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Byrd football teams left a tough act to follow in school’s first 12 years

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Shreveport’s Byrd High School won six state football championships in the first 12 years of the school’s existence, and lost another on first downs in a scoreless tie with Jesuit of New Orleans.

Byrd was named for Clifton Ellis Byrd, the first superintendent of Caddo Parish Schools. Only one of the school’s first 12 football teams lost more than one game. Two of them had perfect records, and another won the state championship with nine wins and two ties.

Byrd’s most impressive team in those days didn’t qualify for the state playoffs. In 1929, the Yellow Jackets scored 216 points and allowed only nine points in an eight-game season. But those nine points gave Haynesville a 9-7 victory over the Shreveport school, knocking the Yellow Jackets out of the playoffs.

Bucky Bryan led Byrd to state titles in 1930 and 1931, running for three touchdowns and setting up another in the Yellow Jackets’ 32-20 win over Jennings for the 1030 title. He later became one of Tulane’s all-time greats. Dan Sandifer shared the state scoring lead with Byrd teammate Foster White in 1943 and later was a standout for the LSU Tigers and Washington Redskins of the National Football League. But after the 1937 Byrd team won the state championship, the school’s only trip to the state finals in the next 11 years would be a runnerup finish by the 1943 team.

I was a freshman at Byrd when the Yellow Jackets won their seventh state title in 1949, and I was a senior at Fair Park when the Indians won their only state championship in 1952. In between, I was a sophomore at Bossier High when the Bearkats dropped a 7-6 decision to Baker in the 1950 Class A state championship game. But I had nothing to do with any of those accomplishments, because I never dressed out for a Friday night football game.

Jack Rowan was Byrd’s head football coach in 1949. Loy Camp coached the 1950 Bossier Bearkats, and F.H. Prendergast was the Fair Park coach in 1952.

In a pep rally before the 1949 championship game, Byrd principal Grover Koffman said a New Orleans sports writer had written that the Russians would invade Cloutierville the day that Byrd beat Holy Cross.

When the Byrd starters were introduced at that pep rally, All-State end Dickie Murray said, “They may be bigger than us, but we’re just as dirty as they are!”

The Yellow Jackets rolled past Holy Cross 34-13 in the championship game . The backfield of that team consisted of quarterback Edgar Galloway, halfbacks Willard Rachal and Bennett Johnston, and fullback Dan Barr. Johnston later represented this area in the United States Senate.

My family then moved to Bossier City, and I attended Bossier High as a sophomore in 1950-51. The 1950 Bearkat football team, coached by Loy Camp, reached the Class A state finals before falling to Baker, 7-6. The highlight of that season was a 37-27 victory over Byrd, the defending Class 2A state champion. The Bossier High student body followed the band in a parade across the Red River bridge and down Texas Street in downtown Shreveport on the morning after that Thursday night game.

Halfbacks Tony Montalbano and Don Millen were the offensive standouts on that Bearkat team, which beat Mansfield 54-7, Jonesboro-Hodge 32-7 and Morgan City 48-21 in playoff games before the loss to Baker. Montalbano led the team in scoring with 159 points, followed by Millen with 154.

That team’s best performance was a 39-13 victory over Fair Park, the defending Class 2A state champions. That Fair Park team, led by Gene Hedges, Rogers Hampton and Tommy Davis, went on to the Class 2A finals before falling to Istrouma (Baton Rouge), 20-13. Two years later, after we moved again and I transferred to Fair Park, Davis and A.L. Williams led the Indians to their only state football championship while I was making my sports writing debut as the sports editor of the school newspaper, The Pow Wow, with a column titled “Smoke Signals.”

 

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 jbsportswriter@comcast.net