Friday, August 28, 2020

#16 It’s Late in The Game


It’s Late in The Game. 40 years have come and gone. You might say that we’re in the 4th quarter of our lives. Who knows how many broken bones and shattered Dreams lie ahead. Who knows how many Championships? Who knows how many touchdowns? How many amazing tackles? How many blocks lie ahead? How many ties and overtime’s we will face? One thing we know for sure is that we were Blessed to exist in a Special Community during a Special Time. This can never be replicated or recreated. Only recalled. We can only reminisce about our Glory Days.

Around 10 years ago, David Barrack and his Family took David’s Father, Irving Barrack to New York City where Irv grew-up to attend a Yankees Game. They asked Irv “Who was a Baseball Star the last time that you watched the Yankees play in-person?” “Joe DiMaggio” was his answer.

“Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?”   One of the all time great music lyrics. Ladies and Gentlemen, this sums it all up for All of Our Story: “Where have you gone 1980 Magical Football Season?” 

It’s been an honor to share my perspective with all of my Old Friends. I’ve greatly appreciated your encouragement, patience and kind words as you have read online and replied. 

Now take time to blast Simon and Grafunkel and ask the Question: “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?” “Where have you gone 1980 Magical Football Season?”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

#15 The Defense Continued

The Defense Continued. 1980 Team Picture. What a good-looking group of young men we were back-in-the-day. I miss you All. I wish I could write about every single person in this photo. I wish I could write about all my other great friends like Scott Rouse. The Rouse Chronicles are for another day. Every person in this photo contributed to the 1980 State Championship. An amazing, talented group. It’s time to wrap this Series up. I’m going to do only one more Post after this one and the last one will be short and sweet. When I started this Post Series my goal was to recognize the Coaches and the Seniors. That’s been my primary focus. From my point-of-view, I still need to closeout covering the Defense, Speciality Kicking Team and bring us to a final summation. Before I move forward though, please join me in a Moment-of-Silence to pay our respect and honor the four members of the 1980 Team who departed before us: Matt Quick (Trainer). Players: Cliff Russel, Jimmy Campbell and Charles Roach. RIP Brothers.

Back to those three Corner Backs. I already mentioned Bruce Foster and his family legacy of Football fanatics from Woodland. Two additional Corners were #7 Randall Cook, our man with a million-dollar smile. Always outgoing. A tremendous QB himself who could run a Heck of an option. Randall had a nose for the ball on defense and was really tough to beat on a pass pattern. I once tried to get Randall to sell Amway for me. He was to be the first person to join my multi-million dollar Soap Selling Machine. He was nice enough to hear me out, but would not sign on the dotted line. Only Kari Schlafke’s Mom bought one box of soap. I failed at Amway. I was forced to go to College. And #35 Gary Quincy, our Great Outdoorsman—Spear-fisherman extraordinaire—better Trapper than Jeremiah Johnson and extremely versatile Football player. Gary could snag Pop-passes out of thin air when playing Tight End. As Corner, he was on the right side, always behind Skid and could stop a running attack on a dime. Gary could run like a Deer and that speed served him well running Track. Our Outside Linebackers were #86 Richard “Dick” Anthony and #23 Brad Miller. #53 Mike “Rocky” Blair could play Outside or Middle. Coach Brewster is the one who affectionally called Blair “Rocky” after the famous Pittsburg Stealer star, "Rocky" Bleier. #53 our Rocky Blair was a really solid Linebacker. Even though I was an Offensive Lineman, I trained with the Linebackers much of the time as a backup Linebacker. I really enjoyed pre-game warmup exercises with Mike. We passed a ball between us practicing interceptions before each game. #86 Richard “Dick” Anthony was Mr. Consistency. We all loved to call Richard “Dick.” Boys will be Boys and we said “Dick” with great vocal variation. We said immature things to Richard like “What’s up, Dick?” with amused pleasure. Richard was a good sport and never flinched. If I said “Dick” today, every member on the 1980 Team would know who I was referring to, our beloved, Dick. #23 Brad Miller was not just another pretty face. Brad was known for his good looks and his modeling jobs in Knoxville. His crowning achievement of good looks was winning the Dukes of Hazard Look-a-Like Contest and driving away with a big orange replica of the General Lee. What a lot of people might not know about Brad is that he was really strong and a Brown Belt in Judo. I learned this the hard way in Varsity Practice on the 1978 Team. We were Sophomores. During a two-a-day practice, Brad and I got into a little scuffle during a Linebacker drill. Coach Brewster loved it when we heated up and would allow us to go at it as if we were hockey players. Brad used a tricky Judo move on me and body slammed me to the ground. We were great, respectful friends from that day on. To this day, Steve Fitchpatrick reminds me of the day Brad got the best of me. Darn it! I didn’t know he knew Judo.

Special Teams Kickers: The two Senior Speciality Team Kickers were Jeff Lewellyn and Mike Henderson (Hendoo). “Hendoo” can’t just be read. You have to hear someone like Mark Berry say it to fully appreciate the beauty of the “Hendoo” sound. Jeff did a great job kicking Field Goals. Mike was a Punter and another great guy from Woodland. We were lucky to have Jeff and Mike as two of our Kickers. In 1978, when we were all Sophomores our Kicking Game outlook was dismal based on our JV performance.

One of the funniest stories is when John Carroll was attempting a Field Goal in a JV game. John stepped up and kicked the ball with his long leg and it shanked off to the far left like a wounded duck. His Cleat came off his foot and went straight through the uprights for three points! Our bench found this hilarious and it was the highest point of achievement for our JV Squad in 1978. We made the Bad News Bears look good. John Carrol never lived this down. We all learned to love John. Larry Rivas and I hated John Carrol and Steve Fitchpatrick when we first meet them.

While still in 9th Grade, they got invited to one of Kathy Hurley’s infamous house-parties. Man, those were fun. Larry and I didn’t appreciate Carroll and Fitchpatrick encroaching on our Jefferson Girls. How did these two Robertsville Boys get over to our side of town in the first place? I think Laura Marshall invited them. Larry and I found them obnoxious. Steve could dance like John Travolta and John. Well, a man who needs no introduction. John went crazy over my girlfriend, Carolyn Lovelace. I didn’t like that at all. Larry and I did a pretty good job of defending the Jefferson Turf. Eventually, the Robertsville Boys wised-up and started hosting parties on their side of town. The Zulliger’s hosted fantastic parties and that’s how Bill, #47 and one of the Captain’s of the 1980 Team stole Marsha from Jefferson. In the end, we all became close friends. It was indeed a rocky beginning.

Now I’m going to start an argument. What Team was the All-time ORHS best? Was it 1958, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1991? If I brought this sensitive topic up at Big Ed’s Pizza it could possibly end in a friendly way or it might not. If I brought this up after Midnight at a local Watering-Hole, it would start a bar fight. This is a very serious and sensitive topic in Oak Ridge and should never be discussed when Wildcat Fans are intoxicated.

I think the only way to definitively answer this question is to turn it over to the Cray’s Super Computer at ORNL. A group of Computer Scientist could develop an algorithm and feed it to the computer. I imagine though ORNL is working on more important scientific discoveries.

