The highlight of the first football season in my sports writing career was covering a 6-6 tie between Bossier High and Homer at Bossier High’s Memorial Stadium on September 27, 1957.
That was my introduction to the Homer “Iron Men.”
In some games, only 17 players dressed out. Late in the season, the number grew to 20 as an August dropout rejoined the team on the condition that he sit out three games for missing two-a-days.
Twelve players on that Homer team, coached by Glenn Gossett, received college scholarships — four to LSU, one each to Tulane and Texas A&M, the others to smaller schools.
Their “dream season” ended with a 19-7 loss at Morgan City in the Class 2A state championship game. That was the only time any team scored three touchdowns against the “Iron Men.”
“I couldn’t possibly be prouder of that team,” Gossett said after the 6-6 tie with Bossier High. “They want to play ball, every one of them, and even though they were exhausted they didn’t quit for a second out on the field.”
With an enrollment of only 97 boys in 1957, Homer qualified for Class B, the state’s smallest football classification at that time. Buyt a proud tradition dating back to the oil boom days of the 1920s made such a drop unthinkable.
Because he didn’t have enough players for an intra-squad scrimmage, Gossett felt the team needed a pre-season scrimmage and asked principal Hugh Whatley to arrange for a bus to take the Pelicans to Cotton Valley. “Let me give you some advice,” Whatley told him. “Don’t go to Cotton Valley. You’re going to get some people hurt, and you’ll have even more problems.”
When Gossett insisted on making the trip, Whatley reluctantly provided the bus – and resisted the temptation to say “I told you so” when center and linebacker Ray Weaver suffered a dislocated knee. There were a couple of other injuries in the scri9mmage, but Weaver would miss the first two games of the season.
In the season opener with triple-A Ouachita, the already crippled Pelicans received another severe setback. Sammy Camp, who was expected to be Homer’s top running back, was sidelined in the first half by a shoulder separation.
Camp didn’t play in the Bossier High game. Daryl Ackley, a 127-pounder, took his place. Homer had only one first down and 32 yards total offense in the first half of the game, but their defense held the Bearkats to 83 yards and neither team threatened to score.
Nathan Allen, a second-string guard for Bossier, gave the Bearkats the game’s first break in the third quarter when he blocked a punt by Homer’s Bobby Flurry. The ball rolled out of bounds at Homer’s 14 yard-line. But the Bearkats couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Johnny Mercer and Charlie Stevens picked up eight yards in three plays, but quarterback Freddy Shewmake’s fourth down fumble ended the scoring threat.
Three plays later, Homer faced fourth-and-one at its 17 yard-line. Gossett boldly called for a quarterback sneak, and Flurry gained three yards. On the next play, Homer halfback Ray Wilkins turned the left corner, broke into the open at midfield and won a foot race with Bossier’s Johnny Mercer to the goal line to give the Pelicans a 6-0 lead. But the extra point attempt was smothered after a bad center snap.
Bossier High responded with its only drive of the night, marching 63 yards in a dozen plays. A holding penalty against Homer at the Pelicans’ 12 yard-line set up the tying touchdown — a one-yard plunge by Mercer.
John Wayne Odom, a 260-pound Homer tackle, stood Mercer up at the goal line. A picture in a local newspaper the following day showed Odom’s feet on the goal line on that play. The caption under the picture was “Did he score?”
The official verdict was “Yes.”
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