25 Days of Champions -- 1980 Milford

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25 Days of Champions -- 1980 Milford

Postby granger » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:11 pm

BY LEMAN SAUNDERS

Milford burst onto the 6-man scene in 1978, losing one game that season to Cherokee, the eventual champions, in the quarterfinals. In 1979, they went undefeated and won their first-ever state title against Cotton Center, 53-34. With a large number of lettermen and starters returning for the 1980 season, the Bulldogs were again poised to make a deep run again in the playoffs.

Milford only had 19 boys in high school that year and only 12 came out for football. But those 12 were amazingly talented; possessing size, speed and quickness that few teams could match on the 6-man level.

Chief among those players was senior Stanley Cook, who head coach Roger Goode called the best all-around athlete on the team. Sophomore Tracy Hightower and senior Lawrence Matthews were also very talented and those three together in the backfield for Milford was almost unstoppable.

Milford only had two non-district games, but they were with powerhouses Jonesboro and Cherokee. The Bulldogs tamed them easily, winning 55-13 and 49-14 respectively. No one really challenged the Bulldogs in district play and they rolled into the playoffs a perfect 9-0.

In Bi-District they easily defeated Buckholts 62-22. In the semifinals, they faced off with a tough Christoval team, defeating them 54-22.

Going into the state game, Milford had won 35 of their last 36 games, and was riding a 24-game win streak. Their opponent in the final would be the 11-0 Highland Hornets, who featured a lot of young talent, with sophomores Karry Owens, Monte Richburg and Curt Fullwood, along speedy seniors John Paul Jones and Ed Wilson.

Highland had edged out Trent by two points to win their district title in the final game of the regular season. In the playoffs, they beat Cotton Center, 46-19, in bi-district, and then edged Woodson in the semifinals, 52-47, to advance to state. Their defense was only allowing 16 points a game. Head coach Lane Jackson said, “We’d rather play them than anyone else. We’ve known all along that for us to win state, we’d have to beat Milford.”

State Championship – Friday Dec. 5th 7:00pm @ Comanche
This game would be a low scoring affair that was more of a defensive push and pull.

Milford held Highland to three-and-out, forcing a Hornet punt, in the first possession of the game. Taking over at their own 28-yard line, Milford marched the ball down the field with a steady dose of run plays with Lawrence “BoBo” Matthews, Stanley Cook and Tracy Hightower. However, Highland’s defense forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball back over on downs after stopping them on a fourth-and-three at the Hornet five-yard line.

The defensive battle continued, with Milford only allowing Highland to gain only four yards in three plays. Highland punted the ball away, only to get it called back on a penalty. On the second attempt to punt, a high-snapped ball forced the punter to try to scramble and throw down field. The pass attempt fell incomplete and Milford took over on the Hornet nine-yard line. Three plays later, Stanley Cook scored on a seven-yard run. The PAT kick by Mark Freeman was good and Milford led 8-0, with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter.

The next score in the contest wouldn’t come until 2:28 left in the first half.

On Highland’s third possession they still couldn’t manage to move the ball against the much taller and bigger Milford players and once again punted after a three-and-out. Even though they were much smaller, Highland’s defense was equally as good, forcing the Bulldogs to their own three-and-out on the ensuing possession.

The Hornets were finally able to move the ball with counter traps, sweeps and an end-around run for a large gain, marching the ball downfield to the Milford 13-yard line. But a huge sack of Highland quarterback Karry Owens on attempted screen pass, took the Hornets all the way back to 32-yard line and again them punt the ball away. Two quick Stanley Cook runs moved the ball down into Highland territory, only for their offense to stale, and Highland took over on downs.

Highland still couldn’t get their offense going and Milford took over on their own 23-yard line. On this possession, Milford changed up their offense a little. Both teams had been running the same basic tight, balanced line wingback set, but now the Bulldogs switched to a wide-split wingback, Stanley Cook, and a deep option back, Tracey Hightower, with a man under, BoBo Matthews, pitching him the ball. This offensive set immediately found success against the Highland 2-3 defense, and Hightower connected with Matthews on a screen pass, resulting in a 16-yard touchdown. Another PAT kick was good and Milford took a 16-0 lead, with 2:28 left in the first half.