So we’re left with anecdotal speculation. Sure, I’ve heard the 1958 argument. We won by a much wider point margin—“We were the National Champs”, the Grumpy Old Dudes say—blah, blah, blah. Move over Old—Old School Guys. This logic is outdated. I’ve heard it argued that the 1979 Team played a tougher regular season lineup and had to travel to more out-of-town playoff games and that the travel was long distances. In comparison the 1980 Team played an easier regular season lineup and had more Home Field advantage playoff games. Those are interesting, subjective points, but don’t win and they sound a wee-bit like whining. I’ll argue that the 1980 Team went up against four players that eventually played in the NFL. Austin-East sent 3 Stars to University of Tennessee and all 3 made it to the NFL: Joey Clinckscales was one of them. Don’t feel sorry for him, he eventually made a lot of money. Reggie and Raleigh McKenzie, the twin behemoths were the other two from Austin-East. We also went up against an incredible Running Back from Warren County, Jeff Womack. Womack played for Memphis Tigers and made it all the way to the Minnesota Vikings. Every argument is flawed. That’s why it’s easy to end up in a bar fight or food fight if you’re at Big Ed’s.

For me, the best team ever was 1979-1980. I argue this is only One Team. One Team that won 22 consecutive games and 2 State Championships and was ranked number 3 in the Nation in 1980. The 1980 Opponents were much stronger and faster than the 1950 Opponents and therefore point-spread is a neutralized argument. Ha! The Coaching Staff was exactly the same in ’79 and ‘80. Many of the players were exactly the same. The Seniors on the 1979 Team were like Big Brothers to the 1980 Boys. The 1980 Team were like Little Brothers to the 1979 Seniors. Everything I have written about the 1980 Team applies directly to the 1979 Team. I could write the same admiration about the ’79 Seniors like Jim Kolopus, Jimmy Norman, Donald Sumner, Larry Hamrick, Chuck Mathews, Johnny Burgress, Keith Palmer to name only a few. Please note, if this starts an argument, I will not reply and rebut online. If you live in Oak Ridge, you will not be able to assault me without driving 2,549.4 miles to the Pacific Northwest. It’s not worth the cost of a plane ticket to track me down. I’ll deny everything. It’s only High School Football, so Chill-out.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

#14 All of Our Story


All of Our Story. Welcome back Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for being good sports by allowing me to runoff to a little fantasy, fiction and darkness in that last Post. I really wish I could hear Voices speaking to me from beyond. When you can do that, you can charge good money for it and call yourself a Psychic. I ran-off to fantasy because reality was too difficult. I was frightened by unexpected grief. As a small boy I learned to protect myself with my imagination. This is an entirely different Story. The Story that I’m telling right now is All of Our Story. If this was a real book, All of Our Story might be the best title. What triggered my grief? What trigged my grief was Larry’s obit that my Mom had cut out of the Oak Ridger and sent to me in Seattle 19 years ago. Larry died about two weeks after our 20 year Reunion. At that time I had a 7 month old baby girl, mortgage, car payments and a stressful job. I didn’t have time, nor know how to grieve. I stashed that clipping unread in my ’81 Oak Log and only discovered it again last week, 19 years later. My grief had been perfectly preserved in a hermetically sealed time-capsule, patiently waiting for me to return. Grief is really patient and unescapable. I don’t hear Voices and I don’t see Ghost and I imagine few of you do either, but some of you may. I think we all get touched by glimpses of intuition. A gut feeling. Something raw, gnawing at our heart. It’s not cerebral. We can’t figure it out by thinking about it. There’s no Killer App for grief. Maybe a good therapist can help you. For me, only being still works. Being in solitude. Walking in woods or on a beach. Sitting. In Prayer and or Meditation messages come clear. What was really clear to me last week was that I’m missing something and or somebody in Our Story. My gut told me at least part of what’s missing is related directly to Emory. This was very clear to me. That’s why I said “Emory is upset. He won’t be silent.” My intuition was telling me that I had left or missed a critical piece of the puzzle that belonged to our Fearless Leader. Also, a person. Someone left out was speaking to me through my subconsciousness. That someone was saying something like this: “You left me out. You always leave me out. Don’t forget about me. You’re leaving me, just like you did before. This is Our Story. All of Our Story and I too was there.”

Last week I heeded a “Call-to-the-Wild.” That’s where I go when I need clarity. I’m drawn to the Wild of Olympic National Park. It’s primitive landscape of Snow covered Glacier Mountains, Old Growth Rain Forest, rushing white Rivers and the mighty Northern Pacific Ocean. This is a place which Speaks to me. 

On day two of my trip last week, I went into a small town called Forks, WA (setting for Twilight). While having breakfast at a diner, I was flipping though my Oak Log and stumbled across Larry’s obit. I read it for the first time. I felt a minor grief burp while reading Larry’s obit, but I kept my stoic composure in front of the waitress. It didn’t hit me until I was driving down the twisting road that leads to the Ocean. I’ve been dealing with a lot of death lately. My Dad in May. My sister, LeAnn in July, and seeing Larry’s picture and reading what I had hidden away for almost 20 years unlocked a swell of repressed grief. I’m not going to do a deep-dive into Larry and all the others that we have lost. I’m not going to list all the friends that we have lost. I fear I will leave someone off our list. I know that the hard-working volunteers that Host our Reunions do an amazing job of creating a special place of tribute to those we have lost. I’m going to keep telling Happy and Funny Stories. I do need to digress and tell a funny Larry Rivas story because it’s important to my Story and how I made the leap from Woodland Pothead to starting Left Tackle. Larry and I smoked pot pretty much everyday. One of our favorite times to burn a joint was on our way to school. We had perfected how to smoke just the right amount of pot in the morning. We wanted to be high, but not too high. We had been experimenting with this ritual since seventh grade. One day, in tenth grade, Larry and I were walking from Woodland to High School. We had just finished a “Goldilocks” joint—it was just the right size and were functionally-high. Out of nowhere, Bruce Pernell came flying up in his car and came to a skidding stop. He rolled down his window and yelled, “Get in!” We were more terrified of Bruce than Coach Brewster. Larry and I didn’t know if we should run for safety inside McDonalds or scream out for help. Bruce commanded again, “Get in the car, now!” We obeyed. Bruce peeled-off out of the parking lot. It was about .15 minutes before first bell. Bruce proceeded to light a gigantic joint. At this point, I knew this was going to be really bad. I was going to be really stoned and really late to class. Bruce made us. I mean made us smoke that entire joint that was rolled like a thick cigar. Knowing Bruce, he may have even made us eat the roach. I don’t remember. I do remember that he sped us like a madman up and down Providence while we watched from his car windows the last students hurry into the building. Bruce didn’t have a care in the world. He finally released his Hostages. Like Beavis and Butt-Head, totally Baked, we scurried to our first class. It was Mrs. Swartzendruber’s English class. Larry and I were both in it. We sheepishly opened the door. The class was already reading from a Literature book. Mrs Swartzendruber gave us a stern look over her reading glasses. We took our seats. I opened my book and could barely see the words. They blurred and letters seem to move like tiny ants. It was a round-robin reading exercise. I sat anxiously waiting as my turn to read was quickly approaching. Eventually it was my turn. I barely got through it. The girl sitting next to me was Valerie. She leaned over after I finished reading and whispered, “If I didn’t know better, I would think you’re stoned off you’re ass.” I felt as if I had dodged a bullet when my reading turn was over. Larry couldn’t do it. He was too Cooked to read. He stumbled through the passages and eventually Mrs Swartzendruber let him off the hook. The bell rang. I dashed for the door and Swartzendruber blocked my path. She let Larry leave. Alone, in her Classroom, she looked me over. I thought for sure she was going to say, “You’re busted! Come with me young man.” She didn’t. She said something like, “You might make it.” She gave me one more of her stern looks and shooed me into the Hallway. Nothing else needed to be said. 

