps
buckled. Any player not scrimmaging was expected to be ready to come in if they were called on to. Practice ended with grueling
sprints to foster conditioning and make sure the players would be ready for the fourth quarter. If any player was spotted
loafing, the whole team had to run more "because of that one player.” Coach Bankston
was a student of psychology and he used it often.
Young sophomores, who until
summer practices had only heard the horror stories of what a Bankston- style practice was like, found out
that the stories were all true. Whereas Coach Bankston seemed to look for any sign of progress in the spring,
it was in the summer drills where he looked for perfection. He wanted a well-polished team by the end of summer drills. He
didn't always see what he wanted. That is what likely motivated his comments that appeared toward the end of summer practice
prior to the 1967 season. A week prior to the opening Jamboree, Coach Bankston referred to the continued
"sorry performance" on the part of several of his projected starters.
to an Enterprise reporter, Coach Bankston said, "We've got a gang of positions wide-open as
of right now." He continued, "We have no idea who's going to start (in the Jamboree). There may
be some backs playing in the line, but the seven best blockers we've got are going to be in that line." Declaring that
"our attitude has got to change," Coach Bankston charged that, "We have some boys content
to be average players with 70% effort. You can't win ball games with that. What we're going to find are boys with the ingredients
to be winners, boys who are willing to give 110% in order to be champions. In short, we're going to find out who wants to
play. And those who do are going to be our starters, be they sophomores, juniors or what have you." Coach
Bankston believed that the cure to any problem affecting a football team was to work harder. Citing the sloppy play
by the team in preparation for the upcoming Jamboree, Coach Bankston stated, "We're going to play rough
right up to the day before the Jamboree, with offensive and defensive scrimmages every day. Then, whoever is still on the
squad will go to the (Jamboree).” It was vintage Bankston.
for the season with a 7-0 “win” over Bolton in the jamboree the Tigers opened the season on the road against Rayville.
The Tigers had a little extra motivation going into the contest as a win would avenge one of the four losses the program has
sustained the year before.
After playing to a scoreless
first quarter, the Tigers got on the scoreboard in the second quarter and they did it in a way that was becoming a custom
of a Bankston-coached team: scoring through special teams. Midway through the second quarter, Wayne
Wood dropped back to field a Rayville punt. He hauled in the ball at the Tiger 9-yard line, got past the initial
Hornet containment, and raced 91 yards for a touchdown. Woods' punt return was the second longest such return
in school history at the time, second only to Hershel Machen's 96-yarder against Farmerville in the 1954
season. Steve Stroud came in and booted the extra point to make the score 7-0, which is where the score remained
until the half.
Rayville made a game of it in the third quarter when they narrowed the gap to 7-6, but a failed extra point kick prevented
Rayville from tying the score. Nevertheless, the Hornets did not get back into the end zone and Winnfield
tacked on one more touchdown in 13-6 win in the season opener.
Coach Bankston was not pleased at all with the performance of his team. Though his defensive unit only gave up 66
yards rushing and 58 yards passing, Bankston labeled their performance as “only fair.”
It was on the offensive side of the ball where Coach Bankston was most displeased. His offensive unit
fumbled the ball three times, losing two of those. Winnfield was inside the Rayville 15-yard line four times and only came
away with one touchdown. Coach Bankston had little tolerance for mistakes and he demanded execution. The
Tigers failed on both counts against Rayville.
The home opener
came in the second week of the season when Winnfield entertained the Pineville Rebels. The Rebels, who many had predicted
to be contenders for the District 3-AA crown, had opened the season by taking a 14-7 win over Jena. Coach Bankston
prepared his troops for Pineville’s two-quarterback system and their vaunted passing attack. Above all, Coach
Bankston was confident in his defensive unit. His biggest question mark was whether his boys could move the football.
As it turned out, the game was a defensive battle
throughout, as Pineville scored the only points in the first half and Winnfield scored the only points in the third quarter.
The Tiger touchdown was set up by a .Mike Spangler-return of the second half kickoff to the Rebel 31-yard line.
The Tigers took their first lead of the night in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard run by Tommy Tinnerello.
There was just over six minutes to go in the game.
The Tiger defense had held Pineville in check all game long, but Pineville finally got their passing game going on
their next series. It only took the Rebels three minutes to answer the Tiger touchdown and with the successful PAT kick Pineville
was able to tie the game at 14-all with 3:36 remaining. The Tiger offense couldn’t match the fourth quarter heroics
of the Pineville squad, meaning the game ended in a tie. It wasn’t a loss, but Coach Bankston
hated ties just as much as he did losses. He wasn’t a happy man.
Coach Bankston pointed to his poor pass defense as the biggest reason the Tigers didn’t win.
For the second week in a row, his defensive unit held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing, but, Coach Bankston
moaned the fact that the Tigers gave up 145 yards passing on 12 completions.
had one more game to tune up for district play and they would have their work cut out for them. Coming to town for the third
game of the year was the Natchitoches Red Devils. Natchitoches would be Winnfield’s homecoming opponent, but they were
far from “homecoming fodder.” The Red Devils were riding an undefeated record, with impressive
wins over Mansfield and Jonesboro to begin the season.
often portrayed every opponent to be as good as the Green Bay Packers, but his assessment of the Natchitoches squad was based
on logic. “This Natchitoches ball club is loaded with 22 seniors. They’re strong and they’ve got plenty
of weight throughout. This should be the toughest ball game we will play this year,” warned Coach Bankston in
an interview for The Enterprise. That turned out to not be just “coach speak”.
Natchitoches moved to a 13-0 lead through the first 20 minutes
of the game. The only thing the Tigers got going in the first half was an all-out aerial assault by Gary
Green on the Tigers final drive of the first half. Successive completions to Spangler and Howard
moved the Tigers into scoring position, where Green capped that drive with a 5-yard scoring
pass to Howard. After the ensuing PAT kick was good the Tigers narrowed the margin
to 13-7. But, that would be all of the points Winnfield would get and Natchitoches got one more touchdown
in the second half after they recovered a Tiger fumble inside the Winnfield 15 yard line. In the end Natchitoches
prevailed by a final score of 19-7.
Unlike the week
before, Winnfield did well in the defensive secondary, holding Natchitoches to 47 yards passing. However, the Tigers gave
up 188 yards on the ground. Mainly, though, it was Winnfield’s inability to generate any offense that kept the Tigers
from defeating Natchitoches. With the loss, the Tigers dropped to 1-1-1 for the season.
KEY GAME: A
less than stellar performance in the opening game of the season, followed by a tie that came in a fourth quarter comeback,
followed by a loss in the third game of the year was not the kind of start to a season Coach Bankston wanted.
As the 1967 season progressed, it seemed as though the task at hand got tougher each week. The Tigers began district play
in the fourth week of the season and they would face the Tallulah Trojans, the team predicted to take-it-all in the district
races. Tallulah had done nothing to remove any doubt that they were a good football team in their opening three games. They
had claimed wins over Oak Grove and Bastrop in their first two games and then opened district play in the third week of the
season by defeating Caldwell 41-0.
Coach Bankston was complementary of his boys in a pre-game write-up for the Enterprise, stating, “We feel that we have
the types of boys who will give everything they have to win a football game.” In Coach Bankston’s
mind, if you worked hard and made the effort to improve, you would eventually get the breaks that all hard-working football
teams get. All he asked for was effort and he was satisfied that he was getting that. Little did he know just how much the
Tallulah game would be characterized by that style of play.
In the opening quarter,
Winnfield drove inside the Tallulah 10-yard line, but soon found themselves facing a fourth and goal from the four.
Coach Bankston sent in Steve Stroud to attempt an 18-yard field goal and he split the uprights to
convert only the second field goal in school history. That gave the Tigers an early 3-0 lead but that was all of the point
the Tigers could generate not only in the first half, but through three quarters. On the other and manufactured two touchdowns
to take seemingly comfortable 14-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Considering the fact that the Tigers hadn’t scored
more than two touchdowns in any previous game, it appeared as though the Tigers were headed for their second defeat
of the season.
But, in Coach Bankston’s world, fourth quarters are all about work, effort, willpower and giving
it all. The Tigers showed all of that on the best drive of the season that produced seven points and closed the scoring gap
to 14-10 with most of the fourth quarter to play. However, the Tigers would likely get the ball only twice in the fourth quarter
(unless they got some turnovers) and they did not produce any points the next time they got the ball in the final period.
When the Tigers got the ball back there was less than two minutes to go in the game and the Tigers had over 70 yards
to cover to score. The Tigers would obviously have to go through the air to have any chance of scoring and Gary Green
and his receivers gave the Tigers that opportunity.
After moving to the Winnfield
38-yard line with under a minute to go in the game Coach Bankston called a hook and lateral
play. Green connected with Mike Spangler who turned and tossed the ball to Tommy
Tinnerello. The play picked up 20 yards and moved the ball to the Tallulah 42-yard line, but the game clock now showed
less than thirty seconds.
On the next play Coach Bankston again
called the hook and lateral, only this time he called for Green to throw to Wayne Wood,
with Mack Fowler being the swing man. At the snap, Wood went 8 yards straight down the field,
hooked and pulled in the pass from Green. What he then saw was a covered Mack Fowler so
he tucked the ball in and turned up the field. Once he got past the initial pursuit, Wood ran untouched into
the end zone for one of the most dramatic plays in Tiger football history. When Wood crossed the goal line,
there were 16 seconds remaining on the clock. Stroud booted through the extra point and the Tigers held on
for a 17-14 win.
The win was huge. It enabled the Tigers to not only take the lead in the District 2-AA race, but it enabled them to
dispose of the preseason favorite for the district crown. The fact that the big win came against Tallulah was not lost on
anyone who had kept up with Tiger football since the late 1950s. Tallulah had been the spoiler of many Tiger football teams,
being the team to knock the Tigers out of the playoffs in 1957, 1960 and 1961. Tallulah had also defeated Winnfield in a district
tiebreaker game the season before which kept Winnfield from representing the district as the champion. To build a program
you need big wins. As a result, any win by Winnfield over Tallulah in the late 1950s or 1960s would have been considered a
The Tallulah game also enabled Coach Bankston to show his boys what he had been preaching since spring
practice – “There will be a payoff for your hard work.” What Coach Bankston
wanted the most from his players was effort and that is what he got. During all of that running, all that conditioning, and
all those practices, he had told his players they were going to have to win a ball game in the second half, and to do that,
they were going to have to believe they could win. That’s the thing the uninformed don’t understand. There’s
a whole lot more to it than simply parading onto the field on Friday night. Coach Bankston's post game
praises flowed throughout the team. He started with his offensive line, which he credited with giving Green
enough time to execute the pass plays the Tigers needed to stage their second half comeback. All total, the Tigers ran up
179 yards through the air, the second highest single-game passing total in school history. Bankston also
ran though the names of individuals on both sides of the ball, naming virtually all of the team in the process. But, it was
Ronald Howard who received the loudest praises from Coach Bankston. “Ronald
Howard played the best football game I have ever seen a boy play,” stated Coach Bankston in
a post game interview for The Enterprise.
It was a night for outstanding
individual performances. Gary Green tied the school record for most pass attempts in a game, tying Ricky
Jordan's one year old record of 24. He also tied Jordan's record of 14 pass completions. Stroud
was the second kicker to boot a field goal in a game, the first being Carroll Long during the 1961 season.
In Long's case, his field goal came in 50-6 shellacking of Jena. Stroud thus became the
first kicker who kicked a field goal that decided the outcome of the game. With the win, the Tigers improved their record
After the Tallulah game, the Tigers got a break from district competition, but they wouldn't get a breather. The Tigers
traveled to Alexandria to play the undefeated Menard Eagles, their fifth straight undefeated opponent. Menard had disposed
of Bunkie, Ferriday, Tioga and Marksville in the first half of the season. They had done so with a punishing ground attack.
That played into the strength of the Winnfield defense.
The game lived up to its billing
and turned out to be a defensive gem. There were only 10 points scored by both teams in the game. Menard got the first three
of those with only 4:24 showing on the game clock when the Eagles elected to go for a 40-yard field goal, to get anything
on the scoreboard. Incredibly, the ball sailed through the uprights, giving Menard a 3-0 lead, which, at the time, appeared
to be just enough to get the win.
