Memory of the Day.
OGHS has had many glorious seasons since 1963, but this is the team that started it. This is my memory of how it came to be. If yours is different, post it.
Coach Woody Boyles came to OGHS about the time I was in 6th grade. Could have been 5th grade, but I remember 6th. He was focused on building. Coach Boyles started our Pee Wee football program and I was a part of that. Our coaches were HS seniors from the varsity football team. I remember one of my coaches was Dub Martin, not too sure about the others. Pretty sure that Willie Crain was one of my senior coaches when I was in Junior High. He may have been there the time I broke my arm in a touch football game. It was a pretty grotesque break about half way up my left forearm, Both bones were snapped in two and the front part was about an inch and a half above the rear half. Someone actually said, maybe it is just a bad sprain. But that is another story for another time.
Coach Boyles spent a lot of time with the younger players, developing them. He did what he could to mature us for play at the varsity level.
Unfortunately, because of the broken arm followed by a broken thumb in spring training of that same school year, I was not allowed to be a part of the football program in my freshman year. I whined and begged so much for that whole year that my parents relented and I joined the program again in tenth grade. To his credit, I am pretty sure Coach Boyles knew I would be back so he helped me arrange to have PE 6th period, during my ninth grade year, with the football team and during football season I was allowed to do PE workouts with the team I couldn’t dress out or do football things, but I could run, lift weights, and skip rope down the hill by Kermit Kermit Rex Morris‘ house and then back up again. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be included even though I was not officially on the team.
The next two years were pretty dismal. I played on the B Team and dressed for the games on Friday night, but rode the bench until my junior year. That was ok. I enjoyed our football field trips to watch NLSC football on the occasional Saturday night and getting to watch the OGHS legend Ronny Myrick play quarterback for NLSC. I did get into some games in my junior year and even played in enough quarters to letter that year.
Then the magic began. On August 15, 1963 I began my senior year football practice. It was hot and sticky as you would expect in Louisiana. We did two-a-days until school started in September. We would report early for practice in the “cool of the day” then most of us would change clothes and head out to a farm somewhere to work in the cotton fields or the sweet potato fields. Most of us had spent June and July hauling hay and harvesting oats. That first week of summer training I got my letter jacked along with a warning from the coach. He told us that wearing that jacket was a privilege, not a right. He also told us that the jacket belonged to OGHS and that if we did anything to disgrace it, he would take it back. That talk gave my jacket a special feeling. As hot as it was in August in Louisiana, I wore that jacket home. I still have it and still wear it. I have tried to never disgrace it.
That year, 1963, the Oak Grove Tigers won all but two of our regular season games. We lost to Vidalia in a game we should have won and it left an awful taste in our mouths. Vidalia was a Class B school and we were Class A so that loss didn’t hurt our chances for being eligible for the state playoffs, but it was still a sting. Our second loss came at the hands of our hated arch-rival, the Lake Providence Panthers. Little did I know at the time that the guy playing center for LP would become a great friend and serve as a groomsman in my wedding. I just knew we hated Lake Providence. That game was the last of the season and we had already secured a place in the playoffs, but the winner of this game would be our district champs. Sadly, Lake Providence beat us. That, also, is another story for another time.
We went to the playoffs. Our first game was on November 22, 1963. You might remember that date for another significant event. We were on our way to Mansfield for the first round of the playoffs and on the way there, our sheriff’s department escort pulled us over and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. We went on to win that game and then the next game against Basile. We played Amite in our Tiger stadium in the state semi-finals. That would be our final loss of a great year. I actually remember more about that game than any other except for the Lake Providence game. Again, maybe another story.