With actual newspaper documentation recognizing high school football being played in some southwest Oklahoma territorial towns as early as 1903, nothing has been found to pre-date the existence of competition within the tradition rich football community of Clinton, Oklahoma, before October 15, 1910. While game days were becoming popular at the turn of the twentieth century in southwest Oklahoma townships such as Hobart, Granite, Altus, Cordell, Blair, Olustee and even Gotebo, Mrs. Ballew of Clinton was discovered visiting her sister in Mangum while everybody who was anybody traveled to Clinton with effort to tend to various types of business matters. Instead of pursuing urgent ventures such as developing a quality football squad (sarcasm inserted here), Clinton and it's pioneering leaders seemed to be more focused on politics, religion and education along with rapid agricultural, business and railway development.
Much like a complicated double reverse criss-cross post pattern, diligent and criss-cross referenced historical data points towards 1910 as a highly potential point in time as to when the Clinton football tradition actually began. Recognizing an unpolished beginning compared to evolution into an established football powerhouse are two different lines of scrimmage, the following research of pigskinned data is shared for the enjoyment of Red Tornado fans of all ages. As well, it is shared as an educational and motivational enhancement for current and former fans, coaches and players to comprehend the general genesis of their historical game of the gridiron bourne and nurtured within a unique community of passionate fans represented by devoted coaches and players both past and present.
On Saturday, October 15, 1910, a team of gridiron trailblazers from Clinton traveled to, of all places, Sentinel, Oklahoma, for what is thought to be Clinton's inaugural rumble on the range. In the previous year of 1909, Clinton High School (grades 10, 11 and 12) was literally made up of a grand total of only twenty students. Influenced by a numerically quantitative girls to boys ratio guestimate of 3-1 and no trace of documented evidence, a theory of nothing existing previous to 1910 is supported with common scientific sense thought processing. With a congregate of raw, farm fresh plowboys and railroaders set to receive kick from the Sentinel high school eleven, the genesis kick-off to what has now evolved into more than a century of football action was booted into a strong southwest Sentinel breeze at exactly 4 p.m. central standard time (CST).
Sentinel's home town press immediately recognized the boys from Clinton as being quick, but, it seems the Sentinel eleven were somewhat quicker back in 1910. With no doubt quickness can get you around the end for a touchdown, that is just what happened as George Cobean scored the first touchdown against Clinton on an end run with John D. Terry making kick for a 7-0 lead. Unfortunately for Clinton, this first seven points was all that was needed as they could not cross goal on a brisk Saturday afternoon in Sentinel. A final score of 33 to 0 is not a good one to report but, for those who follow Clinton football, it is known things turn out much better at various points of time in a future filled with great players and great teams.
The Sentinel game was considered interesting and with "many points worthy of commendation." Despite victory, the crowd was small and the Sentinel boys were left indebted near fifteen dollars, hence, the value of an enthusiastic booster club can never be taken for granted. Clinton's focus on business growth first and football second may have actually paid of in the "long run" as it's gridiron tradition continues to grow while many others, such as Sentinel, have ceased to exist.
Suffering from a shutout loss and with little time for the boys from Clinton to improve, Sentinel returned the favor of game as they traveled to Clinton two weeks later to participate in a contest hosted by the Clinton eleven.
This first home game itself was played under difficult conditions. The Clinton gridiron was hastily constructed in a wheat stubbled field freshly raked off just a few hours before kick-off. The dry and sandy soil was near two inches deep. To grasp a true scope of the environment, readers can visualize a field running north and south with a strong north wind blasting mini sand drifts upon the western Oklahoma plains.
With football officially kicking off in Clinton at 2 p.m. on October 29, 1910, both Sentinel and Clinton fumbled a few times as neither team scored in the first quarter of play. The Clinton defense had at least displayed some improvement within the two week span between these inaugural and antiquated contests.
In the second quarter, Sentinel took command by scoring touchdowns on a line buck and a criss-cross fake run. Bystanders, evidently from Sentinel, declared the game "remarkable" and the final score ended with another shutout of Clinton's eleven by a reported score of 26-0.
With a criss cross check of facts, the 26-0 score revealed by the Sentinel press differed from the home town press which reported "the foot ball team of the Sentinel high school defeated the foot ball team of this place last Saturday by a score of 28-0." Whether it was 26 or 28-0, disappointment within this antiquated window of gridiron time can still be felt by Clinton fans well over a century later.
Was the season of 1910 just a two game home and home series against Sentinel? Could have been. The complete first season for the University of Oklahoma in 1895 consisted of just ... one game. The following year in 1896, the state university's season was extended to include a grand total of ... two games. The birth of football in Oklahoma and its growth into popularity as it spread west was a slow and tedious task. Whether it was a township team, high school team or collegiate eleven, the raw and basic beginnings of gridiron gain involved the recruitment of nearby farm boys who had to learn the game from scratch and move forward with minimal game experience from year to year. If they were lucky, some settler from the east and north may have migrated west with some form of game day knowledge and experience that sped up the process a tad bit.