Like the week before, Winnfield got the ball back for
a final possession with the game on the line. Two stabs at the line resulted in short yardage, setting up a third and long
with just under two minutes to go in the game. On third down from the Tiger 20-yard line, Coach Bankston
called for the hook and lateral that had brought him success the week before. Wayne Wood caught an 11-yard
pass at the Tiger 31-yard line, turned and lateraled to Mack Fowler who rambled for 21 more yards, taking
the ball to the Menard 48-yard line with just over a minute to go in the game. On the very next play, Green
found Mike Spangler alone behind the Menard secondary and he hit him with a perfect strike, which Spangler
caught in stride and ran the remaining yards untouched. When Spangler crossed the goal line, there wasn't
a defender within 10 yards of him. Like the week before, Winnfield pulled out a last second win, this score coming with 00:58
showing on the clock. Stroud booted through the extra point to make the final score 7-3. The win upped the
Tiger's record to 3-1-1.
For the game, Winnfield gained but 89 yards rushing, but added 158 yards through the air. Unlike virtually any previous
Winnfield team, the 1967 bunch was relying on a passing attack to win football games.
the slow start to the season, the Tiger team was beginning to jell after posting two impressive wins over quality opponents.
The win over Menard vaulted the Tigers into the Top Ten of the AP ranking. The Tigers garnered 25 points, which was enough
to make them the 7th rank team in AA. The AA poll was headed by the undefeated Jesuit Flyers. Natchitoches, the only team
who had beaten the Tigers, was ranked No. 4 and were still undefeated after playing five games. Also receiving votes were
Tallulah and Menard.
Winnfield resumed district play in week six against Ferriday. The game would mark the first home district encounter
of the year. Ferriday came into the game with a 2-2-1 record, with their wins coming against Delhi and Lake Providence, two
teams who played in the Class A ranks. The Bulldogs had been beaten by Menard and Jennings, and had played Pineville to a
tie. The game would mark the district opener for Ferriday and would be Tigers second district game after their impressive
district win over Tallulah.
For the second straight week, the Tigers found themselves embroiled in a defensive battle. The Tigers had come from
behind on numerous occasions during the season, but this time it would be Winnfield who would open up the scoring after they
recovered a fumble 21-yards away from the Ferriday goal line. Five plays later Tommy Tinnerello
got the Tigers on the scoreboard when he bolted over the goal line from 1-yard out. Stroud came in and booted
the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. Stroud also added a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter
to give the Tigers what appeared to be a comfortable 10-0 lead at the end of the third quarter. Give a Bankston-coached team
a lead in the fourth quarter and usually resulted in a win.
The Tigers had an apparent touchdown
called back on their first possession of the fourth quarter which would have all but put the game out of reach.
That would prove to be crucial. After being stopped on their first possession of the fourth quarter, Ferriday got the
jump-start they needed when they intercepted a Tiger pass, returned it to the Winnfield 15 and then scored on the very next
play to cut the Tiger’s margin to 10-6. The extra point was no good, but it was suddenly anyone’s
The Winnfield offense got the ball back and appeared to answer the Ferriday score when Randy Poisso
ran 68 yards for an apparent touchdown. When Coach Bankston surveyed the field he saw what he didn’t
want to see lying on the turf - a yellow flag. For the second time in a six-minute span, the Tigers had a touchdown called
back. After that, the Tigers went nowhere, forcing the Tigers to punt and give the ball back to Ferriday with plenty of time
on the clock.
The Bulldogs did what they had to do in mounting a 69-yard drive, climaxed by a 15-yard run. With the extra point,
Ferriday took a 13-10 lead. There would be no final minutes heroics in this game for Winnfield. As a result, the Tigers had
squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead and with it, possession of first place in the district race. With the win, Ferriday
took over first place with a 1-0-0 district mark. Both Winnfield and Tallulah were tied in the district race with 1-1-0 marks.
Had you told
Coach Bankston before the game that Winnfield would limit Ferriday to under 100 yards rushing, he would have been
very satisfied. That is what Winnfield did, in holding Ferriday to 93 yards rushing, far under their 300 yard per game average.
Virtually all of those rushing yards came on the two Ferriday scoring drives. Winnfield, meanwhile, gained 141 yards on the
ground and added 79 yards through the air.
The loss was hard to take not only because of the district
implications, but also because of the manner in which Winnfield lost. Not only had the Tigers given the Bulldogs
one touchdown on a turnover, but two Tiger touchdowns had been nullified. The Tigers had the sense that they had given the
game away and that the better team had not won.
At the midpoint of the season, the one thing that Coach
Bankston was most concerned about was his team’s lack of offensive punch. That was particularly true in the
running game. In three of six games the Tigers had failed to reach the 100-yard mark, and they hadn’t broken the 200-yard
barrier yet. It is difficult to win football games with that lack of production. What had saved the Tigers was their passing
attack. For the season, they had thrown for only 7 yards fewer passing yards than they had gained on the ground. Since the
Tigers were only averaging just over 11 pts. per game, they had to rely on their defense to keep them in the game, and the
defense was doing just that. The Tiger defense had held three opponents to under 100 yards rushing and had held all but one
opponent (Natchitoches) to two touchdowns or less. It’s not like it was doom and gloom in the Tiger camp. After
all, the Tigers were above .500 with a 3-2-1 record and they had knocked off the Tallulah Trojans. However, with one loss
in district play, they could ill-afford another setback in district competition if they had any reasonable chance of competing
for the district crown. There were only two district games left and the first of those games would be played the next week
when the Tigers traveled to Columbia to play the Caldwell Spartans.
Caldwell was coming off an impressive game against Wossman where the Spartans battled the Wildcats to a 7-7 tie. Like Menard
and Ferriday, Caldwell possessed a staunch running game, featuring one of the best fullbacks in the state. The
Tigers were used to having to play defensive battles and the Caldwell game would be no different. Through three quarters of
play the score stood at 0-0. No one had any reason to think that the two teams would combine for four touchdowns in the final
Caldwell got the scoring parade going when they took the ball in for a score that many in stands thought would have
been more than enough for the win, but Winnfield answered on their next series when Gary Green
and Wayne Wood hooked up on a 62-yard touchdown-scoring pass play. Steve Stroud came in
and booted the extra point to once again tie up the score.
After holding Caldwell on the
next series, Green and Wood again found the end zone, this time from 25 yards out. Stroud
was true on his 10th of 11 extra points for the season to make the score 14-7 with just over three minutes to go in the game.
and Menard, the Tigers had to rely on the offense to pull out a win in the closing minutes of the game. In this one, it would
be the defense who would have to secure the win. That task was made all the more difficult when three of their defense starters
were sitting on the sidelines with injuries sustained earlier in the game. Both Mike Spangler and Ronald
Howard, Tiger defensive ends, were sidelined with a shoulder and a knee injury respectively, and defensive back Randy
Poisso had sustained a deep thigh bruise.
As it were, Caldwell would put
together a scoring drive and they would convert on the PAT try to knot the score at 14-all to salvage a tie. For the second
game of the year the Tigers walked off the field with nothing settled on the scoreboard. The tie dropped the Tigers’
overall record to 3-2-2. But, what is more important, the tie moved the Tigers district mark to 1-1-1, all but knocking them
out of the race for the district championship. The team still had a shot at the playoffs as the district runner-up, but that
wouldn’t be settled until the final week of the regular season when Winnfield faced Jena. Against Caldwell
the Tigers only gained 33 yards rushing. But, the thing that concerned Coach Bankston almost as much was
the poor showing by his defense. He called their performance their worst of the year. The Tigers poor performance on both
sides of the ball, coupled with the injuries to key players made for a long week as the Tigers prepared for their next game
against traditional rival Jonesboro.
Spangler and Howard’s
injuries were more serious than had been initially thought when it was determined that they would be lost for the season.
Poisso was expected to miss at least a couple of weeks of action and Glenn Stewart sustained
a pulled muscle that would sideline him for at least a week. The Tigers were one banged-up group.
needed a breather, but Jonesboro wasn’t the team who was about to give them that. For the year, Jonesboro had a 3-4-0
record, but their losses had come against Springhill, Minden, Natchitoches and Jesuit – all quality opponents. Natchitoches
was still ranked in the Top Five in the Class AA polls and Jesuit was still the No. 1-rated team. Jonesboro’s wins had
come against West Monroe, Haynesville and Caldwell. Jonesboro had a solid team.
have been expected, the game was the poorest showing of the year for Winnfield. Jonesboro parlayed two first half touchdowns
into a 14-0 win. The Tigers never seriously threatened to score. In fact, the Tigers set a new school record
during the game, but it was not the kind of record they wanted. The Tigers recorded the fewest yards rushing ever made by
a Tiger offense as Jonesboro held Winnfield to but 10 yards on the ground. That was 12 yards fewer than the previous school
record set just two seasons earlier. Conversely, Jonesboro rushed for 235 yards to become the first team to break the 200-yard
barrier in rushing yards during the 1967 season. The absence of Spangler and Howard played
a large part in the Tiger's defensive breakdown. With the loss, the Tiger’s record dropped to 3-3-2.
bounced back the next week by taking a 24-12 win over non-district opponent Tioga. The first half was a see-saw battle, as
Winnfield first took a 7-0 lead after William Jones blocked an Indian punt and Wayne Wood,
Tiger defensive end, scooped up the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Then, just when it appeared the Tigers were about to go up by two
touchdowns Tioga took advantage of a Tiger fumble (at the Tioga 5 yard line) when the Tiger fumble was scooped up by a Tioga
defender and returned 97 yards for a touchdown, enabling Tioga to tie the score at 7-all.
Stroud converted on this third field goal attempt of the year later in the first half, this time from 27-yards out.
That temporarily gave the Tigers a 10-7 lead, but that lead didn’t last long as Tioga scored on their next possession
to go up by a 13-10 margin at the half.
The two teams went scoreless in the third quarter, but
like Tioga had done earlier in the game, Winnfield was able to recover a fumble just as it appeared Tioga was about to score.
Wayne Wood, the defensive star of the game, gathered in his second fumble recovery of the game, but that's
not all he did. Wood found nothing but a clear field in front of him and he took advantage of the wide-open
spaces. Wood sprinted 95 yards for a touchdown to give the lead back to the Tigers. Always reliable Steve
Stroud tacked on the PAT kick to make the score 17-13.
return broke, by 25 yards, the school record for the longest fumble return. That record had been shared by Max Mercer
(vs. Natchitoches, 1951) and Conley Adams (vs. Natchitoches, 1958). In fact, Woods' touchdown
run was the fourth longest touchdown of any kind in school history up to that point, behind Brooks Broussard
and Mike Kelley's 100-yard interception returns and John Glyn Jackson's
97-yard rushing touchdown. Jackie Givens had also run 95-yards for a touchdown in 1943 when he returned a
kickoff that distance.
The Tigers added a meaningless touchdown with only two seconds to go in the contest after recovering a bobbled punt
on the Tioga 4 yard line. Mack Fowler got the ball on the final play of the game and rammed it over from
4 yards out to make the final score 24-13.
The Tigers still failed to break the 100-yard barrier
in rushing but, as a whole, the team played like Coach Bankston had drilled. Coach Bankston
said that the Tigers "got after 'em,” and as he always said, when you do that good things will happen. The win
snapped the three game winless string and gave the Tigers some momentum as they headed into the final regular season game.
For the season,
the Tigers had a 4-3-2 record. They had also seen a handful of their starters go down with injuries. Some teams would have
packed it in after the close losses to Ferriday and Jonesboro, but not a Bankston-coached team. For starters,
he wouldn't allow it. Secondly, the Tigers still had plenty to play for. The Tigers played the final game of the season in
Stokes-Walker with a spot in the playoffs on the line. Heading into the final week, Ferriday already had
the district title wrapped up. They had knocked off Tallulah in the ninth week by a score of 20-0. That win, coupled with
a win over Winnfield gave them the district crown. Both Tallulah and Winnfield were still in the hunt for the runner-up slot,
but the Tigers held their destiny in their own hands. A win over Jena would secure the district runner-up spot, while a loss
meant the Tigers stayed home during the playoffs.