This all relates directly to my Football experience. I knew I could not keep smoking pot and cigarettes and play football. I was puking everyday running Banks. I had to choose. I chose Football. To this day, I carry Survival Guilt around Larry. Larry felt that I left him. I know now I didn’t leave Larry. I left the life that Larry and I was living. Even back then, as a fifteen-year-old Stoner from Woodland, I knew I wanted something more from life and being a Wildcat was my path out. I have much thanks to give specifically to Emory and many, many great Oak Ridge Families that supported me. I’m the Poster-Child for it takes a Village. Our Village Story is All of Our Story. 

This Story is All of Our Story as it relates directly to the 1980 State Championship. Almost the exact same Story could be told about the 1979 State Championship by only changing the names of the Seniors. Kevin Hurt was special though. Kevin unexpectedly popped into my head.

Let’s now ask a fair question: “If Kevin was here with us today, what would Kevin do or say if he really thought Big E was upset?” Here’s my speculation: Kevin, being the consummate leader that he was, would speak with Big E and calm him down. Kevin would convince Emory that this is not his Story and that the 1980 Championship was not really his Win, but All of Ours. The entire Oak Ridge Community: Every single member of this humongous Team—Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores, Trainers, Coaches, Special Assistant Coaches, Volunteers, Dr. Tittle, Cheerleaders, Flag Girls, Majorettes, Band, Entire Student Body, Teachers, Families and especially all of those diehard Wildcat fans throughout our very Special Oak Ridge Community. This Story is not just about the starting Seniors who got to live a Dream. It’s All of our Story. For all us boys who got to live a Dream in 1980, there were those boys watching from that gigantic hill, under the Autumn Moon with a tinge of hurt. These boys were super athletes as well. Boys of broken bones and shattered dreams: Joe Carey, Jim Easton, Steve Fitchpatrick. These are three that come to mind. Joe Carey was an outstanding Defensive Nose Tackle. Coach Brewster loved Joe. Joe was destined to be All-State. Jim Easton, the same. Brewster loved Jim. Jim had incredible speed and strength. I think both Joe and Jim had knee injuries that prematurely ended their Football. Steve was a tremendous Tight End as well. He had terrific hands. Steve shared this with me about his experience: “I remember Dr Tittle setting my dislocated shoulder on the field for the third time and the shame I felt because I thought it was my fault for not being able to play out the Dream we all had. I remember distinctly standing up on the hill with tears streaming down my face the night the Team I grew up with won a State Championship and I was no longer a part of it.” There are many aspects to Our Collective Story. All those Players who got to play and didn’t get to play. It’s all of Our Story and we all participated in it and we’re all celebrating the 40th anniversary.

Now back to Kevin. If I could, I would try to tap into Kevin’s wisdom. I would say, “Kevin. Something is missing in this Story around Emory. Kevin might tell me this: "Attention must be made to such a person!” And I would reply, “What? What in the world are you talking about, Kevin?”

"Attention must be made to such a person!" He would say. “John, listen to me, you understand this line from Death of a Salesman. Attention must be made to such a person!” Eureka. I would reply, “Yes! That’s it, Kevin. Thank you! Now I understand why Emory will not remain silent. He’s due. He’s overdue full-respect. He’s not asking for shameless, self-promotion. This great Coach is way too humble and proud. Emory Hale has yet to be rightfully recognized for his personal achievements while leading The Wildcats.” Kevin would probably nod in agreement. Only Kevin could help us hear this. That’s the kind of Leader that he was. Kevin would then give us that smile, that beautiful smile of Kevin’s that I will never forget. Kevin would then fade away like an elusive Wildcat silently stalking through Old Growth Forest.

It’s time Ladies and Gentlemen: Attention Must Be paid to Emory Hale. It’s time for his Bronze Statue at Blankenship. Armstrong got the Stadium name with 4 State Championships. Attention Must Be paid! It’s time to commission an artist to create an Emory Hale Statue. On this historic 40 year anniversary of the 1980 State Championship. Attention Must be Paid. Dear Honorable Randy McNally, Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, Attention Must Be Paid to Emory Hale. The Time is Now! Dear Booster’s Club, Attention Must Be Paid to the Man who brought our Community 3 State Championships: 1975, 1979 and 1980. In 12 years, Emory Hale delivered an impressive overall record as Head Coach: 114 wins and 21 loses. His last 6 years in Oak Ridge he won 86 games and lost only 9. Attention Must Be Paid to the man who coached Steve Spurrier at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, TN. Attention Must Be Paid to the Man who positively influenced so, so many boys and girls in Oak Ridge and helped many boys receive Football Scholarships. It’s time to start raising money to memorialize Emory Hale as one of the Greatest ORHS Coaches of our generation. Attention Must Be Paid. This is All of Our Story!

Friday, August 21, 2020


INTERMISSION. Hello Everyone, it’s now time for our Intermission. I hope that you have enjoyed the show of Our Story of 1980 so far. Before we break, I have an announcement. Being proud and stubborn as myself, I have not yet been able to calm Emory down. He’s still ranting as if we're trying to perfect a special play. Very interesting though, a Ghost appeared while I was hiking this morning in Old Growth Forest. It was hard to discern the voice in the mist. It came like an elusive Wildcat. I do believe it was our very own Kevin Hurt. It could have been Larry Rivas or John Reece. Old friends who have visited me over the years with important warnings I needed to hear. As for Kevin, many people don’t know that he belonged to us, the Class of 1981. Even though he graduated in 1980, he was one of us. An off-the-charts intelligent and intense boy who hailed from Emory Vally. A prodigy of Woodland Football. Kevin spent his early life playing side-by-side our Woodland brethren like Scott Monger. He was so smart, he skipped fifth grade. That’s right Folks. Kevin went from forth to sixth at Woodland. That’s why he was a year ahead of us graduating. Yet, he was ours. He belongs in Spirit to 1979 and 1980 Teams. As for John and Larry. John was one of my first best-friends in early childhood. He grew up on the same cul-de-sac as Scott Monger. Larry was my best-friend at Jefferson. Oddly, a few years ago, I glimpsed John Mother’s Patty and Larry’s Mother, Pearly on the same day at Panera Bread within one hour. When visiting OR, I often start and end my day at Panera for free wifi and unlimited coffee and tea refills. When I saw each of them that little Voice told me not to get up and go over. In hindsight, I should have, but I didn’t. 

As we go into our break, a couple of housekeeping announcements. Refreshments are in the hallway and you’ll find the restrooms down the stairs and to your right. When you see the lights flicker on and off, please return to your seats for the second half of our show. Also, if you haven’t noticed already, there’s a Program that was on your seat. In the back of the Program you’ll find a poem that I wrote in honor of Larry and John after seeing their Mothers. We have lost so many great friends and family members along Our Journey. Now I must go and find out exactly who this Ghost is and what he or she is trying to tell us.

Mother's of Dead Sons

On the same day, within the same hour, I passed two Mother's of Dead Sons.

At first glance we recognized each other.

Maybe, maybe not; we chose not.

What was there to say?

My life was still unfolding, her son was gone.

We both knew it was too painful to see her son's life in my eyes.

"Hey!  It's me--see me--please see me--see your dead son in my eyes..."

