“Records are made to be broken, but not to be taken seriously.”
That is how I start Chapter Seven (“The Records”) in my first book, ’’Jerry Byrd’s Football Country.”
The most accurate records in Louisiana high school football are probably the passing and pass receiving records, because those phases of football made great strides during the era when statistics were being kept.
Homer’s Al Doggett and Mansfield’s M.C. Reynolds were outstanding passers in the 1940s and early 1950s. But, considering the style of football their teams played and the scores of their games, it is not likely that they would rank among the all-time Top Ten in passing yardage.
The first North Louisiana football player who passed for 1,000 yards in a season was Bain Slack of Springhill, with 1,484 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1958, the second football season of my my sports writing career. The first Shreveport-Bossier City player to do it was Donnie Carroll of Fair Park, who completed 67 of 174 passes for 1,002 yards in 1959.
First Billy Laird and then Trey Prather of Woodlawn broke Carroll’s city record before John Miller of Fair Park shattered the North Louisiana record with 1,727 yards passing in 1965. He held the record for two years, before Joe Ferguson of Woodlawn broke national career records with 2,576 yards as a junior and 3,293 yards as a senior, finishing his career with 6,710 yards and 86 touchdown passes.
The problem with taking these records too seriously is that sometimes the quest for records became part of a team’s strategy, at the expense of sportsmanship and the development of younger players. John David Crow of Springhill had only 84 rushing attempts in his last season, so it is hardly fair to compare his rushing total with backs who had more than 250 attempts.
John O’Daniel of Plain Dealing Academy was the first Louisiana player to finish his career with more than 5,000 yards rushing. He had 5,173 yards rushing.
Before Evangel came along, Ferguson held the state’s top two positions in single season passing yardage with 3,293 yards and 40 touchdown passes in 1968 and 2,576 yards and 35 touchdown passes in 1967. Ferguson was later a standout at the University of Arkansas and with the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League.
No Caddo-Bossier players were among the first five Louisiana players to gain 2,000 yards rushing in one season. The Caddo-Bossier record at that time was 1,953 yards, by O’Daniel in 1980.
Many of the best players of the late 1940s and 1950s had the advantage of a fifth year of eligibility. It was a common practice at that time for outstanding football players to come back for another season of eligibility by deliberately failing their required credits in four years. State championship teams at Byrd (1949) and Fair Park (1952) were built around holdovers, as were the 1950 state runnerup Bossier High Bearkats.
Of course, the extra year improved the players’ chances for college scholarships. For example, Fair Park’s A.L. Williams didn’t play a single down until his holdover year. Williams was later a standout at Louisiana Tech, and an outstanding coach at Woodlawn.
That practice ended when the LHSAA passed an eight-semester rule in 1953.
After that, players had to be “held back” before they were in the ninth grade to receive an extra year of eligibility.
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