Turns out the 1910 season was a bit more than two games. Exciting news from county press indicates Clinton would win at least one game in their long forgotten inaugural season. On November 11, 1910, Arapaho's eleven would come to town for a tussle on Clinton's high school grounds. Clinton's indigenous gridiron warriors would claim a 31-0 victory over their neighbor to the north. Over a century span of fans, coaches and players can thank Greg Adams, mid 1980's Red Tornado LB, for his diligent research leading enthusiasts towards an authentic introduction to some of Clinton's very first football ancestors who prowled the plains in search of a first victory. For all who missed the game against Arapaho, it was a great cornerstone of victorious tradition for Clinton and its community and school to celebrate.
With John Stocks noted as the "star" player in October, he was M.I.A. for the offensive line-up against Arapaho. The first Clinton offensive eleven to capture a victory for their community and school would include Avant at left end, MacAtee at left tackle, Taney at left guard, Griffin at center, Fisher at right guard, Burgreen at right tackle, Cain at right end, Burris at QB1, Shumate at left half, Crawford at right half and Koenig at full back. These Clinton football aboriginals captained by Ralph Avant and Byron Tansley played a "snappy" game in front of a less than large crowd made up of mostly school children. Arapaho showed up with a "poor showing" and the game was tailor made for an easy victory for Clinton.
It would be near one full year before Clinton would get a chance to avenge the two goose egg defeats to the Sentinel team. With that chance coming on October 21, 1911, the Clinton eleven "took the game of football" from the Sentinel boys with no score posted and no in depth coverage from Sentinel's local press. With the story line quickly transcending from football to base ball prowess and with no details, the loss may have been a large one for Sentinel. With no score posted and with mention of an upcoming return game in Sentinel the following Saturday, subject matter of football against Clinton was dropped kicked hot off the press which leads historically enthusiastic football fans to believe either the second game did not take place or Clinton won by another big score on Saturday, November 28, 1911. It was not unusual for local press to skip over bad news but it was a bit unusual for Clinton's local press to ignore the good news of a Clinton victory.
Star John Stocks was born in the spring of 1892 in a small Butler County, Kansas town called Douglas. After playing the first "star" role know to mankind and relative to the history of Clinton football, Stocks eventually became a rural mail carrier for the fine folks living outside the township limits of Clinton. In the year of 1930, Stocks moved to Hamilton, Texas and served in a similar capacity with the United States Postal Service.
Stocks' passing in the fall of 1944 was a surprise and quite sudden. Funeral services were held on October 10, 1944, at 2 p.m. under the direction of Kern and Schneider Funeral Home. Ironically a same start time as trailblazer Stocks and his Clinton eleven teammates kicked off their home football genesis on that sand filled wheat stubble field some thirty-four years previous. Reverend Edwin W. Parker of the First Methodist Church officiated Stocks' service with a burial that followed in the Arapaho cemetery. Survivors at the time of Stocks' death included wife Francis Blanche Mainard Stocks, one daughter Jo Ann Stocks; two sisters Mrs. J.W. Owen of Clinton and Mrs. Carl Goss of Las Vegas, Nevada; and two brothers Frank Stocks of Arapaho and Art Stocks of Foss. Some of Stocks' family members have been discovered carrying the torch of tradition for Clinton's football program within the first quarter of the previous twentieth century.
With a somewhat rough and tumble steep learning curved genesis, the inceptive seeds of Clinton's football tradition were at least planted by Stocks, Koenig, Crawford, Shumate, Burris, Cain, Burgreen, Fisher, Griffin, Taney, MacAtee, Avant and few other unidentified gridiron ghosts from the previous century. With determination, hard work and a desire to continually regurgitate the taste of losing, Clinton's football legacy wrestled with moderate to conference championship success until its actual state championship supremacy was bourne four and one half decades later. Along with this futuristic state championed supremacy, distinctively fabricated with natural gridironed talent devoutly integrated with a persevering spirit in the Lord's year of 1965, "the" iconic face of a tradition rich Red Tornado football program was conceived on the oft wind swept plains of west Oklahoma.
If there were ever a football genesis prophet of action (not words) to trailblaze a path to a successful future for Clinton and anyone else to follow, the high honor goes to a Custer County lad by the name of Lawrence Meacham. Without any documented ties to the Clinton football program, Meacham grew up on a farm very near Clinton with seven other husky brothers and three sisters who transcended into the sports, business and education arenas in big ways. The Clinton area farm boys were all sons of Mr. and Mrs. George Allison Meacham. The Meacham family were pioneering Cheyenne and Arapaho country settlers residing in the rural Parkersburg area about four wheat fields west of Clinton.
Some twenty years later in 1919, Clinton fullback, class historian and teammate of Alvin Meacham, Albert Nance, researched and shared the genesis story of Clinton's township. "Early in the year of 1903, a party of men conceived the idea of building a town at the junction of the Choctaw and Frisco Railroads. In order to do this a hundred sixty acre tract of land would have to be obtained from the Indians to form a townsite. The Washita Townsite Company was created to buy land from the Indians. Forty acres were eventually purchased from each of the following land owners, Darwin Hayes, Shoeboy, Red Ploom and Nowahy."