I moved on

On this day, within this hour, there was nothing to say to Mother's of Dead Sons.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

#13 The Defense Continued


The Defense Continued. No one took more pride in being a Wildcat than Bruce Foster. It was sacred. The Foster Family took Football serious. It was a Family Enterprise. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Foster was the Vince Lombardy of Woodland Football. He helped mold great players like Scott Monger, Mark Berry, and Bruce Foster. #24 Bruce Foster played Corner Back. Besides Bruce, the Corner Backs were #7 Randall Cook and #35 Gary Quincy. Tremendous talent amongst this trio. These three were always ready for Game Day.

Game Day was Holy Ground. It was serious business. The entire Teaching Staff, love Football or hate it, had to align with Football’s nuances. Football Players had privilege on Fridays. We got dismissed from school early so we could go home and rest. And we did. There was no screwing around. I would go home, go to my bedroom and close the door. We had ritual. An anxious tension was the connecting thread of our ritual. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were intense practices. Thursday was film day where we studied our enemy. Friday day morning you woke up with butterflies. You felt queasy throughout the day. You saw your fellow players in the hallway and in the classroom. Nothing was said. Only a nod or a look. An energy followed between us as if we young men would die or live one more Friday night. We feared losing more than we desired winning. Emory sat the tone for this religious experience. Please don’t misinterpret this. This atmosphere had nothing to do with Faith or a single religion. To outsiders, I’m sure at times parts of our ritual looked like Religion. If this zeal had been about Religion, Emory’s Quest would have been legally crushed. It was about the sacredness, the seriousness of winning and the spirituality of winning. When you saw Emory in the Hallway on Fridays his step was different. Winning was in his every movement—something in his body movement said, “I’m ready-bring it on!” All day on Friday, the Big E’s energy was about winning. I never saw this, but I remember players saying that Emory would sometimes vomit from anxiousness in the locker room at Blankenship before a big Home Game kickoff. I believe it. Writing this makes me feel like I might have an Ulcer. Religious experiences can occur in many types of environments. When you break all Sports down to their raw infancy, Games are about life and death. The winner lives. The loser dies. That’s why fans are fanatical. The symbolism of Sports is deep in our instinct to survive, to overcome, to go to battle, to be victorious. In the history of ORHS Football, no one pushed this fanatic fervor further than Emory Hale. I personally love this about Big E. A man of intense conviction. He pushed the boundaries of conventionality. He was a Wild Man. This photo is from his office. Don Bordinger, a man of great conventionality is looking at Emory with apprehensive discernment. Big E taunted the establishment. Bordinger, Dr. Smallridge, the other members of the School Board could not tame his Wildness. Big E is a Rebel. We Wild Boys were willing to charge a hill under enemy fire and risk our lives for our Rebel Leader. This is what True Leadership looks like. Emory achieved this by being one of us. He was a Wild Boy, just like us Wild Boys. We were living Lord of The Flies. He often would pick up a piece of gum from the ground that a player spit out before inserting their mouth piece and chew it himself. Boys love repulsive, immature adult behavior. E was the Master of this. He would pick a scab and eat it. To fire-up his Troops he once ate an Earthworm. At Campbell County, after a Smoky Mountain soaker, he led the entire Team with a belly-dive into a shallow pond of water that covered the field. We all dove in right behind him. It was fantastic fun! Emory wore a Samurai Headband and refused to shave. All these are the traits of a great Wild Man. Now go back to the ’81 Oak Log and look at Bordinger’s 1950’s establishment hair. I presume that this man tried like Hades to get Emory to be just a little more conventional. Emory wouldn’t budge. Why should he. He was winning and that’s what the Oak Ridge Community at-large demanded him to do.

Emory had strategically outmaneuver the OR establishment. He had built a Tribe of Wild Boys willing to do battle for him. He had the allies of his strong coaches and most importantly he had won the battle of the heart of our Mothers. Folks, that was the little something extra that made this a religious experience.

Make no mistake, we were Momma’s Boys. We belonged to our Mother’s. We weren’t grown men. This was Emory’s Genius. His Elixir. He had a gift for uniquely connecting with our Mother’s. He did not try to take us away from them to use us to meet his self-absorbed agenda. He embraced us in Love and our Mother’s knew that he loved us like he loved his own girls, Karen and Angie. Our Mother’s reciprocated this love. Our Mother’s understood, Emory would never harm us physically or psychology. There’s no better example of this than Emory’s relationship with David Barrack’s Mom, Hilda Barrack, our Jewish Mother. The fiery, redhead from Brooklyn, NY. It was a love affair all of its own. Two-peas-in-a-pod. Wild Man meets Wild Woman. Like Emory, Hilda Barrack was hilarious and they truly enjoyed giving each other a hard time. Hilda and Irving Barrack were tough New Yorkers. They raised five Boys in Oak Ridge. David was the baby and Irv Barrack often reminded me of this. Irv was always skeptical of me. It wasn’t until I was nearly thirty-years-old did Irv say, “You might just make something of yourself.” A might was as far of approval I ever got from the tough guy from the Bronx.

If Graning’s Genius was complex Offensive schemes. Emory’s Genius was winning over our Mothers. He didn’t have to win over our Father’s. Most Father’s want their sons to be tough Football Stars. Father’s are not overly concerned if a boy gets bruised, stitched-up and have a few minor bones broken along the way. Mother’s on the other hand prefer their sons to skip being initiated into Manhood though physical and mental torture and go straight to being Surgeons, Lawyers, Rabbis, Priest, Pastors, Professors, and Concert Pianist.  

Emory totally understood the psychology of Mothers and Players.  

This unique relationship between Hilda, Jewish Mother and Emory, Baptist Football Coach is indicative of the trust Emory earned from all of our Mother’s.

Hilda helps us prove two points. One, this religious experience was not about a single Faith. Emory never proselytized to David. Contrary, Emory loved the fact that one Evening David and Hilda hosted what could have been the one and only Fellowship-of-Jewish Athletes gathering in the Barrack home in Emory Valley. I’m not clear which Players made this historic gathering, but I’m pretty sure Monger and Zulliger were two. They all wore Yamikas, a traditional Jewish head covering and had a really fun time. Emory talked about this historical event often. He loved it. Our religious experience was non-denominational. David Barrack will tell you that he never felt left out being the only Jewish kid on our 1980 Team.

Second point is that I could reference many other Mother-Emory relationship stories. Mine being one of them. My Mom loved Emory, too. Rest-in-Peace, fabulous Oak Ridge Mothers that we have lost. We miss you All.

My sincere apology Readers. I had no intention of writing so much on Emory. You might say he highjacked our Story or took us Hostage. It’s a pleasant surprise to a Writer when a dominant character emerges and won’t shut up. Basically, Emory is jumping out from the page and yelling once again, “Coach Brewster! Coach Graning! This is My Story. This was my in Win in1980 and you haven’t figured my complexity out just yet. You must hear more! I have much to say!” Once I get Emory calmed down, I’ll come back to our fantastic Corner Backs and Linebackers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

#12 The Defense Continued


The Defense Continued. Skid’s scores and Spratling Sticks Clinkscales. Clinkscales. I tremble when I hear this name. It’s venomous. It’s a name worthy of a Star Trek episode: “Captain Kirk, prepare the bridge, a Clinkscales has been detected.” Emory said this name over and over before our first playoff game with Austin-East. “Clinkscales does this. Clinkscales does that,” Emory would say. Emory just wouldn’t shut up about this guy. I would have Clinkscales’ nightmares and see a Half-Snake, Half-Man covered in riveted sheet metal scales of body armor. An Opponent of mythic proportions and Public Enemy Number One of our first 1980 playoff game.