Jena came into the game riding
a three-game win streak, capped by a decisive 41-0 win over Block the week before. Winnfield, on the other hand, had shown
somewhat of an offensive explosion (for them) the week before when they posted 24 points on the board against Tioga. That
was the first time the Tigers had scored more than 20 points in a game all season.
The 1967 Tigers
had won with defense, big plays and special teams all season long. This bunch wasn't built around a high scoring offense.
That is why no one could have anticipated what was in store for the Jena game. In that game the scoring-floodgates would be
By halftime the Tigers had score 28 points, which was more points than they had scored in any game up to that point.
Those points came on a pair of touchdowns in each of the first two quarters, with Gary Green getting the
first on a QB sneak and Charles Poisso getting another on a 27-yard interception return. Then,
in the second quarter Randy Poisso made it a family affair when he ran 17 yards for a touchdown to up the
Tiger lead to 21-0. The first half scoring was capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Mack Fowler to Wayne
The Tigers and the Tiger coaching staff weren't accustomed to that kind of lead at halftime. Through the first nine
games, the Tigers trailed going in at halftime in 4 games and were locked in a scoreless tie in two other games. In only three
previous games had the Tigers gone in at halftime leading in the game and the biggest halftime margin the Tigers had enjoyed
was a 7-point lead against Rayville and Ferriday. The Tigers were on a roll and the halftime intermission did nothing to slow
them down. In the third Mack Fowler rubbed it in his former teammates
faces when he scored on touchdown runs of 13 and 4 yards to up the Tiger lead to 42-0. By the middle of the fourth quarter,
the Tigers had logged two more touchdowns, with one coming on a 15-yard run by Jimmy Dale Zimmerman and the
final Tiger score coming when sophomore Robbie Richards returned a Jena fumble 65 yards for a score. At that
point, the Tigers led Jena 55-0. That marked the most points a Winnfield team had scored in a game in six years. By scoring
over 50 points, the 1967 team became only the fourth team since the 1920s to score 50 or more points in a game. Winnfield's
offensive explosion against Jena in 1967 was unexpected but very welcome.
Bankston emptied his bench in the fourth quarter Jena managed two touchdowns to make the final score 55-12. That
43-point margin of victory was the largest margin of victory since Winnfield defeated Jena 53-6 during the 1962 season.
When you score
55 points, it would be hard to find any phase of the game where you are hurting. That was the case against Jena. The Tigers
finally found a running game and Gary Green passed the 1,000-yard passing mark for the season with the win
over Jena. He thus became the first Tiger quarterback in school history to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
In the process, he broke Ricky Jordan’s single-season passing yardage record of 959 yards, which was
set one season earlier.
With the win, the Tigers became the sixth Winnfield team to make the playoffs. The reward for the Tigers was that they
got to play Jesuit of Shreveport in a rematch of their first round playoff opponent of the season before.
into the season as the Class AA runner-up, having lost to Central of Baton Rouge by a score of 7-0 in the 1966 Class AA title
game. During the 1967 season, Jesuit began the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the state and held onto that lofty slot
all season long, and for good reason. Through 10 games during the 1967 season the Flyers had not tasted defeat. In doing so,
the Flyers had claimed the District 1-AA crown.
Like the year before, Winnfield would have to travel
to Shreveport to play Jesuit and again the game would be played in State Fair Stadium. But, unlike the year before, the game
would be played on a dry surface.
Winnfield gave no indication that they were intimidated
by the No.1-ranked Flyers when Mack Fowler fielded the opening kickoff and raced through the Jesuit return
team for a 57-yard return to the Jesuit 33-yard line. The Tigers then capped an 8-play drive with a 3-yard run by Gary
Green. Coming into the game, Steve Stroud had converted 19 straight extra point attempts, but he
missed on his first try of the night. That was only the beginning of a long night for the Tigers. After that,
Jesuit scored 47 unanswered points to move to a 47-6 lead in the fourth quarter. Winnfield did manage one final score after
Mike Spangler blocked a Jesuit punt, which Charles Poisso scooped up and returned for a
36-yard touchdown. Stroud came in and converted on the extra point to make the final margin 47-13.
dominated the game statistically, just as they had on the scoreboard. For the night, the Flyers got 206 yards on the ground
and added 93 yards in the air. Danny Yerby was a one-man scoring machine, getting four of Jesuits touchdowns,
with Louis Cascio getting two and Butch DePhillips adding the sixth score. But, it was the
Flyer defense who took control of the game and never allowed Winnfield any breathing room. For the night, the Tigers only
managed 3 first downs. That is because they only gained 15 yards rushing and 36 yards passing for a total of 51 yards gained
from scrimmage. That was the third fewest total yards ever gained by a Tiger team, topped only by the 35 yards the 1965 team
gained against Mansfield and the 45 yards the same team gained against Ruston. When all was said and done, the Tigers were
clearly overmatched. Jesuit went on to complete the school’s first undefeated season and took the AA state crown in
a thrilling 34-33 win over Lake Charles, a game some consider to be one of the best championship games in the history of the
The season had been full of highs and lows. For starters, the Tigers pulled out improbable wins against Tallulah and
Menard in the final minute of each of those games. Then, when the Tigers faced Jena in a "win or stay at home" game,
they rolled for over 50 points in settling the question of whether the 1967 team would be a playoff participant.
need good defensive units to compete and that was the strength of the 1967 team. The team gave up just under 1,300 yards
rushing in 11 games, the second fewest rushing yards ever given up by a Tiger team up to that point. The Tigers only allowed
two opponents to throw for more than 100 yards. During the regular season, only one opponent scored more than two touchdowns,
that being the 4th-ranked Natchitoches Red Devils who posted 19 points on the board. When your defense is holding the opposition
to two touchdowns or less you are "in" every game. But, that was the rub for the 1967 Tigers. They were hard-pressed
to score over two touchdowns themselves in almost every game. In the first eight games of the season, the Tigers broke the
14-point barrier only once, that coming in their 17-14 win over Tallulah. So, the Tiger defense had to play well
if the team was going to win.
Though the Tigers ended the season in a blowout
loss, they had the misfortune of playing the strongest AA team in the state in the first round. The season was a success because
any time you reach the playoffs you put another step in the program's ladder of success. In both his first and second seasons
at the helm of the Tiger program, Coach Bankston had led his teams to the playoffs. His had been a story
of immediate success for Winnfield, but that success was built on hard work, commitment and determination. Coach Bankston
and his first two teams brought Winnfield back into the circle of high school football teams to be contended with. There are
football coaches who are good X’s and O’s men and there are program builders. Coach Bankston
was both. Though it was impossible to see it at the time, the success of the teams during the middle to late 1960s paved the
way for the success of the program in the 1970s. For, those boys who played for the Tigers in the 1970s looked up to the players
in the 1960s as examples. Coach Bankston saw it as his mission to turn Winnfield into a winning program.
He and his players were doing just that.
KEY SEASON: 1968, (Overall - 9-3-0, *District - 4-1-0)
L, 6- 7
14- 0* (HC)
JONESBORO W, 14-
WINNSBORO W, 21- 7*
W, 41- 6
NORTHWOOD, SP W, 7-0 (Regional)
L, 20-27 (Quarterfinal)
There were several question
marks coming into the 1968 season, but the biggest of them all was how Coach Bankston was going to replace
the 11 lettermen he lost the season before. He had nine lettermen returning, but they weren’t evenly distributed across
the team. Two-thirds of those returning lettermen were skill position players. The biggest dilemma for Coach Bankston
was that he would have to replace virtually all of his offensive and defensive linemen. That area posed the biggest question
mark heading into the season. The only returning starter in the offensive line was senior Herschel Long at
guard. Coach Bankston described the offensive line as “very inexperienced.” He
explained the dilemma very succinctly when he told an Enterprise reporter, “We lack depth and playing experience
in the line and will probably have four boys on the offensive and defensive line who have never played varsity ball.”
were other question marks on the offensive side of the ball. The Tiger team of a year before had difficulty generating any
offense all season long. When they did, it usually came through the passing game. That passing game was completely wiped out
with the departure of Gary Green (QB) and ends Mike Spangler, Wayne Wood and Ronald
Howard. Coach Bankston’s solution at the quarterback slot wasn’t so bleak. Coming into
the 1968 season, he had no fewer than three players who could handle the quarterbacking duties. But, none of those had gained
any significant playing time at the position the year before. Included in that group were senior Tommy Tinnerello
and junior Robbie Richards. Both were talented athletes who could play anywhere in the backfield. Rounding
out the group of quarterback prospects was Mack Fowler, who had played quarterback for Jena as a sophomore.
Coach Bankston had relied on him as a running back the season before. Any of those gifted athletes could
have been expected to step in and take over quarterbacking duties. So, while there were some questions at that slot,
Coach Bankston wasn’t nearly as concerned about his quarterback as he was about the players who would protect
At the end position, the Tigers had returning letterman Doug Allen, but that is where the experience
stopped. The picture was much brighter in the backfield. At running back, Bankston had four senior players
who had been with him since his first days at Winnfield. The player expected to carry the load was 5' 9", 180 lb. Randy
Poisso. He would be joined at the running back position by 5' 10", 160 lb. Glenn Stewart, 5'
10, 195 Fowler and 5' 9" 150, Tinnerello. All of those players were two-year lettermen.
on the defensive side of the ball were just as extensive across the line where five of the six players Coach Bankston
had relied on in the line the year before had graduated. Charles Eagles was the most experienced defensive
lineman returning. He was the sole returning letterman in the entire defensive front.
would have to replace not only his line, but also both defensive end positions that had been held down by arguably the best
tandem at the defensive end position in school history in Mike Spangler and Ronald Howard. Charles
Poisso, the leader at the linebacker position the season before had departed, but incoming junior Ricky Hanna
had gained playing time at that slot. The most experienced group on the defensive side of the ball was clearly the secondary.
Returning lettermen included Randy Poisso, Tommy Tinnerello and Robbie Richards.
All in all,
Coach Bankston had nine lettermen that would form the nucleus of a team. He had to replace nine starters
on offense and an equal number on defense. It wasn’t exactly a rebuilding year, because the team had solid players at
virtually all of the skill positions. However, there was a lot of uncertainly as the team began spring training. The success
of the season would hinge on the play of inexperienced players, particularly across the line. "If our linemen come through,
we look for a good season, A Coach Bankston told an Enterprise reporter before spring drills began.
of the year was the time when Coach Bankston went looking for players he could count on. He went into
the spring looking for players who would “get after it.” As a player, if you wanted a jump
on a starting position, it was the spring of the year when you needed to catch the eye of Coach Bankston.
The Tigers went into the spring of 1968 with 55 players out for football. That was one of the largest turnouts for spring
practice in school history. While that was impressive, that number was sure to drop, because many of those prospects had never
gone through a “Bankston” spring practice. Sure enough, by the conclusion of spring drills, 38
players remained on the roster.
In the summer of 1968, a new assistant coach was hired
to help with the line. Steve Nehring, who had done his student teaching under Coach Bankston
only two years earlier, was hired to work with the offensive guards and centers and with the linebackers on defense. He replaced
Bob Edwards on the coaching staff. Rounding out the assistant coaching ranks was Joe Dosher,
who worked with the tackles on offense and defense, as well as the nose guards on defense. Jerry Bamburgh
focused his time with offensive backs and defensive ends, while Coach Bankston handled offensive ends and
the defensive secondary.
When summer practice began, that coaching staff had its work cut out for it. While spring drills were the primary time
to teach the fundamentals of the game, summer practice was devoted to polishing up the team and getting the players ready
for game conditions. As a result, summer practice focused on conditioning, technique and getting the plays and stunts down
so that proper execution almost became a natural response. In summer two-a-days, Coach Bankston focused his
morning session primarily on defensive work, while the offense and kicking games got the attention in the afternoon sessions.
By the end of summer practice, Coach Bankston would have a much better idea of who his starters would be.
