A team proclaiming itself as the best high school football team in the Texas Panhandle seems a bit cocky, but that is exactly what the Childress Chargers did.
A century later, history is still on Childress’ side.
The year was 1912 — the Titanic sank and the tradition of Childress football began.
There were no Internet message boards, no television and the University Interscholastic League — which wouldn’t become known as the UIL until a year later — would not recognize a state champion in football until 1920.
So the undefeated and unscored upon Chargers weren’t exactly bragging when they contacted a Fort Worth newspaper challenging any team in the state of Texas — they simply wanted another game to prove their mettle.
There were no takers.
The Chargers, the first recognized high school football team in Childress that went 5-0 and outscored opponents 126-0, earned the moniker “Panhandle Champions.”
In 2012, who’s going to argue with the likes of Joe Boyd (a 300-pounder) or the speedy trio of Russell Gross, Cleo Howard, and Leslie Stone — players who helped create the foundation of Childress football 100 years ago.
Things have changed in the past century — Childress dropped “Chargers” for “Bobcats” in 1925.
In 1921, when Childress won its first district title in school history, head coach Joe Parsons said: “The team averages 159 pounds. Isn’t that sweet for a high school club?”
The 2012 Bobcat roster has only eight players under 159 pounds and 11 players weighing more than 200 pounds.
There have been ups and downs the past 100 years — with the ups highlighted by the 1970s when the Bobcats were the most successful team in the state of Texas, going 113-17-3 with back-to-back appearances in the state title game in 1975 and 1976.
Charlie Johnston, the architect of those mighty 1970s Bobcat teams, piled up a record of 315-93-8 in 34 years as head coach. Johnston, who retired in 2001, still ranks among the top seven coaches in the state of Texas in career wins and has the most wins of any coach at one school.
Here’s a look at the past, present and future of Childress football:
n Kaden Keys, 6-foot, 155-pound sophomore safety/wide receiver.
Kaden will be the 11th member of the Keys family to play football for Childress and is a third generation Bobcat. Kaden’s grandfather, J.C. Keys, was the first. Kaden’s father, Mark, was a member of three district championship teams in the 1970s. There have been three all-staters among the Keys clan. Childress has a record of 207-98-1 with a Keys player on the roster.
“I guess it is a big deal (being a third generation Bobcat). My family talks about it a lot. They’ve helped me a lot. My dad tells me about when he played football.
“I’ve been going to Childress football games since I was real little and it is pretty wild. The Childress side, there is usually a lot more people than the other team has even if the game is at (an opponent’s) school.
“I know I want to at least to try to be better than the rest (of the Keys players). I don’t know what it is going to feel like when I go out there (for my first varsity game). It will feel good, I guess. I’ll be wearing No. 14 because one of my brothers wore that last year.”
n Greg Buckley, defensive end/fullback on the 1975 and 1976 Childress teams that made back-to-back appearances in the Class 2A state title game.
Greg’s brother, Ken, a senior on the 1975 team, later played at Baylor. The 1976 state title game was played at Texas Stadium. Greg, 53, is in his 16th year as Childress County Attorney. Greg is married with two children. His son, Rhett, plays eighth-grade football in Childress.
“Those teams (1975-76) were a group of incredible individuals. I remember a players-only meeting in 1975. We agreed what we were going to do. If you weren’t dedicated, it was time to leave the team. It was really incredible. It was just a group of regular old country kids giving it 110 percent. I think we are all better people for having been on those teams.
“To this day, I think we could have won both of those state championship games. For about 25 years I wanted a rematch, but I’ve finally gotten over it (laughing). Isn’t that terrible? The rest of the guys on those teams are the same way, though.
“Jackie Smith was the defensive coordinator and was Charlie’s brother-in-law. When you teamed those two up — it was absolutely fantastic.
“I see Charlie all the time even now. I’ll be out running and when I see him I pick up the pace because I don’t want him to think I’m loafing. Still, when I see Charlie, I hustle. There is still the respect and admiration after all these years. You don’t want to let him down.”
n Charles “Chicken” Mitchell, a fleet-footed running back, was a senior in 1963.
Mitchell was one of the fastest Bobcats — if not the fastest — in school history. He was the first Bobcat to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 1962 and ran a 9.5 in the 100-yard dash in 1963. Mitchell racked up nearly 4,000 yards and scored more than 300 points. Mitchell got his nickname from the cartoon character “Charlie Chicken” in the first grade. Mitchell played at Texas Tech until suffering a knee injury in 1964. Mitchell later coached and worked in the oil/gas business. Mitchell, 67, is married and retired in New Braunfels. He has two grown daughters and five grandchildren.
“My workouts at Childress were tougher than what I had in college. We got salt tablets during practice. We’d find ways to hide those salt tablets in our helmets. It was drill, drill, drill and block, tackle, block, tackle. That was football in those days — three yards and a cloud of dust. That was the way the coaches found out who wanted to play and who didn’t want to play, though.
“During two-a-days back then, you didn’t have time to wash your stuff between practices. Your uniform and your pants would start to stand up and meet you after awhile. You really smelled great (laughing).