Dwight “Skid” Skidmore, #76. One of the five Captains of the 1980 Team would score 6 against Clinkscales. Skid was born Tracker-Pull strong. Sometimes he would just take the football away from Running Backs like an adult taking a toy from a child. Other times, Running Backs would slam into him, stumble backwards and loose yardage. This is pretty much what happened when Skid scored his TD. An Austin-East Running Back ran into Skid, the ball jarred loose and landed right in Skid’s hands. The ball had been deep in Austin-East territory and Skid didn’t have far to run for a TD. The only thing between him and the goal line was Clinkscales. Now Clinkscales played QB and Strong Safety, so he knew how to tackle. Yet what he saw running toward him was unlike anything he had seen carrying a ball before.  Big #76 was charging straight for Clinkscales carrying the football as if it were a chicken. Clinkscales was used to seeing backs like Monger making moves and doing fancy footwork. Skid wasn’t trying to evade Clinkscales at all.  He was charging Clinkscales, laughing like a suicidal madman. Clinkscales squatted and prepared to lay an open-field tackle on Skid. When they made contact, Skid pulverized him. Skid ran flat over Clinkscales, entered the end zone and raised the ball victoriously. Our bench erupted.  We knew we had just witnessed something special.  Our big Defensive Tackle scored 6 points.  And that’s the night folks that Skid scored a TD. Nothing and I mean nothing was going to stop Skid from scoring his one and only TD.  That was the greatest score of 1980. You can’t think of the 1980 State Champions and not think of #76 Dwight Skidmore. One of the five Captains of the Team.

Now Clinkscales had a crappy night. Later in the game, Clinkscales broke loose on an outside option.  It looked like for sure he would score. Then #27, Larry Spratling came across field, managed to somehow get directly in front of Clinkscales and jackknifed him to a dead stop.  Larry picked him up and body slammed him. Again, we went nuts on the sideline. That was the best Stick of 1980. Larry was a tremendous Safety and excellent all around talented athlete who also played Varsity Basketball. 

We went on to score 54 points. I think we had a total of 7 Touchdowns. We wore Clinky out. The greatest complement I received that Football Season is when Clinkscales said to me, “You again!” I was in his face like a horsefly from Skid’s Farm all night downfield blocking. Each time Clinkscales tried to reach one of our Running Backs, he had to deal with me pestering him. I never got a clean shot to lay him out, but he knew my number by the end of the best game we ever played.

The Things We Wore. We wore jock-straps and helmets.  And chin straps. We wore mouth pieces and knee pads. We wore shin guards and arm pads and hand pads. We wore shoulder pads. We wore tailbone pads and hip pads. We wore thigh pads. We wore special pants for all those special pads. We wore Practice Jerseys and Green Team Jerseys.  We wore Home Game Jerseys and Away Game Jerseys. We wore special game day socks. We wore taped ankles. We wore lucky undershirts.  Post-season, many of us proudly wore Letter Jackets with two State Championship Patches.

All the things we wore were pretty easy to figure out how to put on right. Take a jock-strap for instance. I never saw a guy standing in a locker room befuddled by how to put on a jock-strap. They’re very straightforward. You see the pouch and quickly figure it goes in front. It’s got a waist band that fits just like underwear and you slip your legs through the two elastic leg holes. I’ve never seen a guy put a jock-strap on backwards. Thigh pads however are a totally different story. They have a pointed flare. There’s special sockets inside your pants for thigh pads to be inserted. There’s one that flares out to the right flank and one that flares to the left flank. If you put them in the wrong side, they form pinchers right at crotch level. If a new guy puts them in backwards and I guy like Larry Spratling hits them hard enough, that pinch point at crotch level could very well pinch a Tally-wacker. Picture is of Larry #27 and his good friend, David Hall. Defense Continued in the next Post. Still to come Outside Linebackers and Corner Backs.

Monday, August 17, 2020

#11 The Defense Conitnued

The Defense. Again a special Alchemy mixed. The Boys from Jefferson and the Boys from Robertsville perfectly coalesced. On Defense, The Boys from Jefferson were: Dwight “Skid” Skidmore, Larry Spratling, Richard “Dick” Anthony, Bruce Foster, David Barrack and Scott Monger.

On Defense, The Boys from Robertsville were Brad Miller, Mike “Rocky” Blair, Richard “Mal” Malinauskas, Gary Quincy, Randall Cook, Bobby Forde and Bill Zulliger.

As we pivot to Defense, let’s pivot back in time. The end of Summer. We could hear their laughter. Sun-rays shimmered off a rippled surface. We could smell Mom’s wash-like Clorox, whitening our Game-day socks. The Pool as if an Oasis rested across Providence, just out of our reach. A mirage to young men dying of thirst, craving cold water and girls in bikinis. Our thirst was unquenchable for both. Older Boys, wise Veterans, scolded us for drinking too fast, too much. We Greenies, had to learn the hard way. Within minutes, we vomited warm water. Your mouth looked and felt like a rabid dog.

You may ask yourself why. Why would we? Why did they endure this day-after-day. Year-after-year. Why? Because all of us as little boys had stood on that gigantic hill at Blankenship Field on a cool Autumn night, under Friday Night Lights and watched Wildcats, who looked like a Giant Army go down those concrete steps to the Gridiron. When the procession of Players started down the steps, we boys froze instantly and then rushed, nudged to find a tiny space to slap those Giant shoulder pads. The cleats clamored. The slaps harmonized. We all felt Victorious. That is the reason why. The thrill of Victory. To be part of. To be part of something that is bigger than life. We little boys yearned, dreamed and many of us knew deep in our guts, that if we worked hard enough, if we endured Winter Agilities, Summer Two-a-Days, and after school practices that extend into the dark, we too would feel the Victory of wearing that Game Jersey. We too would wear those polished white cleats. We too would feel the slap on shoulder pads. We too would win!

#52 Steve Burtnett didn’t attend Jefferson or Robertsville. Steve came from out-of-state and fit like a glove. It was as if he had been one of us all along—a boy from Woodland, Emory Valley or Linden. We never saw Steve as an outsider. A natural leader. Steve became one of our five Captains of the 1980 Team. As I spoke to already, Steve was an excellent pass rusher and extremely hard to block. You can see in this picture the long fingers that would often poke me in an eye. And he wasn’t trying to poke me. As I said, we went at it. We were swirling, twisting doing hand-to-hand combat just like Coach Brewster had taught us to. No wonder we didn’t get injured every practice. I can’t pickup a bag of leaves today without getting injured. Unfortunately, Steve did get injured early in our Regular Season. Yet, he didn’t give up. He engaged and he leaned-in and he led from the sidelines never with a hint of ever feeling sorry for himself. He helped keep our sidelines fired-up. Every Cat was In-the-Game. It was a dynamic experience. Not a single Player was passive. Sophomore, Junior, Senior, if you were on the sidelines you were In-the-Game. And if you drifted even for a few minutes, a Leader like #52 would pull you back into the game. Even though Steve didn’t get to play his full Senior year, he still earned a scholarship to Austin-Peay and had the pleasure of spending four more years with our fantastic Coaching Staff, Monger and Stokes.