He was looking for hustle, desire and ability. Of course, he was looking for talent. But, he knew that ability, without drive
got you nowhere. Coach Bankston would take the player with the big heart and adequate skills any day over
the player loaded with talent who loafed. The latter was the kind of player who got you beat.
occurred prior to the 1968 season. While the Tigers remained in Class AA, District 2-AA had been revamped. The only teams
who remained in district 2-AA were Winnfield, Tallulah and Caldwell. New additions included the Wossman Wildcats out of Monroe
and Winnsboro, who was moving up from the Class A ranks. However, Winnsboro loomed as one of the most imposing teams on the
Tigers schedule. The Wildcats had gone through the first thirteen games of the 1967 season with a 12-0-1 record before landing
a spot in the Class A championship game. They were defeated by Kinder in the title game by a score of 16-7. It had been the
school’s first foray into a championship game and the experience only made the town and team hungry.
As the team prepared
for the season opener, Coach Bankston found his players - he always did. Of the 37 players on the roster,
he would use almost two-thirds of them during a game. However, as usual, his team would be built around a nucleus of around
a dozen players who would play both ways. He shuffled players in and out of the game because he wanted fresh bodies. However,
he stressed conditioning so he expected every player to give 110% percent, especially in the fourth quarter. The starting lineup announced
for the season opener was as follows:
Sr. Doug Allen
Jr. Daniel Scott
Jr. David Scott
Sr. Herschel Long
Herschel Long NG
Sr. Frederick Cotton
Jr. Ricky Hanna
Jr. David Scott
Jr. Brett Flournoy
Sr. Mike Parker
Jr. Joe Stewart
Jr. Terry Skains
Sr. Frederick Cotton
Jr. Ricky Hanna
Jr. Robbie Richards
Jr. Brett Flournoy
Sr. Randy Poisso
Sr. Tommy Tinnerello
Sr. Tommy Tinnerello DB
Sr. Randy Poisso
Jr. Terry Skains
Jr. Robbie Richards
was the starting unit at the beginning of the season. Before the season was over with, Coach Bankston would
insert others into starting positions. Mack Fowler would eventually take over the starting role at the quarterback
position, with Robbie Richards moving to a running back slot. Other players who shared in running back duties
included senior Glenn Stewart, sophomore David Caskey and junior James “Jerky”
Waters. Stewart was recovering from a knee injury sustained before the season and wasn’t scheduled
to return until mid season.
At the end slot, junior Monte Jarnigan would eventually replace Frederick Cotton,
leaving Cotton a defensive specialist. Across the offensive line, Coach Bankston would use
Earle Wright to relieve Brett Flournoy, both juniors, and would insert Charles Eagles
at the tackle slot from time to time.
The starting defensive unit remained fairly intact all
season long. Doug Allen got plenty of playing time at the end position and Daniel Scott
was shifted to a tackle slot. Charles Eagles eventually took over a starting role at the tackle position
and Earle Wright and Roger Long, both juniors, provided relief duty there. At the linebacker
position, Coach Bankston stuck with Hanna, Flournoy and Glenn Stewart throughout
the season. Since his defensive backs also made up his starting backfield on offense, most of the substitutions on the defensive
side of the ball came in the secondary. That secondary consisted of Richards, Poisso and Tinnerello,
as well as Mack Fowler, Monte Jarnigan and Terry Skains.
Coach Bankston’s “regulars” consisted of eight seniors, eleven juniors and one sophomore.
So, the team would be a mixture of an experienced and talented group of senior, joined by a large supporting cast of underclassmen,
who, while young, offered talent and desire in both the line and backfield. It was in the line where Coach Bankston
would have to use the most number of underclassmen.
The Tigers opened the season
in a home game against the Tioga Indians. Tioga came to town possessing the one thing Winnfield didn’t have - experienced
players. While Winnfield replaced nine starters from the season before, Tioga came to town with nine returning starters
on both sides of the ball. They were a big team, averaging 205 lbs. per man across the front. The Tigers young line was going
to be tested right off the bat. One of the biggest threats the Tigers would face would be Butch Roshto, Tioga’s
215 lb. fullback. He was coming off a banner junior campaign. Because of all of that, the area papers listed Winnfield as
an underdog in the game. Some teams believe what they read in the newspapers. A Bankston-coached team never
went into a game thinking they couldn’t win it. And, because they didn’t know any better, the team did exactly
the opposite of what the prognosticators predicted.
For the night, it was Winnfield’s
star running back, in the person of Randy Poisso, who was the leading rusher when he toted the ball 16 times
for 130 yards. Butch Roshto, Tioga’s stellar back, was held to 56 yards in 18 carries. All total, Winnfield
out-gained Tioga 147 to 123 in the rushing department. The same can be said for the passing game. Tioga had two-year starter
Randy Cummings at quarterback. The Tiger defense did a number on him, holding him to a 4 of 13 night for
only 48 yards. Tiger quarterback Robbie Richards bettered that by completing 6 of 11 passes for 70 yards.
The two teams
only scored one touchdown each in the first half but Winnfield at the advantage because Roger Long, Winnfield’s kicker
converted on his PAT try while Tioga did not. That gave Winnfield a 7-6 halftime lead. .
In the third
quarter the Tigers upped their lead to 13-6 when Richards carried the ball into the end zone from 14-yards
out on a keeper. That lead was temporarily cut to 13-12 when Tioga scored at the start of the fourth quarter, but Winnfield
responded on their series when Randy Poisso swept around right end, eluded two tacklers along the sidelines,
and ran 41-yards for a touchdown to give gave the Tigers their final 19-12 margin of victory.
Bankston attributed the win to one main factor - desire. “That’s
(desire) the stuff that levels the odds in a ball game,” he would say after the game. That was shown by the four turnovers
the Tigers got during the contest; one by an interception and three by fumble recoveries. The player of the game was Poisso,
who was the leading rusher and leading scorer with two touchdowns. Richards not only helped the team with
his throwing arm, but he also got off two booming punts for 86 yards. But, the win was a team effort, particularly on the
defensive side of the ball.
Winnfield hit the road the second week of the season
to take on the Pineville Rebels. The Rebel attack was paced by their quarterback, Ronnie Waites, who Coach
Bankston described as one of the best passers in the state. So, it was the defensive secondary and the pass rush
by the Tiger defense that got most of the attention in practice the week before the game.
game had the potential to show some offense, neither offense was anywhere to be found as the two teams were locked in a 0-0
battle as the fourth quarter began. Midway through the final quarter, Winnfield got the ball, moved to near mid-field, and
then struck like lightening. Richards threw a screen pass to Mack Fowler, who caught the
ball at the 50-yard line. He followed good blocking past the initial containment, got into the clear and sailed the distance
to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead with only 2:45 left in the game. Long’s attempt at the extra point hit
the cross bar and careened away, leaving the door open for Pineville to still win the game with a touchdown and extra point.
That is exactly what the Rebels did as they took the ball the length of the field and scored the tying touchdown on a 2-yard
pass with under a minute to go in the game. What is more important, Pineville converted the important PAT to pull out a 7-6
win in the final minute of the game.
Despite the disappointing loss, Coach Bankston
was not disappointed in his boys. “Our boys never let down, “ said Coach Bankston in a post-game
interview with the Enterprise. The Tigers limited Pineville to but 102 yards rushing and held Waites
to a 9 of 18 passing night, for only 123 yards.
The game was just as close statistically
as it was on the scoreboard. Coach Bankston stated that after watching the game film that the few Tiger blocks
that were missed were critical because they occurred right at the point of attack. In football games, it is the little things
that count - a single missed block, a PAT kick that is inches too low.
Winnfield had to “suck it up”,
because they traveled to Natchitoches to play their third straight 3-AA opponent of the year. Natchitoches had the same won-loss
record as Winnfield had after losing the opening game of the year to Mansfield and escaping with a close win against Jonesboro
in the second week. The game would be the final tune up before district competition began the following week when the Tigers
entertained an old nemesis, the Tallulah Trojans.
Against Natchitoches the Tigers scored on their opening possession of the night on a drive capped by a play whereby quarterback
Robbie Richards went under center, took the snap and pitched to Mack Fowler. At that point,
Fowler rolled out, stopped and threw a 5-yard pass to a wide-open Richards in the end zone.
Roger Long converted on the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead against a Natchitoches team who was
one year away from winning the Class AA state title.
Natchitoches narrowed that gap
to 7-6 in the second quarter, but Winnfield extended their lead in the third quarter when they got a 60-yard scoring run from
quarterback Robbie Richard. Long missed on his extra point conversion, giving the Tigers
a 13-6 lead.
The game was a nail-biter the rest of the way. First Natchitoches pushed over a touchdown in the fourth quarter to
make the score 13-12 in favor of Winnfield. With a chance to tie the game, the Natchitoches kicker pushed his second kick
of the game, leaving the score 13-12.
The Tiger offense went nowhere in the second half, meaning
the Winnfield defense was on the field for a long time. That became especially critical late in the game when the Red Devils
took a drive inside the Winnfield 10 yard line where the going got tough. Facing a fourth and goal from the three, a field
goal would have given the Red Devils the lead, but their kicker had already missed two PAT kicks. So, Natchitoches head coach
Jim Bruning, went for it all on fourth down. Needing only three yards, Natchitoches gained two and a half
That still put Winnfield in a precarious position. With just
over two minutes to go in the game, and holding the ball on the six-inch line, the Tigers still had several obstacles to overcome.
For starters, they had to avoid a safety, which would have given Natchitoches a 14-13 lead. They also had to protect against
a turnover, which would have either given Natchitoches the ball in excellent field position or even a touchdown. Optimally,
the Tigers hoped to run out the clock, but they wouldn’t do that. Natchitoches played good defense and kept the Tigers
from gaining a first down. The Tigers had one other weapon to help them preserve the win, that being Robbie Richards’
punting ability. Richards got off a good kick and excellent kick coverage stopped the Red Devil return man
cold at the Tiger 42-yard line with time for only one play. Natchitoches had no choice but to throw the ball on the final
play of the game and it was the Tiger rush who prevented Natchitoches from even getting the pass off when they dropped the
Natchitoches quarterback for a loss.
The game was as close statistically as it was on the
scoreboard. Natchitoches gained 228 total yards to Winnfield’s 225. The Tigers had the most yards rushing, getting 174
rushing yards to Natchitoches’ 155. The Tiger passing game was as efficient as could have been asked for. Richards
connected on 6 of 7 passes and Fowler completed his only passing attempt. The win moved the Tigers’
record to 2-1-0.
In Natchitoches, the Tigers had faced a team who was one year removed from a state title. The Tigers next opponent,
the Tallulah Trojans, would be Natchitoches’ opponent in that title game. But it wasn’t a state title that was
on the mind of Winnfield as they prepared for Tallulah. Rather, the Tigers were focused on the district title as they prepared
for their district opener.
Tallulah game into the game with an identical record
as the Tigers, having won their first two games of the season against Delhi (33-0) and Caldwell (21-0), before sustaining
the first loss of the season the previous week against Bastrop (8-7). The Trojans were led junior fullback Larry Cox
and senior halfback Tommy Leoty. Tallulah’s style was to run the ball down your throat and they had
the tools to do it with. However, the Trojans had an excellent passer in senior quarterback Glen Copes, so
Tallulah could beat you in several different ways. As usual, Coach Bankston was playing up the opposition
as if they were championship quality, stating “No doubt about it, we are underdogs Friday night and
we’re going to have to fight for our lives.” He preferred the “us against the world” mentality and
he usually did everything he could to encourage it.
The Tigers returned to Stokes-Walker
Stadium for the first time since the opening game of the year. Before the game, the Tigers were gaining a reputation as a
strong defensive club. They polished that image with their performance against Tallulah.
Bankston, Bamburg, Dosher and Nehring had the team fully prepared by game time. Tallulah had been
talked-up all week as the Tigers biggest obstacle to a district title. The team was prepared physically, but most of all,
they came into the game believing they had to win the game, as well as believing they could win the game.