“Playing football at Childress, you learn to be humble. Athletics teaches you that. You get knocked down so many times in life and you have to drag yourself back up. At Childress, I learned to depend on others. When I broke that line of scrimmage, I didn’t do that on my own. There was usually a hole there you could drive a truck through.”
n Charlie Johnston, Bobcat head coach from 1967-2001, is not only the best coach in Childress history, but also one of the best in state history. Johnston went 315-93-8 and made back-to-back appearances in the Class 2A state title game in 1975-76. Johnston won 43 playoff games, had 24 playoff teams in 35 seasons and was the first winner of the Texas High School Sports Hall of Fame Tom Landry Award, one of many career achievements. Amazingly, Johnston’s first team at Childress in 1967 was 0-10, but his teams in the 1970s were the best in Texas — going 113-17-3. Johnston is retired and living in Childress and has three career holes-in-one on the golf course.
“I never thought about having the best teams, things like that. When you’re 0-10 you think about a lot of things (laughing). You’re thinking about which van company you’re going to call and come move you.
“I think we turned it around because the kids were responsible. Their attitude and work ethic changed in 1968 and 1969. Those kids laid the groundwork for the others. We got pretty good on offense, defense ... it all depends on the strengths of your kids.
“There were a few times when I thought about leaving and taking a different job. It got pretty close. I have no regrets, though. None. There were some times when the stars — 5A and 4A schools — got in my eyes, but we were a 3A school, and I felt that was right. Coaching in Childress, Texas was the big time for me. That was it.
“My eyes glitter when I think about seeing my former players. That’s one of the good things about a small town, being able to see your former players go on and be successful. I’m not just talking about having a big degree, but being successful in life, raising a family and having kids that do well. I am always thankful that I was a small part in their lives.”
This is an information/graphic box on some firsts/notables in Childress history.
We need to run this credit somewhere in the graphic/box.
Credit: Information provided by The Childress Index; Ginger Wilson and the book “The Bobcats! A History of Childress High School Football,” published in 1970.
n The first officially recognized Childress football team was in 1912, and was called “Chargers.” The mascot was changed to “Bobcats” in 1925. The 1912 team went 5-0 and did not allow a point. The coach was former University of Michigan player Richard Clarkson “Tex” Meek.
Childress 54, Hollis, Okla. 0
Childress 6, Quanah 0
Childress 33, Vernon 0
Childress 12, Quanah 0
Childress 21, Amarillo High 0
n Childress had the most successful high school football program in Texas in the 1970s — going 113-17-3 and earning back-to-back trips to the Class 2A state semifinals in 1975-76.
n Nov. 19, 1999 — Childress beat Eastland, 54-14, in the area round of the playoffs. It was head coach Charlie Johnston’s 300th career win. No other coach in Texas history has 300 wins at one school. Johnston is the seventh all-time winningest coach in Texas high school football.
n John Axton, father of singer/songwriter Hoyt Axton, was an assistant coach at Childress in the early 1950s. John’s wife and Hoyt’s mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote the classic song “Heartbreak Hotel” — the first major hit for Elvis Presley.
n In 1940, the Most Valuable Bobcat award began. The first winners were Leroy Reeves and Vic Bates.
n In 1965, Childress integrated its public schools. Among the first African-Americans to play for the Bobcats were Billy Cannon, Robert Gilmore, Jerry Goodwin and Hugh Session. Ike Hughes was the first African-American to score a touchdown for Childress.
n The longest rivalry in Childress history? Quanah. The teams have played 81 times, with Childress holding a 54-25-2 record against the Indians.
n The only father and son all-state Bobcats in Childress history — the Morrens — Perry Morren Jr. and his dad, Perry Sr.
n Childress won its first district title in 1921 under quarterback Bill Coffey. Coffey went on to play for Baylor and scored the first touchdown in the University of Texas’ new Memorial Stadium in 1924.
n 1951 — Childress wins its first playoff game in school history under head coach Charles Churchill. Only two Bobcat teams (1921 and 1936) had made the playoffs before the 1951 team reached the quarterfinals.
n The first recognized Homecoming Queen at Childress is Eugenia Baird in 1928. For many years, the Homecoming Queen was presented with a decorated football helmet rather than a tiara.
n In 1944, Mrs. W.R. Huffmaster was elected the first president of the “Bobcat Mothers” organization, the group now known as the Bobcat Booster Club.
n The all-time leading rusher for Childress is Ricky Smith (3,936 yards). Smith was a cog on the 1975-76 Bobcat teams that made consecutive trips to the state finals.
n Ryan Gerber is the only Bobcat player to make the all-state team at three different positions in the same year — quarterback, cornerback and punter in 1991.
n Michael Ramirez is the only Bobcat to rush for more than 300 yards in a game — piling up 305 yards on 25 carries and five touchdowns in a 32-20 area playoff win over Sanford-Fritch on Nov. 14, 2008.
- 12/7/12 - Wellington wallops Sudan
- 12/7/12 - Follett advances to state title game
- 12/7/12 - Bulldogs take bite out of Elks
- 12/1/12 - Stratford too strong for Panhandle
- 12/1/12 - Skyrockets thump Springlake-Earth
- 12/1/12 - Booker QB Lile breaks 2 passing marks in loss
- 11/30/12 - Follett routs Matadors
- 11/24/12 - Skyrockets zoom past Bovina
- 11/24/12 - Canadian takes out No. 9 Cisco, 27-20
- 11/24/12 - Wheeler falls to Wolverines