“Never in a million years did I think I could do that,” Parkway’s Dennis Bamburg said after his three touchdown kickoff returns provided all of the Panthers’ scores in a 21-20 upset victory over Green Oaks at Northwood Stadium on Oct. 13, 1988.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Parkway coach Alan Carter, now the head coach at Loyola.
Nobody had seen anything like it since a 1982 game in Florida, when Brent Fullwood (who later starred at Auburn) returned three kickoffs for St. Cloud touchdowns in a game against Leesburg.
For 15 years, the National High School Sports Record Book credited Roger Maris of Shanley High School in Fargo, North Dakota, with a share of the record — the same Roger Maris who later broke Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old major league home run record of 60 home runs in one season with 61 in 1961.
But when Mark McGwire broke Maris’ home run record in 1988, a reporter writing a story about Maris’ other record contacted the man who was Maris’ high school coach in Fargo and learned that Maris scored three touchdowns in that game, but all of them were not on kickoff returns.
While Maris was incorrectly listed in the record book for more than 10 years, Bamburg was not listed at all for more than 10 years. When he was finally listed, it was on the wrong page —for touchdown punt returns.
The most unique aspects of Bamburg’s performance were the significance of the game, the fact that his kickoff returns provided all three Parkway touchdowns, and the fact that Green Oaks went into the game riding a 16-game win streak in regular-season play.
Green Oaks was 6-0, and was ranked No. 4 in the state by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association. Parkway was 5-1. They were playing for first place in District 2-4A. Parkway used its victory as the springboard to the first district championship in the school’s history.
Green Oaks took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Parkway never led until the last six minutes of the game. Parkway had only 17 yards total offense against a Green Oaks defense led by All-State linebacker Roovelroe Swan, who later played at LSU. A Green Oaks offense led by All-State quarterback Thatcher Kelly rolled up 364 yards and 22 first downs.
The 17-yard total was a bit misleading. Lorenzo Lee had 39 yards rushing for Parkway, and quarterback Scott Hiers completed three of nine passes for 15 yards. But most of the Panthers’ yardage was negated by a 33-yard team loss on a high snap and eight sacks for losses adding up to 38 yards. The Panthers had four first downs, but even without the negative plays Parkway would’ve had less than 100 yards total offense for the first time in the season.
Bamburg’s three touchdown kickoff returns weren’t the only big plays in the kicking game. A high snap, recovered by Parkway freshman punter Jason Pope at the Panthers’ three yard-line, set up a gift-wrapped Green Oaks touchdown. Two roughing-the-kicker penalties kept Green Oaks touchdown drives alive. And another gave Parkway’s Kris Blaylock a second chance to kick one of his extra points.
In one night, Bamburg equaled the total number of touchdown kickoff returns against Green Oaks in the school’s 18-year history. Previous touchdown kickoff returns against the Giants were a 92-yarder by Huntington’s Cedric Jackson in 1985, a 70-yarder by Northwood’s Cedric Wilson in 1976 and a 90-yarder by Captain Shreve’s Max Ray Davenport in 1974.
Green Oaks had only four kickoffs in the game, and Bamburg returned all of them for a total of 279 yards. That performance was enough to earn him a berth on the All-State team as a kick returner.
Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org