The game was
a defensive battle throughout the contest. After finishing a bruising, scoreless first twenty minutes of the contest, Winnfield
took possession near their own 20-yard line midway through the second quarter. A first down play went nowhere, setting up
a second and ten from the 22. Coach Bankston called a draw play, with Randy Poisso getting
the ball on the delayed handoff. After taking the ball from Richards, what Poisso saw was
a hole opened up by Hanna, Long and Flournoy. After bolting through that opening, Poisso
did the rest, sprinting 78 yards for a touchdown to break open the tight game. That was all of the scoring in the first half
and all of the scoring for the whole game, for that matter. Winnfield did move the Tallulah 4 yard line in the second
half, only to fumble the ball from there. And, Tallulah did score an apparent touchdown with just over six minutes to go in
the game, but that play was called back when Tallulah was flagged for clipping. Otherwise, neither team made any serious scoring
threats in the second half. In the end, the Tigers’ lone touchdown stood up and the Tigers claimed
first place in the District 2-AA race.
Coach Bankston was exuberant over his
team’s effort, which he called “the best team effort on both offense and defense that I’ve seen since I’ve
been coaching at Winnfield” in an interview for The Enterprise. He had good reason to crow. His defense limited
Tallulah to only 112 yards on the ground and 42 yards through the air in pitching the school’s first shutout since the
1966 season. Tallulah’s heralded quarterback was held to a 4 of 11 passing night. Meanwhile, Winnfield’s efficient
passing attack, led by Robbie Richards, connected on 6 of 8 pass attempts. Poisso led all
rushers with 145 yards rushing on 17 carries. On the defensive side of the ball, Frederick Cotton, who was
playing his first year of competitive football, was the leading tackler with 11 solo tackles.
to Winnfield, Coach Bankston instituted a weekly award he called the “Savage Award”. That award
was given to the player who delivered the hardest hit during the game. Previous Savage Award winners in 1968 had been Frederick
Cotton (Tioga) and Randy Poisso (Pineville). Against Tallulah, Glenn Stewart earned
the award. Once the game films had been graded, scoring the highest were Herschel Long, Doug Allen, Randy Poisso
and Robbie Richards. Preseason concerns about the offensive and defensive lines were fading with each game.
football teams have had successful seasons halted by injuries to key players and few teams escape a season without having
to contend with injuries. That was beginning to be a problem for the 1968 Tigers. After the Tallulah game it was discovered
that Tiger quarterback Robbie Richards broke two bones in his foot which would require Richards
to miss two to three games. Likewise, junior reserve utility man Jerky Water sustained a broken arm in a
car accident and would miss the entire season.
The Tigers traveled to
Monroe to take on their second district foe of the season in the fifth game of the year. The opponent would be the Wossman
Wildcats, a team the Tigers had never played. Wossman came into the game with a 2-2 overall record and a 0-1 record in district
Mack Fowler took over the quarterbacking duties against Wossman and the Tigers didn’t skip a
beat in that department. Neither team did anything in the first half, as the Tiger offense only ran 21 offensive plays in
the first half.
However, the Tigers opened the game up in the third quarter with two touchdown-producing drives to take a 13-0 lead
into the fourth quarter and added another touchdown in the fourth to move to a comfortable 20-0 lead.
averted a shutout when they connected on a 69-yard pass completion with only two seconds remaining on the clock. The successful
PAT made the final score 20-7, but Winnfield secured their second district win of the season in as many tries and moved to
4-1-0 overall for the year.
Winnfield’s players didn’t need the coaching staff to build up their next opponent - the Ferriday Bulldogs.
Every Tiger starter remembered the 13-10 defeat the Bulldogs handed the Tigers the year before. That was the Tigers’
only district loss in that season.
Ferriday came into the game with a 4-1 mark overall
and a 1-1 record in league play. The Bulldogs loss had come at the hand of the Winnsboro Wildcats, the No. 1-rated team in
Class AA and a future district opponent of the Tigers.
Each week, it seemed the Tigers
were facing a strong rushing attack and Ferriday seemed to have the toughest one they had faced all year. Ferriday’s
attack was built around three powerful backs in Mack McIntosh (180 lbs.), Donnie Newman
(150 lbs.) and Donald Fulford (175 lbs.). Paving the way for those backs was an offensive line that outweighed
the Tigers by an average of 31 pds. per man.
At the mid-point of the season
the Tigers were back at full strength, what with the return of Robbie Richards to the lineup.
However, Coach Bankston put Richards in a halfback spot when he returned, where he
would alternate with Tommy Tinnerello. Mack Fowler thus remained at the
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tiger starting lineup looked like this: Daniel Scott and Mike
Parker (E); David Scott and Charles Eagles (T); Earle Wright (NG);
Terry Skains (Monster); Ricky Hanna, Brett Flournoy and Glenn Stewart (LB);
with Jarnigan, Poisso and Tinnerello holding down the secondary.
half of the Ferriday game ended like so many of the previous games played. Winnfield clung to a 7-6 lead and, as the score
indicates, the game had been a defensive struggle. Mack Fowler got the Tigers on the scoreboard in the first
quarter and it took a broken play to do so. After moving just past the mid-field stripe, Fowler dropped back
to pass only to find his receivers covered. Fowler was forced to scramble but he was a bigger threat as a
runner than he was a passer. That was proven when he “scrambled” for 42 yards and a touchdown. Roger Long
tacked on the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Ferriday scored in the second
quarter, climaxing a 64-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge. However, they failed to convert on their extra point, leaving the
Tigers in front by a single point, a margin that stood up until halftime.
In the second half, the Tigers
did the very thing that Coach Bankston hated the most - turn the ball over. In the second half alone, Winnfield
fumbled the ball 7 times, losing 6 of those. That kind of play will get you beat every time and this game would be no exception.
Winnfield couldn’t hold onto the ball and the Tiger defense couldn’t hold Ferriday out of the end zone. The Bulldogs
scored once in each the third and fourth quarter to take an 18-7 win over the Tigers and knock the Bengals out of first place
in the district race.
In all fairness to the Tiger defense, both of Ferriday’s second half scores came after they had recovered fumbles
inside the red zone. As was a Coach Bankston “tradition”, during the week after the Ferriday
game the Tiger backs worked on holding onto the football – at practice and even during the school day at Coach
Bankston occasionally made a back carry a football with him as he went to classes.
The loss to
Ferriday moved Winnfield district mark to 2-1, the same record that Ferriday had. Winnsboro led the district race with a 3-0
mark. If the Tigers were going to make the playoffs for the third straight year they would likely have to defeat Winnsboro
in the final district game of the year. That game was still three weeks away and the Tigers had one more district game against
Caldwell before they could even begin to think about Winnsboro. The Tigers could find some comfort in the fact that they would
play the next three games in Stokes-Walker stadium; all-important games and all winnable if you listened
to Coach Bankston.
Against Caldwell, Winnfield took care of business and
claimed their third district win against one loss in a 14-0 victory. Winnfield controlled the game on both sides of the ball
all night long and moved their record to 5-2-0 with the win. Scoring for Winnfield were Tommy Tinnerello
on a 3-yard run and Mack Fowler on a 2-yard quarterback sneak.
could have been accused of looking ahead to Winnsboro when they played Jonesboro in week eight because the Tigers struggled
somewhat against a 1-7-0 Jonesboro team. In fact, the Jonesboro game was almost a repeat of the Caldwell game and ended with
the final 14-0 score. Winnfield again scored two touchdowns, one by Randy Poisso on a 1-yard run and the
other by Mack Fowler on a 2-yard plunge. The Tiger defense also posted a shutout as they
limited Jonesboro to but 86 yards rushing and 14 yards passing. Like the week before, Winnfield had no trouble moving the
ball between the 20s, piling up 189 yards rushing and 97 yards passing. Randy Poisso was the leading ground
gainer, getting 103 yards to out-rush the Jonesboro team. But, it was the Tigers inability to score points that continued
to bother Coach Bankston. His offensive unit had scored two touchdowns or less in four of six games, with
the most productive games coming against Tioga (19 pts.) and Wossman (20 pts.). The source of the Tiger’s success in
building a 6-2-0 record was very obvious - the Tiger defense.
The Tiger defensive unit had
only given up 950 yards rushing against their eighth opponent, an average of 118 yards per game. They had only allowed one
opponent, the Pineville Rebels, to pass for more than 100 yards. In eight games, the defensive unit had given up 9 touchdowns,
with three of those given up to Ferriday and two a piece by Tioga and Natchitoches.
had scored an even 100 points in the first eight games, an average of 12 points per game. None of Coach Bankston’s
first three teams at Winnfield had been high scoring units. In his first 43 games as the Winnfield head coach, his teams had
broken the 30 point barrier only 3 times and the 20 point barrier only 7 times. Bankston’s teams won
with good defense. During his time as the Tiger head coach the only regular season opponent who had scored 20 or more points
was Tallulah who scored 27 points in the district playoff rematch at the end of the 1966 season, the third game that team
had played in an eight-day period. So, simply put, Coach Bankston’s teams won the way so many championship
teams win - with defense.
KEY GAME: The ninth game of the 1968 season
was as big as it gets in high school football. The Winnfield - Winnsboro game had all the makings of a classic before it was
played and it lived up to its billing. It was the kind of game that only comes around once or twice a decade.
came into the game not only leading District 2-AA, but they were the No. 1-ranked team in Class AA. After posting a 12-1-1
record the season before and losing in the Class A state finals, Winnsboro moved up to Class AA and found the going just as
easy as they had found it in Class A. After eight weeks of the 1968 season the Wildcats were untied and undefeated. They had
not lost a regular season game in two years and only had Winnfield to beat to claim the district 2-AA title.
would be facing the strongest offensive unit they had faced all year long. That unit was led by two of the best ends in the
district in Wally Goodman and Mike Kramer, both all-District ends the season before. The
Winnsboro quarterback, Bud Anders, was one of the best quarterbacks in the district and their halfback, Mike
Allbritton, was the leading ground gainer. The Winnsboro line was anchored by 235 tackle Don Etzel,
who also held down the defensive tackle position. The Wildcats were strong up front and fast where it counted.
facing the Tigers was simple - beat Winnsboro and you are the district champs, lose to Winnsboro and you wouldn’t even
make the playoffs. By the ninth week of the season, Winnfield was in second place in the district race by a half game and
Ferriday was in third, but Ferriday had already finished district competition with a 3-2-0 record. Winnfield had a 3-1-0 record
in district play, so a loss would drop the Tigers to 3-2-0. A Winnfield loss to Winnsboro would leave Winnfield and Ferriday
tied for second, with Ferriday getting the nod as the district runner-up by virtue of their earlier win over Winnfield. On
the other hand, a win by Winnfield over Winnsboro would leave Winnfield and Winnsboro alone atop the district race with 4-1-0
marks, with Winnfield securing the championship slot in the playoffs. Winnfield was the clear underdog and everything rode
on the game. Coach Bankston was in his element.
Football fever had hit Winnfield.
Across town, the Winnfield Jr. High 9th grade team demolished Wossman Jr. High 34-7. That win was accomplished by a three-touchdown
performance by Lynn Lasyone and a touchdown each by Alan Carter and Jerry Keen.
The win enabled the 9th grade team to complete their season with an undefeated record, Coach Herschel
Machen’s first undefeated 9th grade team at the Jr. High. The 27 ninth graders who made
up the team would be prospective Tigers, so the talent pipeline from the Jr. High seemed to be set for the future. Machen
had finished his third year at the helm of the Jr. High program with an overall record of 20-3-0. He had taken over a program
started by Thomas Straughan, who went 15-2-0. So, through five football seasons Winnfield Jr. High School’s
9th grade teams had gone 35-5-2 and had won 23 consecutive home games without a loss.
went on sale the week before the Winnsboro game and Principal Max Crowe was expecting a packed house at Stokes-Walker
Stadium. Admission was $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for children, and ticket sales were good. As expected, the magnitude
of the game drew every football fan from around the area and as a result the stands were filled to near capacity. What those
fans saw was what The Enterprise termed “the finest football game played by the Tigers in decades.”
No Winnfield team
under Coach Bankston ever went into a game feeling intimidated by anybody, especially when they were playing
on their own home turf. So, Winnfield respected Winnsboro’s lofty record, but they weren’t afraid of the Wildcats.
That was shown early on when the Tigers scored on their second possession of the night to take an early 7-0 lead. Quarterback
Mack Fowler got the touchdown for the Tigers on a 1-yard plunge. With the score
the Tigers suddenly became a dangerous bunch. Coach Bankston had been telling them they could beat Winnsboro.
