1962: The Greatest Year Ever

By B.B. Branton

The year 1962 is sometimes called the “Greatest Year Ever” for high school football in the Chattanooga area. Unlike any year before or since, four local teams – Brainerd, Chattanooga Central, Howard and Rossville – went undefeated, all achieving regional and/or state titles. None of the teams played each other. What follows are the stories, photos, and stats from these four great teams.

Brainerd Rebels
11-0-0  |  No. 3 in state AP Poll  | Clinic Bowl Champions   

Aug. 31   Marion Co., 20-0
Sept. 7   East Ridge, 27-6
Sept. 14   Lakeview, 14-0
Sept. 21   Off Week
Sept. 28   Tyner, 26-13
Oct. 5   @Red Bank, 28-7
Oct. 12   @Meigs Co., 33-7
Oct. 19   Copper Basin, 37-6
Oct. 26   City, 53-0
Nov. 3   Sequatchie Co., 51-13
Nov. 10   @Greeneville, 37-0
Nov. 22   Madison, 13-7*  
*Clinic Bowl in Nashville

Brainerd was the new kid on the block in 1962, but the Rebels swiftly claimed their rightful place next to traditional powers Chattanooga Central, Rossville and Howard, in that unmatched and unforgettable high school football season.

A strong showing in 1961 (9-0-1) carried over into the first game of 1962 as the Rebels opened with a shutout of Marion County, 20-0. From here the Rebs of head coach Ray Coleman blazed through their ’62 schedule. Led by four all-city players and three who earned all-state honors, Brainerd opened and closed the season with shutout wins, and ultimately defeated Nashville city champion Madison in the Clinic Bowl. Only two teams – Red Bank and Sequatchie County – scored more than one touchdown against the Rebels. In the entire season, the defense posted four shutouts and allowed only 10 touchdowns in 11 games while the boys on offense averaged 30 points a game.

“The core of our team had been together since winning the city championship at Brainerd Junior High, so to go undefeated for two years in high school with only one tie was quite a legacy for the seniors at a new school,” says all-city end and team captain DeWayne McCamish.

The senior-laden Rebels were led by the state’s top scorer Gary Tucker, quarterback E.G. Cline, and tackle Jim Clark, all of whom earned all-state honors.

“We were a well-disciplined team and made few mistakes,” says McCamish. “Everyone knew his role and stayed solid on offense and defense.”

 

Chattanooga Central Pounders
11-0-0   |   AP, UPI State Champs   |   Meninak Bowl Champions

Aug. 31   @Johnson City, 14-0
Sept. 7   @Decatur, 21-13
Sept. 14   Clarksville, 27-0
Sept. 21   Dobyns-Bennett, 38-7
Sept. 28   @Elizabethton, 19-0
Oct. 5   Bradley County, 25-2
Oct. 12   East Ridge, 35-0
Oct. 19   @Red Bank, 21-0
Oct. 26   @McMinn Co., 34-6
Nov. 3   Open Date
Nov. 10   Knox Central, 14-9
Dec. 7   *Robert E. Lee, 28-12
 * Meninak Bowl, Jacksonville, Fla.

Fifty years ago the Purple Pounders, with key players Terry Parks (HB) and Dick Phillips (LB), gave coach E.B. “Red” Etter and Chattanooga Central the only perfect season (11-0-0) in school history.

At the time, the TSSAA did not have  state playoffs, so the Associated Press and United Press International polls decided champions. In 1962, Central was crowned state champs by both polls. On top of this, the Purple and Gold capped the perfect season with a convincing 28-12 Meninak Bowl victory against Robert E. Lee in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Coach Etter was so meticulous in teaching us our plays on offense and defense and he spent hours watching film to study the tendencies of our opponents,” says Central quarterback Harry Phillips.

Central opened the season with a 14-0 road win against Johnson City and their quarterback Steve Spurrier, who would go on to play college ball at Florida and win the 1966 Heisman Trophy. Central shut out Spurrier and company for three straight years and the future Gator was 0 for 15 in passing with two interceptions in the ’62 contest.

Known for facing some of the best teams in the state and across the South, the ’62 Pounders beat five teams who played in bowl games: Johnson City, Clarksville, Red Bank, Bradley County and Robert E. Lee.

“We didn’t have one or two superstars on the team, but we did have several very talented players along with great coaches who molded us into an excellent football team,” says all-city halfback Terry Parks.

Overall, Central posted five shutouts and only Decatur and Robert E. Lee scored more than 10 points against the ’62 team.