Highland’s John Paul Jones (not to be confused with the Naval Commander, nor the bass player for Led Zeppelin) took the ensuing kickoff back for the Hornet’s first score of the game. The PAT kick cut the Milford lead in half, 16-8.

On their first play after fielding the squib kick, Milford’s Stanley Cook muffed a pitch, ran back behind him to retrieve the ball and then proceeded to split the Highland defenders en route to a 43-yard touchdown run. The refs were unsure if the play was legal and after a long conversation ruled the touchdown good. The PAT failed and Milford extended their lead to 22-8. In a game that was a defensive battle, there were three touchdowns in the span of seven seconds of game time.

Highland’s offensive woes continued. On their next possession, backed up against their own end zone, the snap on a punt again sailed over the punter’s head, this time out of the back of the endzone for a safety. The half ended shortly thereafter, with the score, 24-8, Milford.

Milford received the kickoff to start the second half and got a great return taking them into Highland territory, however fumbled the ball away on their second play. On Highland’s second play Owens threw to Everett Wilson for a short gain, who then pitched out to Jones on a hook-and-ladder. Jones ran 43 yards for a touchdown. The PAT kick was good and Milford’s lead was now only 24-16.

The Hornets held Milford on their next possession again and changed into a spread offense where they found success moving the ball downfield. Jones was sprung loose for a seemingly long touchdown for the Hornets, looking to tie the game up. But it was for naught, as the play was called back on a penalty.

For the fourth time Highland was forced to punt (sixth time, if you count the muffed punt and bad snap on a punt for a safety). Highland managed to get an interception, but again was forced to punt the ball away. Milford then marched the ball down field, with Stanley Cook running all over the field for an apparent score, but a Highland defender punched the ball out of his hands at the last moment and through the back of the endzone for a touchback.

On the Hornets next possession, they were backed all the way up to their own 5-yard line. Again they ran a hook-and-ladder play for a long gain that would’ve scored, had Milford’s safety made a touchdown-saving tackle from behind at the Bulldogs 17-yard line. The third quarter ended with Highland inside the 10 and threatening to possibly tie the game up, behind only 24-16.

Milford held Highland on fourth-and-goal, taking over at their own 5-yard line. The Bulldogs, with big run plays by Matthews and Hightower, out of a tight, option system, marched the ball down the field, culminating in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Matthews to Hightower. A failed PAT made the score 30-16, with only 7:30 left to play.

On the Hornets’ next possession, facing a fourth-and-25, Ed Wilson seemed to bust loose on a dump pass down the sidelines for a touchdown. But the refs ruled he had been forced out of bounds before he had reached the first down marker and Milford took over on downs.

The Hornets were not deterred and held Milford on downs as well, but Stanley Cook picked off a Highland pass attempt downfield, and the Bulldogs were back in business. On the next play, Hightower broke a few tackles and rambled in for a 30-yard touchdown, giving Milford a 38-16 lead, which would prove to be the final.

*Notes*
-In 1980, there were 61 teams playing 6-man football, divided into 8 districts.
-Stanley Cook would go onto play WR at North Texas. Highland’s young Monte Richburg would go on to play LB at Abilene Christian University.
-Game summary for this came from the Abilene Reporter News, The Milford Press, and by watching the game film, courtesy of Monte Richburg.
-Milford head coach Roger Goode left after the 1980-81 school year and went on to become a great basketball coach, being inducted into the Texas Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Re: 25 Days of Champions -- 1980 Milford

Postby olddawg86 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:25 am

I'm told that the loss to Cherokee in 78 was full of controversy which easily could have equaled three straight titles, go dawgs!
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Re: 25 Days of Champions -- 1980 Milford

Postby Blueblood90 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:02 pm

I was at this game... I was6yrs old... Lol... But I remember the Milford stands was full of people with milk jugs with rocks in them. And I'm even prouder to say Lawrence (Bobo) Matthews is my uncle and Tracy Hightower is my cuz. Both will be at the game Friday.... Roll Dawgs...
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Re: 25 Days of Champions -- 1980 Milford

Postby Thirtysix » Thu Dec 07, 2017 4:52 pm

“I'm told that the loss to Cherokee in 78 was full of controversy”

I don’t always lose, but when I do... it’s because the other team cheated.
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