Steve left big shoes to fill. Big Richard “Mal” Malinauskas stepped up. Even though Mal was on Defense, Coach Graning loved him as much as Coach Brewster did. Graning affectionally called Mal, “George Kennedy”, for his resemblance to the movie star. So I had to now get good at blocking a big guy that would plow straight over me or power through the gap between me and Bart Brinkman. In hindsight, this was fantastic for the different types of Opponents I would face in live Games. Burtnett, helped me learn how to block fast pass rushers and Mal helped learn how to block powerful big men. Mal was also really smart like Mark Berry and was a member of the National Honor Society.

In the next Post, we’ll carry-on with the Defense and you’ll hear how Skid once scored a touchdown.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

#10 The Offense Continued


The Offense Continued. The Receivers. The Guards. The Running Backs. Their Jersey numbers stay with me as my old friends. Whenever I go into a Men’s Locker Room each every number reminds me of our Players. I see locker #31 with a lock on it and say “Oh Barrack’s taken. I see #21 and say “Monger’s taken, too.  Then I see #7 and say, “Cook” is available. As I opened this series of Post, I said it was Love that made this 1980 Team special. You might call it a collective Bromance. It was indeed an extraordinary, camaraderie, a spirit of friendship as good as it gets. This type of bond was achieved by us boys having endured rigorous, demanding, strenuous practices for months on end. In Winter, inside, we ran the stairwell until we puked. In Spring, Summer and Fall, outside, we ran “The Banks”—the steep hill that leads down to Ben Martin practice field until we puked. We practiced in blistery heat, rain and much of the time in the dark. We once even practiced at Skid’s Farm. There was an East Tennessee late Spring snow on the ground. Emory wanted our pads on so we could go full-speed and hit hard. The Call was made to head to Skid’s Farm. We all showed up and helped Skid move a Vintage Single Prop Tail-dragger, an airplane that landed by dragging its tail. Underneath the Airplane Hanger was raw dirt. We stacked bails of hay to form sidelines. That’s the happiest I ever saw Coach Brewster. A farm boy himself from Lenoir City—he was besides himself to conduct defensive drills on dirt surrounded by bails of hay. That was a strange day. Of course, Skid loved it. It was huge fun for him. He got to host all us boys at his favorite place in the world, The Skidmore Farm. Here’s a direct quote from #31, David Barrack: “I can tell you at West Point we NEVER had practices as hard as our time at OR.”

The Receivers: #84 Mark Berry ran like a Gazelle. It was beautiful to watch. He ran fast with grace and ease. There wasn’t any sign of effort or struggle in his long stride.  Doug Martin would loft perfect, spiraling balls and Berry would glide right under them. Mark once launched our entire sideline into complete mania when he dunked the football over the crossbar after scoring a touchdown against arch rival Farragut. Like Monger, a super talented athlete from Woodland. Smart too and just a fun, nice guy to be around. Mark also excelled at Baseball and was one of our few athletes to play two Varsity Sports. Mark went onto Tennessee Tech on a scholarship. When Berry wasn’t catching touchdown passes, #13 David Hall was. David a speedster was one of the fastest guys on the team. He was also the Place Kicker. I don’t remember David ever missing an extra point. He could have very well been our highest scoring player in 1980. He knocked out over 42 consecutive extra points with ease. A perfect Gentlemen. This World desperately needs more men like David Hall. We all wish you Godspeed in your health recovery, Brother. Other Senior Receivers were John Shannon and Jeff “Butters” Rich. #87 John Shannon recently shared with me that the dedication and discipline that was instilled in him while playing as a Wildcat has helped him through his entire life. Butters sent our entire sideline into euphoria when he scored a TD against Campbell County. Gary Quincy played some Tight End, too.

The Guards. #54 Mark Stokes had two powerful Guards to his left and right. # 63 Ron Jackson (Jax) on the right and #60 Bart Brinkman on the left. Chick Graning’s Offense called for pulling Guards and Brinkman and Jackson cleared a lot of holes Pulling. Like I said before, us Tackles have a special respect for each other. The same respect occurs with the down lineman who plays ball next to you. You are as if one man at times. We speak of the Right Side or the Strong Side of the line and we speak of the Left Side or sometimes called the Weak Side of the line. Bart and I made up the Left side. The Offensive Tackle and Guard relationship must be strong. As far as I can tell, Bart was one of the all-time best Guards at ORHS. He started as a Junior in 1980. He went on to earn a scholarship to the University of Richmond. The Brinkman family has a rich legacy when it comes to Oak Ridge football. Bart’s Father, Skippy played on the 1958 State and National Championship Team. On the Right side of the line, was James Schaffer and Ron Jackson (Jax). Ron, a very talented songwriter and musician was a sturdy Guard. Once Coach Graning devised a secret weapon against Farragut called the “Mouse Trap.” It was created to Trap Block a formidable Defensive Tackle for the Admirals named Barry Mauser. Mauser was probably one of the best Defensive Tackles we ever faced. Now I’ve said Doug Martin never got sacked and I’ve said he rarely got sacked. Mark Twain once said “Never Let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Right now, I’m going to stick with “Rarely.” As I do recall, Barry Mauser actually did sack Doug once in the big Farragut game. Mauser is probably a very nice Gentlemen today, but we hated him back in-the-day. He was a loud, trash talker on the Field. So Coach Graning, being the Genius that he is, came up with the “Mouse Trap”. A play designed to shut Mauser’s trashy Mouse Talk. I have no idea how it actually worked. As I understand Graning’s complex Splits, he somehow tricked Mauser to commit to a hole by Splitting Ron Jackson out a bit, and then clobbered him by Pulling the Mighty Bart Brinkman over to the Strong Side. I think The Mouse Trap also called for the Full Back, Zulliger or Barrack or maybe even both to pound Mauser into Mince Meat with second and third blows. 

The Running Backs. The 1980 Team had Senior depth.  Besides, Monger, Barrack and Zulliger, we had #22 Harvey McKay and #33 Houston (Hoss) Singletary. Harvey kept our Team pumped-up. He was really inspirational and most definitely the most popular guy on the Team.  Everyone loved Harvey. He was great on Special Teams. Likewise, #33 Houston (Hoss) Singletary was fantastic on Special Teams and just a super nice guy. Mac Cook, another two Varsity sports guy, played Full-Back and Baseball. 

That’s all of the Boys on Offensive. Next we move to the Boys on Defense. The picture is of #76 Dwight Skidmore (Skid). One for the five Captains of the 1980 Team.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

#9 The Offense Continued


The Offense Continued. “Rock”, #73 James Shaffer. Not “The Rock.” James was Rock. On the right side of the Offensive Line, James stood as solid as a concrete pillar. In full uniform with helmet on he appeared to be an enormous Rock. So Rock stuck. And Rock couldn’t be easily budged. Rock was second generation Offensive Tackle. His older brother David is a 1969 ORHS grad who went on to play for UT 1971 to 1973. In a ’69 State Championship Track Meet, David Schaffer threw the discus a ORHS record, 168 feet, ½ inch. This record still stands in 2020. James greatly respected his older brother’s athletic achievements and proved himself as a Wildcat Warrior. Offensive Tackles respect each other. James and I have been friends since our first Woodland Days. During the 1980 Season, Shaffer did daily practice-battle against #76, Defensive Tackle, Dight Skidmore (Skid). Lets digress to a funny story that Skid is very fond of telling. As I mentioned earlier, every practice was like a real game. Coach Brewster’s Defense vs Coach Graning’s Offense. Every single play was under Emory’s microscope of perfection. If the Defense screwed-up, Coach Hale would scream:”Coach Brewster!” If the Offense screwed-up, Coach Hale would scream: ”Coach Graning!” The stakes and tension were always high. Doug Martin never got sacked in games or practice. One practice day however, Skid and Shaffer devised a devious trick. They corroborated in a trick against Doug. Skid convinced Shaffer that the next time a right side “Option Play” was called, Shaffer would tip Skid off and allow him to go after Doug unblocked. That’s exactly how it all went down. The play was called, James gave the signal, and Skid hit Doug with everything he had. Coach Hale went ballistic. Coach Graning, went ballistic and broke his legendary clipboard over Shaffer’s helmet. He probably had to stand on tiptoes to reach the top of Rock. This story can’t be done justice without hearing Skid snicker (He, He, He) after he tells how hard he hit Doug. And that was the day that Coach Graning broke his clipboard.