Now, they were seeing it firsthand.
The defensive played like an inspired unit throughout the
first half. Defensive football is for tough players who aren’t afraid to hit someone. The key to defense is making sure
the players are in the right position to make a hit and to play aggressively. That is the style of play the coaching staff
and fans were witness to in the first half of the game.
When the first half came to
an end, the Tigers still clung to their slim 7-0 lead and the Winnfield coaching staff couldn’t have been any more pleased
with their ball club. During the first two quarters, Winnfield’s defense did a number on the Wildcats, holding them
to a total offensive production of only 12 yards for the entire half. You don’t have to make many adjustments at halftime
when your defense is playing that well. Still, the Tigers wanted some breathing room and they would get that in the most dramatic
Winnfield had kicked off to start the game, so they would receive the second half kickoff. Randy Poisso
fielded the kick at his own 15-yard line, turned up field and followed excellent blocking to get by the initial containment.
After that, it was a foot race and Poisso came out ahead to score from 85 yards away. At the time, Poisso's
kickoff return was the fourth longest in school history, just short of Jackie Givens' 95-yarder against St.
Mary's in 1945, John Harrington's 92-yarder against Jena during the 1955 season and Dan Carr's
90-yard return against Natchitoches in the 1950 season. But, the Tigers
were looking to make history another way. The Tigers were looking for the schools fourth district title and first since the
1961 season. All of that wouldn’t come on a single play, but Poisso’s return gave the Tigers
much-need breathing room.
Still, there was still more than 20 minutes of football
to be played in this contest. Winnsboro was a very good football team and good teams don’t just lay down when they get
behind. That was proven later in the third quarter when the Wildcats drove inside the Winnfield 20-yard
line and scored on an 8-yard toss from Anders to Goodman. They too made good on their extra
point attempt to make the score 14-7 as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter.
Bankston had preached the importance of fourth quarter play since spring practice and his players had listened. After
the two teams exchanged punts to begin the fourth quarter, Winnfield began a drive that carried them all the way down to the
Winnsboro 1. The Tiger coaching staff had found a weakness in the Winnsboro defensive line and they capitalized on that weakness
with repeated plays to the left side. Coach Bankston later heaped praise on the left side of his offensive
line, made up of Monte Jarnigan (E), Joe Stewart (T) and Brett Flournoy
(G) - all juniors. Once the Tigers were in the shadow of the Winnsboro goal line they would not be denied
when another junior, halfback Terry Skains, drove the nail in the coffin when he took the ball over for the
Tigers' third touchdown of the night. Finally, it was junior Roger Long's PAT who made the score 21-7. With
6:44 remaining on the clock, the Tigers tasted victory and it tasted very good.
Give the Tiger
defense a two-touchdown lead with six minutes to go in the game and they would preserve your win. That's what they did and
the scene on the field and in the stands was as glorious as any scene ever witnessed in Tiger football history. In the end,
the Tigers knocked off the No. 1-ranked Winnsboro Wildcats, secured the district title for the school and earned the schools
7th playoff appearance.
In the words of Coach Bankston for the Enterprise "It was a great team effort.”
And it was. The Tiger defense held Winnsboro to 83 yards rushing and 58 yards passing. Winnsboro only gained 7 first
downs all game long, with over half of those coming on their lone scoring drive. The Tiger defense did everything they had
prepared to do and then some. With the kind of effort they gave, they could have played with anybody.
But, the game was not won on defense alone. For the night, the Tiger offense piled up 213 yards rushing, the most rushing
yards compiled by a Tiger offense in over four years. Poisso was the leading ground gainer, getting 95 yards
on 19 carries. However, it was running back Terry Skains who won the Savage Award while running the football.
His hard-nosed running resulted in 57 hard-fought yards on 11 carries.
singled out Brett Flournoy for his defensive play, grading him 93% for the night once the game film was evaluated.
Randy Poisso played his usual stellar game while giving double duty, scoring 81% on offense and 85% from
his defensive back position. But, the win was as complete a team win as had ever been witnessed in Tiger football. There had
been great wins in the past and outstanding individual performances. At the time, this one was one of the greatest wins in
Certainly not lost in the win was the crowning of the Tigers as district champs. That hardly seemed likely when the
season started when the team had so many holes to fill. The season had been a simple case of the seniors providing the leadership
and the underclassmen coming on even better than expected. The Jr. High program was winning, the Tiger varsity was winning
with a large group of underclassmen and the 1968 Tigers were headed to the playoffs as district champs. All things considered,
the program was in the best shape it had been in since the early 1960s.
The Tigers still had some business to take
care of before the playoffs began. They had one final regular season game and the opponent would be the rival Jena Giants.
Jena came into the game holding a 12-9-2 advantage in the series record. Most of the Giants’ wins came during the 1950s
when they won 9 of 11 games. Winnfield began to shift the series record in their favor during the 1960s winning 6 of the first
9 match-ups. Jena was a young outfit and was the clear underdog, but they had everything to gain. Coach Bankston
never looked past anybody and he drilled in his boy’s heads the necessity of playing like the district champions they
The Jena game would be played on a cold, wet November night. Despite the weather conditions, the game was just the
type of game that Coach Bankston wanted just prior to the playoffs. He got good execution from his starters
and he got to play a lot of people. Winnfield scored on its first possession of the night, with Mack Fowler
getting the Tigers on the score board and Roger Long tacking on the extra point. On Jena’s next series,
the Giants broke an 80-yard run for a touchdown and that seemed to wake the Tigers up. After that, Jena never threatened to
score again and Winnfield scored 34 unanswered points. For the night, Tommy Tinnerello scored a second quarter
touchdown and the Tigers erupted for 21 third quarter points to make the score 34-6 at the start of the fourth quarter. The
Tigers tallied one more touchdown in the final quarter when sophomore David Caskey fielded a Jena punt and
returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
The game was one in which the players who had not gotten
much recognition gave some stellar performances. Earl Denning recovered three fumbles for the Tigers, while
junior Vicky Berry partially blocked the Jena punt that Caskey fielded and returned for
Winnfield far outdistanced Jena
in the statistical categories, out-gaining Jena 212-59 in rushing yards and 30-0 in passing yards. For the night, Winnfield’s
defense limited Jena to 59 total yards, the fourth lowest total yardage allowed in school history at the time.
ended the regular season with an 8-2-0 record, with the two losses being the 1-point loss to Pineville and the 11-point loss
to Ferriday. The Tigers 8 wins moved them into a tie for fifth place for most wins in a season. They hoped to add to that
total in the playoffs.
Prior to 1968, the Tiger football program had made six trips to the playoffs. In all of those games the Tigers played
a district champion from another district in the first round. Prior to 1966, only district champions made the playoffs. In
1966 that rule was changed, allowing both the district champions and district runners-up from each district to enter the playoffs.
When Winnfield made the playoffs in 1966 and 1967, they did so as district runners-up and, in playing Jesuit, they played
not only a district champion, but also one of the strongest teams in the state.
for the 1968 playoffs, the Tigers would face a team who was not a district champion. By winning the 2-AA crown, the Tigers
would be matched up against the runner-up of district 1-AA. That opponent would be the Northwood Falcons. Against the Falcons,
the Tigers hoped to accomplish something no other Winnfield team had ever accomplished - win a playoff game.
as a district runner-up should not be construed as any indication of them being an easy opponent. They would be contender for a district crown in
any other district in the state. During the year, Northwood had only lost one game, that being to the reigning state champion
Jesuit Flyers. For the year Northwood had only gave up 94 points and pitched four shutouts But, the Falcons were far from
being a team who solely relied on their defense. Northwood would bring arguably the strongest passing attack any Winnfield
team had ever encountered in junior signal caller Richard Beach. The Falcons and Beach were
one of the state leaders in passing yardage.
Winnfield came into the game at full strength, after
regaining the services of Robbie Richards. Mack Fowler would continue as the Tiger quarterback,
while Richards would carry the ball from the halfback position and play strong safety for the Tigers.
The game was
a defensive battle from the start. That was nothing new for the Tigers. They were used to having to play four quarters. After
it appeared that the two teams would head into the locker room at halftime without scoring a point, Winnfield put up a valiant
late second quarter drive that carried them near the Northwood goal line. After taking two stabs at the line, Mack
Fowler finally burst over the goal line with 1:21 showing on the clock to get the Tigers on the scoreboard. Roger
Long added the extra point to up the Tiger lead to 7-0.
That lead would stand up the
rest of the game as a rock-solid Tiger defense halted virtually everything Northwood threw at them. That came through giving
up little yardage and forcing one turnover after another. By the end of the game, Winnfield would intercept three Northwood
passes and recover three Northwood fumbles.
Northwood mounted only one serious
scoring drive and that game in the final minutes of the game. In the end, Randy Poisso would knock down the
final Northwood pass of the night at the Tiger goal line to preserve the win.
The win was
a milestone since it was the first playoff win by a Tiger team as well as the first home playoff win. As such, it gave the
Tigers a 1-0 record in playoff games played at Stokes-Walker Stadium. The victory came the way virtually
every other win had come during the season - with a strong team effort. On defense, the Tigers limited Northwood to only 85
yards for the game. During the fourth quarter, Northwood abandoned their running game, and managed to end the game with 185
passing yards. The much heralded Richard Beach was held to a 7 of 25 passing night and it was the three Tiger
interceptions and three fumble recoveries that halted half of the Northwood drives.
Poisso was the leading ground gainer, getting 69 yards on 22 carries. Winnfield also got 54 rushing yards from Fowler,
36 from Tinnerello, 13 from Richards and 9 yards from Caskey. The Tigers
passing games was all but nonexistent, what with Fowler only connecting on 2 of 9 passes for 14 yards.
The win advanced
the Tigers to the quarterfinals, the first time a Winnfield had ever advanced in the playoffs. There were only eight teams
remaining in the Class AA bracket and only two of those would play for the state title. To get to the championship game, Winnfield
would have to get by their next opponent - the Westlake Rams.
Westlake High School was located
in Westlake, Louisiana, a town located on the outskirts of Lake Charles. Like Winnfield, they too were district champs, ending
the regular season with a 9-0-1 record. The Tigers would have to travel to face their second round opponent.
Winnfield with their biggest challenge of the year. As you get deeper into the playoffs, every team is outstanding. Westlake
was a team loaded in talent. Heading the list was Allen Dennis, their 6' 1", 175 lb. quarterback. He
had thrown for over 1,800 yards and 24 touchdowns during the season. But he was just as dangerous as a runner. The week before,
he piled up 206 yards rushing in the Rams 30-19 first round playoff victory over Tioga.
Westlake line was anchored by Clifford Johnson, their 6' 5", 235 lb. center. He was joined on the line
by two All-District linemen, who were just as adept at run blocking as they were at pass blocking. That was demonstrated the
week before when the Westlake passing attack was shut down and the Rams responded by rushing for 269 yards and scoring five
touchdowns, all on the ground. Westlake’s defensive line averaged 195 lbs., but that was misleading, because their nose
guard only weighed 155 pounds. Winnfield’s offensive line averaged 177 lbs., with Herschel Long and
Charles Eagles being the two biggest linemen. Westlake had a decided weight advantage.
facing the Tigers was enormous. Coach Bankston alerted everyone to the task at hand. “If we are going
to beat this gang, we are going to have to play our best game of the year”, warned Coach Bankston in
a pre-game interview with the Enterprise.
Coach Bankston hoped
for a low scoring affair, but this would not turn out to be that time of game. Though neither team scored in the opened quarter,
Westlake put two touchdowns on the board in the second quarter and Winnfield scored once to make the half time score 13-7
in favor of Westlake.
Dennis was on the throwing end of both Westlake touchdowns which moved Westlake to a 13-0 lead with
only 3:33 remaining in the half.