 

Howard Hustlin’ Tigers
9-0-1   |   State Champions   |   Pioneer Bowl Champions

Sept. 8   @Alcoa Hall, 6-0
Sept. 14   @Clarksville, 45-13
Sept. 21   Off Week
Sept. 28   Council (Al.), 39-6
Oct. 5   Anniston Cobb (Al.), 12-0
Oct. 12   @Nashville Pearl, 18-13
Oct. 19   Stephens-Lee (NC), 20-20 (tie)
Oct. 26   Off Week
Nov. 3   @Austin, 39-13
Nov. 10   Memphis Melrose, 24-13
Nov. 16   Booker T. Washington, 35-0
Nov. 23   * Memphis’ Father Bertrand, 33-12
 *Pioneer Bowl (at Howard)

For the Hustlin’ Tigers, led by Coach George “Chubby” James, an undefeated season in 1962 was just another trophy to put in their expanding trophy case. With Reuben Turner calling the signals at quarterback, a running game led by halfback Major Bowles and fullback Clevon Thompson, William “Little Bill” Davis at center, and a defense anchored by 300-pound tackle Melvin “Big Daddy” Smith, Howard posted one more in the long line of unbeaten football seasons.

Howard opened its legendary season with four straight wins before a 20-20 tie with Stephens-Lee (Asheville, N.C.).  The Hustlin’ Tigers rebounded to win the final four games in convincing style and were tabbed state champions after a 33-12 Pioneer Bowl win against Memphis’ Father Bertrand.

“We never thought about losing,” says Turner. “Howard had such a great winning tradition while we were growing up that once we were on the varsity we didn’t dare lose. It was all about that attitude of winning.”

The final four wins started with a 39-13 triumph against Knoxville Austin with
receiver Forrest Green scoring three times and end Billy Moton running 90 yards to pay dirt with a recovered fumble.

“Forrest made me a star as all I had to do was throw the ball long and he would go catch it,” says Turner with a laugh.

The championship was their third straight undisputed state title under Chubby James and it extended their win streak to 23 straight and their unbeaten streak to 40-0-3. James had succeeded Red Gaston (who was 174-58-6
over 25 years, 1934-58) as head coach in 1959. A team
coached by James had yet
to taste defeat in those four years.

“We had good talent and great coaches and that was the key to us win-
ning,” says Thompson, who
played at Knoxville College.

 

Rossville Bulldogs
13-0-0    |   Georgia AA State Champions

Aug. 31   @West Rome, 31-6
Sept. 7   LaFayette, 21-0
Sept. 14   Cedartown, 7-6
Sept. 21   @City High, 21-0
Sept. 28   @Ringgold, 34-0
Oct. 5   Dalton, 26-6
Oct. 12   @West Fannin, 38-0
Oct. 19   @East Rome, 21-0
Oct. 26   McCallie, 14-7
Nov. 3   Northwest Whitfield, 39-0
Nov. 10   Off Week
Nov. 17   @Cedartown, 21-19  * 
Nov. 23   @Elbert Co., 21-0  **
Nov. 30   North Clayton, 28-6  ***
 * Region 3-AA Championship
** North Ga. Sectional Championship
*** AA State Championship at Rossville

The Rossville Bulldogs were a force in Georgia high school football throughout the 1960s. But the legendary year of that decade was 1962 – the State Championship year of the ‘60s, Rossville’s third state championship in nine years.

“The 1962 team was unique as we had a perfect season and won three games in the playoffs to claim the state championship,” says halfback/kicker Doug Flury who was two-time all-state and honorable mention All-American.

Head coach Frank Fabris produced a rock-solid defense, posting six shutouts and allowing 25 points in 10 regular season games. His offense averaged 25 points a game, leading the 13-0 Rossville Bulldogs to their third state championship since 1954. Overall, the boys in blue outscored their opponents 331-50 with a veteran backfield consisting of Flury, quarterback Paul Painter, halfback Doug Wallin, and fullback Nelson Bowers.

“Cedartown and McCallie were our toughest opponents,” says Bowers who later played at Georgia. “We had to drive 94 yards in the fourth quarter to beat McCallie at home. And we had to beat a strong Cedartown team – twice.”

In their November 16 state semifinal game against Cedartown, Bowers, Flury and end Doug Jones scored for the visiting Bulldogs and withstood a spectacular offensive show by Cedartown junior all-state quarterback Bucky Ayers. Cedartown drove to the Rossville 5-yard-line late in the fourth quarter, but time ran out and Cedartown lost to Rossville for the second time that season, 21-19.

On November 30, Rossville played North Clayton in the state championship game at Rossville. Running backs Flury (121) and Eddie Wallin (119, 2 TDs) combined for 240 rushing yards. Painter and Bowers also scored as Rossville completed its first perfect season in school history, winning 28-6 and claiming its third state title in nine years (1954-55-62).