Stay tuned for more of the Offense Boys.

#8 The Offense Continued


The Offense Continued. In the Center of the line sat a virtually unmovable anchor, #54, Mark Stokes. Captain of the Team, a Consummate Leader. Stokes was darn-near technically perfect as Center. In every game, Chick Graning had a sophisticated algorithm for grading each Player’s performance. These scores would be posted outside the Coaches Office on Monday when we showed up for practice after school.  It was like a report card. No one had as consistently high scores as Stokes. He always scored in the high 90’s. You never saw him lose his cool. I don’t remember any bad snaps. I don’t recall a single blitz up the middle where Doug Martin was instantly sacked. It just didn’t happen on Stoke’s watch. Like Monger, Mark was awarded a scholarship to Austin-Peay and continued on with the phenomenal Coaching Staff for another four years, too.  This is a good time to cover our highly-acclaimed, QB, #14, Doug Martin. Doug was technically perfect as well. Another Captain, always poised and in control. Never rattled. He stood tall in the pocket and picked Defenses apart with surgical accuracy. He wasn’t a scrambler. He would drop straight back or fade slightly left or right and throw beautiful passes that seemed to reach his receivers with magnetic ease. Smart, too and a hard worker. He had to be to master Graning’s Offensive Playbook. Nothing can be taken away from Doug. He’s a man who needs no introduction, his Football acumen speaks for itself. He received a full-ride to play QB at the University of Kentucky. He’s had an impressive College Coaching Career and is currently the Head Coach at New Mexico State. Congrats, Doug.  Really, he was rarely if ever sacked. The Offensive Line, took great pride in this.  Protecting our Star QB was our Sacred-Duty.  Now, let me do my own, shameless self-promotion. As mentioned, Doug didn’t have outstanding speed or Fran Tarkenton scramble-ability. He was a strong right handed stoic passer. This means his left blindside was highly vulnerable. My Sacred Calling was to protect Doug’s back as he rolled right and looked down field for our speedsters, Mark Barry or David Hall.  Sorry James Shaffer, our Right Offensive Tackle. The following is straight from a trusted source, the Internet: “The left tackle (LT) is usually the team's best pass blocker. Of the two tackles, the left tackles will often have better footwork and agility than the right tackle in order to counteract the pass rush of defensive ends.”

So there you have it!  I had to protect Doug from Defensive Ends. Me failing to do this was one of Emory’s great fears. No way Emory could win a State Championship without Doug Martin. If #14 got clobbered from a Defensive End at full-speed from the left side of the line, our winning season could be over. I wasn't strong or fast either. I did get really good at blocking Defensive Ends, Linebackers and Tackles. I got good by doing daily combat with Steve Burtnett, another Captain.  Every daily practice was a battle between Coach Brewster’s Defense and Coach Graning’s Offense. My personal battle was with Steve. We were all expected to go full-speed every practice play.  If Steve didn’t attack me with everything he had, he would face the wraith of Coach Brewster. If I let Steve get to Doug Martin, I would face the wraith of not only Chick Graning, but Emory as well.  And Coach Graning would face the wraith of Emory, too. The daily stakes were high.  Steve was really hard to block. He was tall with the leverage of a long-handled shovel. He was fast on the outside and could windmill around instantly, turn on a dime and beat you on the inside, if you weren’t glued to him. He had really long fingers that often poked me in an eye.  We went at it. We stared each other down with an evil eye.  We liked each other, but this was War.  Thanks to Steve’s fierce competitiveness, I got great at undetectable holding. I also developed my own unique chop-block that I used when being beaten on the outside.  Basically I did whatever I could get away with. My favorite block was downfield on right side of the line running plays. When Monger, Zulliger, Barrack or one of our other Running Backs broke into the Secondary, my real speciality was chasing down Safety’s and laying them flat out in the open field seconds before our Running Backs came zooming by.  Man, that was fun!  Enough about me. In the next Post, I’ll start with “Rock”, #73 James Shaffer.

Friday, August 14, 2020

#7 The Offense


The Offense. A special Alchemy mixed. The Boys from Jefferson and the Boys from Robertsville perfectly coalesced.  On Offense, The Boys from Jefferson were: Scott Monger, David Barrack, Doug Martin, Mark Stokes, Mark Barry, James Shaffer, Bart Brinkman and myself.  We eight already possessed an appetite for undefeated seasons. 42 years ago, in 1978 while at Jefferson we had an undefeated season. Ah 1978, Staying Alive-Staying Alive.  Click here for a 70’s Flashback before reading further

Out of the eight Boys from Jefferson, five of us hailed from Woodland.  Woodland was a Boys Club Powerhouse and had many great coaches.  Bruce Foster’s Dad was the Vince Lombardi of them all.   On Offense, The Boys from Robertsville were Bill Zulliger, David Hall, Ron Jackson, Gary Quincy, Harvey Mckay and Houston (Hoss) Singletary.

I’m going to speak to all of the Defensive Seniors as well, but will focus on the Offense first.   Let’s start with Woodland’s Allstar, Scott Monger, #21. Scott didn’t look for holes—he made them.  He possessed an uncanny ability to lower his head and turn himself into a human torpedo.  Once he cleared the line of scrimmage he would rise up and zigzag down the open field with unbelievable vision.  It was as if he had eyes on the side of his helmet.  These traits are what made Scott a lethal tailback.   More than once, I was the victim of a direct hit from Scott’s lowered head.  If I was out in front of him blocking and in his Torpedo Path, his helmet would lodge right into my back.  I learned not to take it personally, but did it ever hurt.  Trying to argue who was the overall best football player on the 1980 Team is a futile attempt at best.  If the list got generated, Scott would be at the top.  He was a star Running Back and played Strong Safety as well.  Scott was awarded a scholarship to Austin-Peay and continued on with the phenomenal Coaching Staff for another four years.

The Dynamic Duo: #31, David Barrack and #47, Bill Zulliger  These two formed their own Nuclear Reactor. If anyone ever looked the part of a High School Football star, it was Barrack and Zullliger  Strong, fast, smart.  They were formidable blockers as well as a  running threat.  You can’t mention #31 Barrack without thinking of #47 Zulliger.  Coach Brewster and Coach Graning fought over them and they both won.  They became something of a revolving door, flipping from Offense to Defense.  You might find both of them Playing inside Linebacker in an Oklahoma 5-2 Defense.  Either could play Middle Linebacker (“Mike”).  Coach Brewster loved Barrack as Nose Guard, too  It must have made Opponents heads spin when they tried to study Barrack and Zulliger on film.  Watching them rotate was more confusing than trying to figure out Coach Graning’s Offensive Splits. These two guys were truly All-American Boys and Army snagged them as inseparable twins. They both went on to West Point.  Very impressive.