After that, the Tiger's grit
was shown on their final effort of the first half. Tommy Tinnerello fielded the Westlake
kickoff after their second touchdown and returned it 32 yards to the Tiger 36. That’s when Coach Bankston
called for an all-out passing barrage. Fowler found Jarnigan and Doug Allen
on a series of pass completions that moved the ball down to the Westlake 9-yard line. Fowler kept on the
next play, rolling around left end where he was met by four Westlake defenders at the goal line. Fowler scattered
them like bowling pins, getting Winnfield on the scoreboard with 1:50 to go in the half. Four plays had netted the Tigers
68 yards and a touchdown. With that drive, Winnfield showed they too could score quickly. Long’s PAT
made it 13-7 at the half - still anybody’s game.
Westlake was flagged for a personal
foul on the last play of the first half. The foul came after Randy Poisso had intercepted a Dennis
pass and returned it to the Winnfield 41. That forced Westlake to kickoff from the 25 to start the second half. Westlake would
pay for that penalty.
Fowler caught the second half kickoff at his own 31 and nearly broke the return for a touchdown. Instead,
he was downed at the Westlake 21. It would only take the Tigers three plays to get on the scoreboard, with the Tiger touchdown
coming on a 1-yard sneak by Fowler. Roger Long’s kick was good, giving Winnfield the
lead at 14-13. The momentum that Winnfield had picked up at the end of the first half had carried over into the third quarter.
Winnfield was a bunch of fighters and scrappers, so they would surely be a tough team to stop in the second half.
made up of the same stuff and they were every bit as talented as Winnfield. That was shown when they responded by taking their
next series in for a touchdown in only three minutes time. The score came on Dennis’ third touchdown
toss of the night. Dennis also converted on the extra point to make the score 20-14, with 4:04 remaining
in the third quarter.
The game had the quality of the early rounds of a heavy weight prizefight. Each team was throwing everything they had
at the other and each team was absorbing the blows. The third quarter was both a testimony to the heart of each team and to
the abilities of Westlake’s Dennis and Winnfield’s Fowler.
got the ball back, Fowler guided the Tigers on an eight-play, 74-yard drive that knotted the score at 20-all.
Fowler connected on four of four passes in the drive, with the final play of the drive coming on a 5-yard
toss from Fowler to Doug Allen. Long missed the extra point, leaving the
score tied at the end of the third quarter.
The game settled down to a defensive battle in the fourth
quarter. After the two teams combined for three touchdowns in the third quarter, they exchanged punts throughout the quarter,
but one team did manage to find the end zone. That one team would be Westlake and that score came like
all other Westlake scores had come when Allen Dennis connected on his fourth touchdown pass of the night.
The score came with 9:30 left in the game and the PAT following Westlake’s fourth touchdown was good, making the score
Winnfield was in a very precarious position. The LHSAA had not instituted two-point conversions in those days, so even
if Winnfield scored a touchdown and converted on the extra point they could only gain a tie. The tie-breaking system used
in those days was to first look at the first downs gained by both teams. If one team had gained more first downs, that team
was declared the winner. By the fourth quarter, Westlake had clearly out-gained Winnfield in first downs. So, if Winnfield
were going to win this game, they would have to score twice against Westlake, all in the final 9 minutes of the game.
That never became
an issue, because Winnfield never scored. In the end, the Tigers had faced the most prolific passing attack any Winnfield
team had ever faced and came up 7 points shy of a tie. Dennis connected on 19 of 30 tosses for 235 yards
and four touchdowns. Those attempts, completions, yardage gained and touchdown tosses were the most ever attained by an opponent
of Winnfield. Westlake also added 106 yards rushing for 401 total yards. With that, Westlake became the fifth opponent to
ever gain more than 400 total yards against a Winnfield team.
Winnfield, on the other hand was forced
to the airways after Westlake essentially shut down the Tigers running game. For the night, Winnfield only gained 55 yards
rushing. But, Fowler had his best passing night as a Tiger, connecting on 11 of 22 passes for 142 yards and
The first down margin, which would have been in Westlake favor had there been a tie, was clearly lopsided, with Westlake
holding a 20 to 9 advantage in that category. It was a cleanly played game, with Dennis throwing one interception
and Westlake losing one fumble. Winnfield only had one turnover, that being an interception.
ended the season with a 9-3-0 record. That tied the team with the 1923, 1928 and 1948 teams for the second most wins in a
season. The 1961 team held that record with 11 wins. The twelve games played by the 1968 team, matched the total number of
games played by the 1961, 1960, 1959, 1957, 1954 teams. The 1966 team played 13 games during their season, making that the
most games ever played in one season.
By ending the season with a winning record, the team
became the third consecutive team to finish with a winning record. That had happened between 1960 and 1962, but, prior to
that, the only other time the program ended with three or more consecutive winning seasons was between 1917 and 1924
The 1968 team
was a mixture of seniors with three years of playing experience under the "Bankston System" and
a talented group of underclassmen who jelled and performed much quicker than most expected. The squad didn't rely on one or
two superstars on either side of the ball, and, there were no weak links when the Tigers took the field. One of the major
themes of the “Bankston Gospel” was that if you stayed, you would play. He had erected a sign
in the dressing room that said just that, saying “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.” Those
weren’t just idle comments used to inspire. Coach Bankston could use this group of seniors to prove
his point. When Coach Bankston first came to Winnfield he had 25 sophomore prospects from Winnfield Jr. High
School. Three years later, that group had dwindled to six, including Randy Poisso, Doug Allen, Herschel Long, Charles
Eagles, Glenn Stewart and Tommy Tinnerello. Those were the first group of seniors at W.S.H.S. who
played all three years of their eligibility under Coach Bankston. To prove his point, Coach Bankston
could point out that those were the second group of seniors in school history to play on a playoff team all three years they
played for the Tigers, the first being the seniors of the 1961 team. They were also the second group of seniors since the
early 1920s who played on three teams who ended the season with winning records. The other group was the seniors of the 1962
When assessing the team in an interview for The Enterprise after the season, Coach Bankston
didn't talk about football talent or the tremendous skill of his players. Rather, he summed up what made this squad so unique,
those intangible qualities that you just can't coach. "There were lots of reasons why these kids were able to go so far
with so little, including desire, determination and just plain guts.” said Coach Bankston. He
continued, "but, these Tigers had lots of character. They came from good stock. In all my years of coaching, I
have never before been more privileged to work with such fine parents, who believed in our program and their boys and cooperated
in every way to help us win." Sometimes, winning involves more than X's and O's. The 1968 team showed
Post Season Honors:
RB & DB All-District
All State (RB), All Prep (RB), Outstanding Back in Class AA
Honorable Mention All State
All-District, Honorable Mention All State
All-District, Honorable Mention All State
All-District, Honorable Mention All State
Honorable Mention All-District
Honorable Mention All-District
Honorable Mention All-District
Tommy Tinnerello DB
Honorable Mention All-District
1969 (Overall - 6-3-1, *District - 3-2-0) Coach Bankston had the task of replacing
12 lettermen from the 1968 District 2-AA Champions. Though he lost a dozen lettermen, he had an equal number of returning
lettermen to build his team around, so it’s not like he was starting from scratch. A total of five starters on offense
and seven starters on defense had to be replaced. In one respect, Coach Bankston was in the same predicament
he was in the year before when he had an abundance of talent in the backfield and major question marks in the line. However,
the situation was just the opposite coming into 1969. Nine of the twelve returning lettermen were linemen. Included in that
group were center, Ricky Hanna; guard, Brett Flournoy; tackle Joe Stewart;
guard, Roger Long; defensive tackle Earle Wright; brothers Daniel and David
Scott at the tackle slots; tackle, Roland Barton and end Monty Jarnigan. All were
seniors except Barton, who was a junior.
The Tigers only had three returning
lettermen that had varsity experience in the backfield. Among those was Robbie Richards, who had started
the previous year at quarterback before going down with an injury. He also played safety on defense and at the halfback slot.
Richards was also the team punter. Returning at the fullback slot was Terry Skains, who
Coach Bankston labeled “a fine blocker.” But, Skains
had rushed for 4.1 average the year before, so he could run with the ball when needed. He also played the
monster position on defense. Finally, incoming junior David Caskey returned to play the fullback slot and
linebacker position on defense.
When spring training started, Coach Bankston
had the school’s largest group ever to suit out for spring drills. The group totaled 60 in number and included 17 seniors,
15 juniors and 28 sophomores. By the end of summer practice the usual attrition took its toll, with most of the losses coming
from the underclassmen. By the end of summer practice, those who had left the team from the spring roster included one senior,
six juniors and seven sophomores. However, the team gained five new players who did not participate in spring practice.
For the first
time in the program’s history, the team would be integrated. The first group of black athletes who competed as a Winnfield
Tiger football player were seniors Lonnel Sherman and John Gibson; along
with juniors Husher Calhoun, Julius Kraft and Alvin Smith. Their inclusion
on the team roster at the end of summer two-a-days gave the team a total of 51 players, which included 18 seniors, 12 juniors
and 21 sophomores.
Aside from the lack of experience in the backfield, Coach Bankston had two other concerns. First,
he was well aware of the rebuilding job he would have to do on defense and second, his team lacked depth. He had lost seven
starters on defense, but he had experienced players among his returning lettermen scattered throughout the defensive alignment.
Those returning lettermen who had gained considerable playing experience on the defensive side of the ball the year before
included linebackers Ricky Hanna and Brett Flournoy; safety, Robbie Richards;
tackle, Earle Wright; back, Monty Jarnigan; monster, Terry Skains and
tackle, Daniel Scott. So, he really needed to find four starters on defense
The lack of depth
issue was more related to the lack of inexperienced players than a lack of talent. Coach Bankston always
played a large number of players each year. But, coming into the 1969 season, virtually all of the incoming players who had
any sort of varsity experience were members of the senior class. This would be a team carried and dominated by the senior
players on the team. Coach Bankston knew he would have to rely on underclassmen at certain positions and
he always wanted to give underclassmen playing time so that they would be ready for future years. However, he realistically
knew that it would be his senior players who would not only have to provide leadership, but would also have to supply players.
If any group
of coaches could put it all together, Coach Bankston and his staff could. Bankston had compiled
a 23-11-2 record at Winnfield and was the only coach in school history, other than Alwin Stokes, who had
guided at least two teams to 9 win seasons. He was the only coach at Winnfield who had coached two or more seasons
and never had a losing season.
The principal of the high school, Max Crowe,
addressed the football team prior to the start of summer practice. He knew the dedication it would take to be a Winnfield
football player and he left the players with the following advice, “There are going to be days when many of you boys
will feel like quitting the team. I understand that. I would ask you to sleep on it one night before you quit. Sometimes things
look differently when you’ve had a chance to sleep on it.” That may have kept more than one
boy from making a rash decision.
Coach Bankston puts his troops through the
usual grueling summer two-a-days. When the mercury climbed to the century mark in the middle of summer two-a-days, he moved
the time for the evening practice from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. That offered little relief. Coach Bankston’s
reputation as a hard worker was well known and it was in the August practices when he seemed to work the hardest. One of the
last practices of the preseason remains a legendary practice among those who endured it. That practice came on Labor Day,
1969. During the usual two-hour evening practice that day, Coach Bankston had gotten increasingly irritated
by the mistakes he saw and loafing he detected. He became so infuriated at the end of that practice session that he had the
team repeat the practice, starting with the first scheduled drill until the last scheduled wind sprints that came at the end
of practice. On that particular day, the team had three practices, one in the morning and two back-to-back sessions in the
No one ever accused Coach Bankston of being unorganized. Not only did he have his practices scheduled
to the minute, but he instituted a program whereby players had to attain individual performance goals. For example, place-kicker
Roger Long had to kick 10 out of 10 extra points, four of five field goals from the 20-yard line, three of
five from the 30-yard line and kickoff to the 10-yard line. Robbie Richards had to run a 50-yard dash in
5.7 seconds or under and he had to punt for a specific punting average. There were individual goals in the weight room as
well. Coach Bankston had a weight room built at the school the year before. He made sure the players used
it and he set weight lifting goals for his players. For example, Terry Skains had to bench press 305 pounds
by the beginning of summer practice and Ricky Hanna had to dead lift 400 pounds. In order to reach those
goals, no player could afford to take the summer off. There would be no down time in preparing to be a Tiger. The consequence
for not reaching a goal: that player would have to work every day after summer practice until he reached his goal. The choice
for the players was simple; you could either work extra at the beginning of the summer or during the middle of summer two-a-days.
