A “Bit” of Looking Back – Malakoff Elementary “Kitten” Football Squad – (1951)



Coached by Mr. Neal Lawson
Players:  June Morrison, Sonny Humphries, Tony Womack, Bobby Rogers, Donald Jordan, Ronnie Stockman, Kenneth Andrews, Arlie D. Gaston, Kay Kirby, Kenneth Willingham, Gary Spivey, Billy Don Avant, Richard Colvin, Joyle McKinney, David Lee Melton, James Sanders, Royce Shelton, Ben Garcia, Billy Loyd White, Frederick Jenkins, Claburn Douglas, Donald Hughes, James Cope, Randall Beets, Howard Hardy, Harold Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Dudley Dixon, John McKinney, Donnie Dixon, Fred Hendrix, Howard Carter.



3 thoughts on “A “Bit” of Looking Back – Malakoff Elementary “Kitten” Football Squad – (1951)

  1. Eddie Nokes and I have been discussing this picture. His name is not listed but I believe he is there. He is the one with the helmet to the right of Mr. Lawson (as we face the picture). There are several names that I do not recognize, but most I do. Anyone growing up around Malakoff, knows that Donald Jordan, (taking the hand-off from Mr. Lawson), was a star running back on the high school team and later played for Jess Neely at Rice. He had an injury and though he graduated from Rice,did not play that much. Before his injury he was the #1 quarterback and ahead of later NFL player Frank Ryan (I think) Royce Shelton, standing in the back right with no helmet, also was a great athlete for the Malakoff High, running track and playing football. He later played at Texas A&M for Bear Bryant, but suffered a broken hand during his freshman year and ended up at Arlington which was then a junior college. He then played at Stephen F. Austin and starred in football and track. Royce and Donald’s senior year, along with another kitten pictured here, Ken Andrews and a later edition, Neil Williams were reputedly the fastest backfield in Henderson County or maybe Texas. Royce of course was a 10 flat hundred man and also ran the 440 and the hurdles. At this time, Kenneth Willingham, was a exceptional athlete and was faster than Royce, but sadly he was not a good student and later got into all kinds of trouble. Fred Jenkins was a big kid in our class (6th grade) and his dad owned the Victory theater at the time. They were from Michigan I think and the town he came from was Ithaca, so that became his nickname.
    Since I weighed about 70 lbs soaking wet when I was in the 6th grade, it was not until my soph year andI had topped the scales at 105 when I went out to play with the big boys. By the time we were seniors, the only ones left from this group that were in our class were Bo Johnson and Eddie Nokes. Kenneth Andrews, Ben Garcia and Sonny Humphries had exceeded their eligibility requirements and all others had moved or dropped out of school. Kenneth Carter, our basketball move in from Cross Roads, was coerced to play football and he, being a rough good ole country boy was tougher than nails on defense. By this time I lied about my weight and topped the scales at 125!!

    All in all, this picture is a reminder of some our great teams and athletes in Malakoff. This season (2011) Malakoff is trying to make the playoffs for a record 3rd time. Looking back, Malakoff was 2nd on numerous occasions and by today’s standards they would have made the playoffs more than 3 times.

    • Hi, Don. Thanks so much for the comment! I took the photo and names out of the yearbook for 1951, but I do know that often folks get missed in large, group photos, and I certainly know you and Eddie would know if he were in the picture.

      It is a really wonderful photo, especially of Neal Lawson!

      Hope all is well with you and yours.

  2. Well, Eddie still says he was not there due to his laughing at a girl who wet her pants. He swears Mrs. Lawson made him miss practice that day. But, pictures do not lie. He was there!!!! His memory is usually a lot better than mine and always has been, but he tries to fool everyone. By the way, Eddie played football for the Marines back in the late 50’s. He was on a Marine team that traveled around and played other military teams.
    Another interesting thing that happened when we were seniors and our football team at lost Royce and Donald and all of those good players from the 1956 team. Eddie, Bo and I were the only ones left from all of the others that would have been in our class. Kenneth Carter was drafted to play, but he had to learn a new rule every time the lined up because they only played basketball in Cross Roads. Anyhow the Athens sports reporter interviewed Coach Loggins, asking what he thought about the upcoming football season. When the answer hit the news that morning we read his answer, ” I’ll sure be glad when basketball season get here!!” Now reflecting back, after doing some coaching in high school myself, I can understand his answer, but at the time the team was furious. Hoss Cope talked us into a cute scenario that proved to get us in trouble with Coach Loggins. Hoss suggested that every time we got a chance we should “dribble” the football. So, that day as we lined up to run out for passes, we would grab the football with one hand and dribble it. Coach Loggins soon took the wind out of our sails when we had to run wind sprints for about 30 minutes. No more dribbles. That week we had our first game of the season scheduled and Mabank was a heavy favorite. We were determined to beat Mabank and prove Coach wrong. (By the way Coach Farmer also helped punish us for our indiscretions). Coach Loggins and Coach Farmer devised a plan that had Eddie at fullback and Bo Johnson at halfback. The day after the game the headlines in the Athens paper read, “NOKES NO JOKE!!” That night Eddie threw a touchdown pass to Bo and kicked about a 50 yard quick kick, along with rushing for good yardage. We won 13-12 and it was a miracle. This was the last time Eddie ever played fullback or in the backfield. I suppose Coach saw that Eddie weighing 175 running behind me a hefty 125(stretching it) was not going to get it. We finished the season 4-6 and by today’s standards we would have placed 3rd. Good enough for a playoff spot.

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