The Offense will continue in Post #8.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

# 6 Assistant Coach


Assistant Coach.  Barry Saunders.  Longest standing Coach in ORHS history.  Saunders proved to be resilient and worked with six Head Coaches.  He had the peak experience of Coaching in four State Championship Games, which resulted in 3 State Championship Titles: 1979, 1980, and 1991.  Saunders received the East Tennessee CAREacter Star Assistant Head Coach of the Year Award in 2019.  Coach Saunders had a gift for working with Kickers.  He is highly respected In Oak Ridge and he too showed much love for his Players.  

This picture shows Saunders making some very important coaching point about Kicking and me once again deep in a daydream.  You can see clearly that we are at Blakenship Field and that means we were preparing for a big Playoff Game.  I’m wearing a Practice Jersey.  

Now that all of the Coaches have been covered, this is a good transition point to the Senior Players of 1980.  One of the unique characteristics of the 1980 Team is that there were 22 Starters.  11 on Offense and 11 on Defense.  No one started both ways except #21, Scott Monger played Running Back & Strong Safety. All 1980 Starters, but Bart Brinkman were Seniors.   Bart was the only Junior who started in 1980.  It’s impossible to not reference the 1979 Season when reflecting on the 1980 Season because it was a seamless transition for all of us 1980 Seniors.  All of the Senior 1980 Starters played on the 1979 Championship Team.  Richard Malinauskas being the only exception.  In the series of Post moving forward, I’ll speak to the 1980 Seniors who had the unique experience of going 22 and O from the 1979 Season to the end of the 1980 Season.  I’ll start with the Offense.

# 5 Assistant Coach

Assistant Coach.  Barry Voskamp.  He wasn’t in charge of the Team, or the Offense, nor the Defense, yet Coach Voskamp commanded the same level of love and respect as Hale, Brewster and Graning did.  And this is what a Team is all about.  United We Stand, Divided We Fall.  Voskamp day in and day out gave 100% of his love and energy to our Team.  He loved every single kid and went out his way to authentically get to know each of us.  He too loved Football and all of his Players.  We loved his East Coast accent and we always felt like he was one of us.  He had an amazing way of connecting with young men.  When I decided to attend Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) he was a strong advocate for me.  EKU is where he received his Masters in Education Degree.  It was very helpful for me to have Coach Voskamp so enthusiastically support me.  For 13 years he gave and gave and gave some more to the kids at Oak Ridge High School.  Thank you Coach Voskamp for giving so much of yourself to so many. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

#4 Offensive Coordinator

Offensive Coordinator. Chick Graning. A Mastermind of complex offensive schemes.  The Genius with a Bird’s-Eye-View from The Tower.  Chick Graning loves Football.  Two-time High School All-American and Captain of the football team at Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN. All-Star Running Back under the tutelage of the infamous Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech.  Legendary for the brutal, cheap-shot that he received in Georgia Tech vs Alabama rivalry game that broke Chick’s jaw (picture from Chick at Tech).  I’m super privileged to have played on his Offensive Line as Left Tackle.  Chick believed in me as a starter when others doubted.  I’m grateful for him for this was a formidable period of my development as a young man and I needed to be around men like Chick.  He led his Players with heart-felt affection.  No doubt, he loved us like he did his own children and we loved him as if he were our Father.  At Blakenship Field he had a commanding view of the field from the press box from where he executed his well-orchestrated game plans.  More interesting though, on the road, he had a scaffolding Tower built on our sideline.  From The Tower he called the Plays that eventually led to a dreamlike season with 13 Wins and 0 Loses.  My gut tells me there’s never been a High School Coach as smart as Chick Graning in the United States.  He taught Economics and could have easily had a career on Wall Street.  Yet Football was his Calling and he stayed true to his Bliss.  And we the young men that had the privilege of playing for Chick were given a gift that propelled us all onto becoming strong independent men.

#3 Defensive Coordinator

Defensive Coordinator.  Paul Brewster.  The epitome of a tough Defensive Coach.  A strong, disciplined man who showed love for his Players in his own way.  Brewster would often say: “I don’t have time to tell you all the things you’re doing right.  When you come down to the Field, leave your feelings up on the fencepost and pick them up on your way out.”  Brewster initiated us boys into men.  He taught us how to be respectable Warriors.  He taught us how to fight in the “Sweat Box".  None of us will ever forget “Top Cat”. It’s was a form of hand-to-hand combat with a broomstick-handle like weapon that was padded on both ends.  One of his favorite sayings was “You’re going to get your Tally-wacker knocked up into your watch-pocket.”  Good advise to always be on-guard when you enter the Field-of-play.  I learned this the hard way. When I was a Sophomore, I stood daydreaming during practice one hot afternoon and a Senior came out of nowhere and blindsided me—knocked me flat on my back.  I jumped up, the Senior shrugged and said, “Coach Brewster told me to do it.”  My head was In-the-Game every practice after that hit.  In 1979, on another hot practice day, I watched him whip the bare-calves of a big defensive tackle with his leather whistle strap.  He demanded the big lineman get his feet moving in the drill with an offensive lineman.  This was totally acceptable in 1979 and he was initiating us boys into being men.  We needed the tough-love Brewster dished out to us.  We feared Coach Brewster in a respectful way.  We loved him and we knew he loved us all in return.

#2 Head Coach

The Head Coach.  Emory Hale.  No one loved more than the Big E.  He loved his Players dearly.  He loved their families and knew all the Mothers and Fathers, even siblings by first name.  Most all, he loved to win.  Losing, even the thought of losing made him physically ill.  His leadership style was uniquely his—it could not be replicated.  Big E led with a palpable passion and relentless energy that was contagious to all who crossed his path.  He pushed us and pushed us and pushed us more until we got close to his drive for perfection, yet we never fully satisfied him.  It would take a novel to fully explore the complexity of the Big E.  Make no mistake, this was his Team and the 1980 Championship was His Win—all others were playing supporting roles.  He delivered Wins and that’s what Oak Ridge demanded him to do.  No boy was turned away by Big E.  If you wanted to be a Wildcat and you were willing to endure the rigorous practices and being constantly pushed to exhaustion physically and mentally, you had a jersey.  I personally owe much to Big E and I'm grateful for the love he gave me. Thank you, Big E.  You deserve a standing ovation for the love you so generously bestowed on every single boy who desired to be a Wildcat.

#1 The Champions

40 years ago we were The Champions.  Being a member of the 1980 State Champion Football Team in Oak Ridge, TN was a special honor.  This was a special team.  What made this team special was love.  The Coaches loved the Players.  The Players loved the Coaches.  The Players loved each other.  The entire community took great pride in loving the Wildcat Team.

Oak Ridge, TN Football has a rich legacy that dates back to the 1st State Championship in 1956.   I’m writing a series of post that highlights the unique players of the 1980 Championship Team. The post that I’ll share are dedicated to my refections of this Special Football Season of 1980 and the Seniors who graduated in 1981. This is Post #1. In the next Post, I’ll speak to the Coaching Staff (pictured above), the Special Men who led their Players to a 13 Won and 0 Lost Season and finished #3 in Nation.