No choice has ever been easier to make.
Winnfield would play the identical schedule they
had played the year before and would compete in District 2-AA against the same teams. Tallulah was voted the preseason favorite
as they returned a truck- load of players. Winnfield was expected to finish in the top half of the league, but the 1968 team
proved that you always had to factor in the Tigers when you were predicting district outcomes. It was good that the program
was getting that kind of respect.
After scrimmaging Neville during summer two-a-days and
getting past AAA Bolton in the Alexandria Cosmopolitan Jamboree, the Tigers were ready to play games that counted. Their first
opponent would the Tioga Indians in a game to be played on the Indian’s home turf. Coming into the season opener, Coach
Bankston had settled on a starting alignment that consisted of 10 seniors on offense and seven seniors on defense.
His offense would be guided by Robbie Richards at quarterback. Sharing backfield duties were seniors Terry
Skains, Cecil Ethridge and Lonnel Sherman; along with junior David Caskey and sophomore
Lynn Lasyone. The strength of the offense would be the experienced line, consisting of Ricky Hanna
(C), Roger Long and Brett Flournoy (G), Joe Stewart and David Scott
(T) and Monty Jarnigan and Jerky Waters (E). All of those linemen were seniors.
had settled on Randy Strickland and Charles Cockerham as his starting defensive ends, a
sophomore and junior respectively. The defensive line would be manned by seniors Earle Wright and
Daniel Scott and junior Roland Barton. Backing up that line was the experienced senior line backing
tandem of Brett Flournoy and Ricky Hanna. Any number of players could be inserted into the
defensive backfield, including junior Husher Calhoun and senor Terry Skains at the monster
position, and fleet-footed junior Jerry Dubois, along with seniors Lonnel Sherman and Jerky
Waters in the defensive backfield. The most experienced defensive back, though, was senior Monte Jarnigan.
In the Tioga game, the Tigers jumped to a 14-0 lead through three quarters on a 2-yard run by Robbie Richards
and touchdown from short yardage by sophomore Lynn Lasyone. Lonnel Sherman’s 50-yard
punt return set up Lasyone’s score.
A 14-point fourth quarter lead “always”
resulted in a win for a Bankston-coached team, so this game seemed well in hand. However, Tioga scored at
the start of the final quarter and tacked on a two-point conversion to make the score 14-8. Then, late
in the game Tioga got the ball back with just over three minutes away and some 86 yards away from the Tiger end zone in what
would obviously be their final drive of the night.
Tioga came out throwing and
they connected on one pass after another to move inside the Tiger 10-yard line with only 5 ticks remaining on the clock. Having
only one play, Tioga choose to run a double reverse. The Tigers bit on the play, decking the initial ball carrier just before
he handed off to the swing man. When the player with the ball turned the corner he had nothing but real estate between him
and the goal and his touchdown tied the score at 14-all. The Tioga kicker came in to attempt the PAT that would give the Indians
the win, but the kick sailed wide. Winnfield had avoided a loss, but in their minds they had been one play away from a win.
The result felt like a loss.
The Tigers far outdistanced the Indians on the ground, getting 191 total rushing yards to Tioga’s 39. But, Tioga
made most of their important yards through the air, getting 194 yards passing on a 12 of 22 passing night. Coach Bankston
was not a happy man.
One of the question marks Coach Bankston had in preparing for the season was the lack of depth on
his team. That would become a glaring problem after the Tioga game when five of his starters went down with injuries that
would keep them out of the second game of the season. The most serious injury was a shoulder separation of starting QB Robbie
Richards. That was expected to knock him out of action for half of the season. Other starters injured against Tioga
were defensive halfbacks Jerky Waters (back) and Lonnel Sherman (bruised knee).
Other Tiger started who were less than 100% were David Caskey (ankle), Terry Skains
and Roger Long (shoulder).
for Pineville, Coach Bankston went with a sophomore-filled backfield on both the offensive and defensive
side of the ball. Alan Carter would be called on the guide the offense from the quarterback position, with
fellow sophomores Lynn Lasyone and Jerry Keen running from the fullback and halfback slots.
The only senior in the offensive backfield would be Cebo Ethridge, who was playing his first year of varsity
football. Bankston shifted monster man Husher Calhoun and defensive end Monte Jarnigan
to the defensive backfield.
Winnfield had trouble stopping the Tioga passing attack when they were at full strength. That made the challenge all
the more interesting as they prepared for a Pineville team who had gained close to 200 passing yards in their season opening
34-0 white washing of Deridder. All things considered, it looked to be the kind of game the Tigers could easily lose.
Tiger backups performed admirably in the Pineville game. Husher Calhoun got the Tigers on the scoreboard
on 15 yard run in the first quarter and young Alan Carter connected with Monte Jarnigan
for a 12-yard scoring toss in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 14-0 halftime lead. For the night, Carter
connected on 5 of 7 passes for 71 yards, with most of those completions coming on that late second quarter drive.
When the team went
into the locker room, they did so with the knowledge that yet another of their teammates had fallen to an injury. Sophomore
fullback Lynn Lasyone caught a short pass from Carter in the second quarter and was hit
in the leg just as he planted his foot to turn up field. The result was a season-ending fracture. Lasyone
had gained 70 total yards in the game up to that point.
Winnfield turned the game into
a blowout in the second half with Cebo Ethridge getting two third quarter touchdown runs, one from 20 yards
out and the other from 23. Brett Flournoy ended the scoring for the night when he scooped up a Pineville
fumble and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. That made the score 34-0. Flournoy's return was the sixth
longest fumble return for a touchdown in school history, trailing Wayne Wood's 95-yard return in 1967, Conley
Adams' 70-yard return in 1958, the 65-yard fumble return of Robbie Richards that came in the 1967
season, Ralph Sanders' 60-yarder in the 1946 season and Mickey Frazier's 52-yard return
of the 1955 season.
The fact that Winnfield won the game was surprising enough. The manner in which they totally dominated Pineville was
altogether unexpected. For the night, the Tiger defense held the Rebels to 36 yards rushing and only 41 yards passing. Winnfield,
on the other hand, ground out 263 yards rushing, the second highest single-game total since the 1961 season and sixth highest
total for the entire decade. When you add the 71 passing yards to that rushing total, you get the third 300+ total yardage
output by a Bankston-coached team and first since his inaugural season. So, the Tiger-win was a complete
win in every sense of the word, what with the dominating defensive display and the offensive explosion. What remained a major
concern, however, was the ever-present threat of injuries that seemed to be mounting each week.
through five of the 1969 season is arguably the toughest three-game regular season stretch in the history of the program.
If it is not the toughest go ahead and find another equally tough three-game stretch and simply put this span
right beside it. Consider the following: In successive weeks, the Tigers would face
the Natchitoches Red Devils, the team predicted to take the District 3-AA crown and the Tallulah Trojans, the early-season
favorite to take the District 2-AA crown. At the end of the 1969 season those two teams would battle it out for the AA state
championship. Following those two opponents the Tigers would face a then No. 5 ranked Wossman team. So,
in a three-week span the Tiger would face three legitimate Top Five teams.
starting lineup for the Natchitoches game bared little resemblance to the team that started the season. The Tigers would face
Natchitoches with no fewer than six of their starters on the sidelines, including Robbie Richards, Jerky Waters, Roger
Long, Terry Skains, Daniel Scott and Lynn Lasyone. To make matters more uncertain, those players’
replacements were, almost without exception, sophomores.
The Red Devils came into the game
with an unblemished record and were coming off of a 42-6 thrashing of the Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers. The Red Devils ran out of
the I-formation, which produced 35 of their 42 points against Jonesboro in the first half. This was the strongest Natchitoches
team any Winnfield team had ever faced and arguably the strongest Natchitoches team ever fielded. Nevertheless, Winnfield
came into the game ranked 4th in the Class AA polls, while Natchitoches was four slots back in the 8th place.
All things considered
Natchitoches should have manhandled Winnfield. And though Natchitoches did prevail in a 26-7 win the game
was hardly as one-sided as that score indicates. At the half Natchitoches only held a 12-0 lead and the two touchdowns that
Natchitoches scored in the second half came on a punt return and after an interception was returned to the Winnfield 2 yard
line. The interception came after Natchitoches had gone up 18-0 in the third quarter and a halfback pass thrown by Lonnel
Sherman was picked off.
Winnfield averted a shutout in the fourth quarter when
they drove 62 yards in seven plays. After moving to the Natchitoches 13-yard line, Sherman took a pitch from
Carter, raced around left end and broke three tackles in route to the Tigers only score of the night. Long
came in and converted the PAT to make the final score 26-7.
It was a game in which Natchitoches
capitalized on turnovers. For the night, Winnfield coughed the ball up once on an interception and once on a fumble. Both
led to touchdowns. Winnfield actually out-gained Natchitoches 123 to 101 rushing and 163 to 149 in total yards. First downs
were even at 7 and each team punted the ball 5 times. But, it was Natchitoches’ handling of the football and their opportunistic
defense that made the difference in the game. Natchitoches didn’t turn the ball over, and their defense gave their offense
opportunities to score. The loss dropped the Tigers to an even 1-1-1 for the season. The Tigers couldn’t afford a letdown
because they traveled to Tallulah to take on the preseason District 2-AA favorites in their opening district game.
a formidable opponent. The Trojans returned 21 lettermen from the season before and had rolled through three opponents to
open the season with three straight wins. Tallulah opened district play in week three by annihilating Caldwell 63-0. They
would have been tough to match-up against had Winnfield been at full strength, but the Tigers were hardly that. A total of
nine starters were sidelined for the Tallulah game, with seven out with injuries and two out with the flu. The only good news
the Tiger coaching staff received the week before the Tallulah game was the return of Robbie Richards to
the lineup. While sophomore Alan Carter had been more than a capable replacement for Richards
at quarterback, Richards resumed the quarterbacking duties upon his return.
A large crowd
of Winnfield fans made the long trip to Madison Parish to cheer on the Tigers. What they saw was a performance very similar
to the Natchitoches game - one characterized by good Tiger defense. But, like the Natchitoches game, several costly plays
proved to be the difference in the game.
Tallulah rolled to a 21-0 halftime lead, getting their
touchdowns by almost every possible means. Their first touchdown came as a result of a long drive, while their second came
after the Trojans blocked a Robbie Richards punt and recovered the ball on the Tiger 7-yard line. Finally,
the Trojans third touchdown of the first half came when Tallulah fullback Larry Cox raced 72 for a touchdown.
The Trojans were successful on a two-point conversion attempt to take a 21-0 lead into halftime.
unleashed a passing attack in the second half in an effort to somehow get back in the game. No points were produced in the
third quarter, but, early in the fourth quarter, Richards connected with Jerky Waters for
a 55-yard scoring toss. The two-point conversion attempt was stopped short, leaving the score 21-6. Winnfield again threatened
to score the next time they got the ball, but the Tigers shot themselves in the foot when they fumbled the ball over to Tallulah.
When the final
horn sounded, it was a case of the Tigers again posting more impressive stats than their opponent, but coming up short on
the most important statistic of them all - the score. Winnfield out-gained Tallulah 267 to 259 in total yardage, thanks primarily
to an 11 of 21 passing night, good for 193 yards. At the time, that was the second highest passing total ever amassed in a
single game at the school, trailing the 226 yards accumulated against Tioga in the 1966 game. Winnfield also out-gained Tallulah
in first downs, getting 13 to Tallulah's 11. But, it was the powerful Tallulah rushing attack that produced all of the Trojans
259 total yards, Tallulah's lack of turnovers, and the Trojan defense which fell on two Tiger fumbles that accounted for the
Trojan victory. The Trojans also blocked two Tiger punts.
At the conclusion of the 1969 season Natchitoches
and Tallulah squared off in the Class AA title game. Both teams came into that game with undefeated records and Natchitoches
walked away with the school’s first state title after beating Tallulah 27-7, an almost identical score as the Winnfield
- Natchitoches game. The Red Devils had prevailed over the Tigers by a score of 26-7.
It is not often
that a team has to face both the evantual state champion