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I happened to be at the right schools at the right time 4 years in a row

When I was attending high school at three local schools between 1949 and 1952, the football team at each school reached the state finals in one of the top two classes all four years, and won two state championships.

In Class 2A, which was the top class at that time, Byrd won the 1949 championship with a 34-13 victory over Holy Cross (New Orleans) and Fair Park won the 1952 title with a 20-0 victory over St. Aloysius (New Orleans).

In Class A, Bossier High reached the 1950 finals, but fell to Baker, 7-6.

I had nothing to do with any of those accomplishments, because I never dressed out for a Friday night football game at any of the three schools. I participated in spring practice at Byrd in 1950 and played on the “B” team at Bossier a year later, but that was the extent of my high school football career.

Byrd’s 1949 team had three outstanding running backs in halfback Willard Rachal, fullback Dan Barr and halfback Bennett Johnston, who was later a United States Senator. The 1950 Bossier Bearkats had halfbacks Tony Montalbano and Don Millen, and fullback James Oliver. The 1951 Fair Park Indians were led by All-State halfback Rogers Hampton and fullback Tommy Davis.

None of the three teams threw many passes. The passing attacks at local schools didn’t amount to much until Joe Ferguson’s junior season at Woodlawn in 1968.

From 1993 to 2001, Evangel won seven state championships in nine years, starting in Class A and winding up in Class 5A.

Haughton won its only state title in 1977, when a team coached by Bobby Ray McHalffey wrapped up a 13-1 season with a 21-0 victory over Vandebilt Catholic at Houma. That Buc team included All-Staters David Pope at offensive guard, David Grappe at defensive end and Bobby Strogen at linebacker.

Airline won its only state football championship in 1967, when a team coached by Jack Gray scored a 20-7 upset victory over Holy Cross (New Orleans). That was (and still is) the first state title in 18 years for any Bossier City school, and the first ever in the state’s top classification.

Eric Kilpatrick returned the opening kickoff of that game 80 yards for a quick touchdown, and Airline went on to double Holy Cross in rushing yardage (121 yards to 59). Defensively, the Vikings intercepted three passes by Holy Cross quarterback Bobby Wattigney and stopped the Tigers twice on fourth down situations.

Kenny Hrapmann was the state triple-A scoring champion in 1967, and he scored the Tigers’ only touchdown on a 16-yard run. But he gained only 35 yards on his other 13 attempts.

Larry Jones, unable to straighten up because of ligament injuries in his back, had 79 yards in 16 carries for Airline, while Kilpatrick gained 56 yards in 13 attempts. Johnny Piazza passed for 79 yards for the Vikings, with most of that yardage coming on back-to-back passes to Kilpatrick and sophomore Ken Chaffin in the second quarter.

“It was a dream come true,” Gray said after the title game. “Desire made the difference. All of the teams in the playoffs had as much talent as we had. Our kids just wanted it more.”

The Airline defensive unit that was quicker than all of the Vikings’ playoff opponents included ends Ken Patterson and Kirk Matthews, tackles Robert Lowe and Lee Reece, guard Rod Coleman, linebackers Barry Morgan and James “Chubby” Knight, cornerbacks Scott Stewart and Cary Santoro and deep backs Mike Timms and Ken Chaffin.


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


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