Further historical research reveals Nowahy had unintentionally sold land to the township of Arapaho who had implemented a reversed play actioned scheme of measures to stop the creation of a new nearby town. Lawyers investigated the sale of Nowahy's land and found there was no initial or official government "designation" for the sale to Arapaho making it null and void. Nowahy, who thought she had sold the land to the Washita Townsite Company, was then able to sell the remaining forty acres that paved the way for Clinton's official birthing date of June 6, 1903.
More modernly known as the "Hub City" of western Oklahoma, Clinton's turn of the century emphasis on business, agriculture and railroad growth quickly earned a well deserved reputation as "The Empress of the Southwest" by 1909. Relative to football, a solid foundation of community support had been established for the upcoming 1910 inception of what would become Oklahoma's most revered high school program.
With no connections found to Clinton's gridiron legacy, Lawrence Meacham did learn to play football within a limited time span at Southwestern Normal School at nearby Weatherford in 1912. Southwestern Normal was established by an act of the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature in 1901. The Normal School was stamped for approval to provide two years of training and four years of preparatory work for students who were not age qualified for college admission.
This fascinating young man named Meacham, with minimal football experience offset with good size and natural speed and talent, was appointed to West Point Academy by Congressman Claude Weaver in the January of 1913. The appointment by Congressman Weaver was not necessarily made for his gridiron talent, but, more for intellect and the admirable quality of character and integrity found within the Meacham family. After passing examination, Lawrence left the dust filled plains of the west making it to West Point in the east on a cold February New York day in the Lord's year of 1913.
Despite limited gridiron experience, the young Meacham was good enough to be thrust into the starting line-up at a guard position for the 1913 Army eleven. The Cadets compiled an 8-1 overall season record shutting out five of their nine opponents. The young farm raised talent seemed to enter an alien time warped tunnel in a west Oklahoma wheat field crossing into a magnificent plane of time while exiting into the threshold of West Point, New York within the blink of an unbelieving eye.
Sharing Meacham "broke into football" his very first year at West Point in 1913 is quite an understatement. He not only "broke in," he would soon be selected to Walter Camp's All-American preseason team for college football's upcoming season of 1914. Camp, best known as "The Father of American Football," rewarded West Point's newcomer Meacham with third team honors for his extraordinary efforts on the gridiron. The nineteen year old 170 pound left guard skyrocketed from a limited learning process at Southwestern Normal to being considered one of Army's best lineman in 1913. Meacham, as a rookie cadet, was noted as playing in every important game of the season while only missing the Navy game due to injury.
The young west Oklahoma farm boy was considered a stellar performer on the underdog Army team. Pre-game fake news scouting reports reported Navy's two veteran guards to "clearly excel Meacham and Jones of Army." Although a disappointed Meacham had to watch from the sidelines, his reserve Huston and teammate Jones held their own as Army defeated Navy 22-9. The 1913 game was held at the infamous Polo Grounds in New York before a crowd of over 42,000 football and military enthusiasts. It was the nineteenth contest held between Army and Navy to date. Notable and historical figures in the crowd that particular day included newly elected United States President Woodrow Wilson as well as "America's greatest inventor" Thomas A. Edison.
Lawrence Meacham went on to become an anchor of the line for a very successful Army team from 1913 to 1916. While at West Point, Meacham and his cadet teammates split games with the mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After losing his first go-around against All-American Knute Rockne and the Irish, Army won in 1914 by a score of 20-7 and also in Meacham's career concluding year as the eleven from West Point soundly defeated the Fighting Irish 30-10 in 1916.
Upon arriving at West Point, Meacham interestingly discovered the caretaker and carrier of the pre-game flag for Army's Honor Guard was comrade cadet named Ike. A somewhat undisciplined Ike had given up football just before Meacham arrived but did take pride in his new and highly regarded Honor Guard position. The red white and blue had come to mean something most special to Meacham's fellow cadet and young Army Honor Guard member named Ike. "When we raised our right hands and repeated the official oath, there was no confusion. A feeling came over me that the expression 'The United States of America' would now and henceforth mean something different than it ever had before. From here on it would be the nation I would be serving, not myself. Suddenly the flag itself meant something," shared a most patriotic Ike who was also known as future United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Although Meacham's collegiate football career at West Point did not garner any first team All-American honors, his 1915 Army team captain, Lieutenant A.M. Weyand, persisted that the 170 pound farm raised guard from west Oklahoma "had never been outplayed throughout his four seasons on the team." Meacham would become a line coach for the cadets at West Point after completing a superb playing career for Army.
Lawrence Meacham did return home to his Custer County roots for a visit before entering active service in the U.S. Army. The very first West Point cadet from Custer County was acknowledged as Lieutenant Meacham, a star of West Point football team, and brother of Representative E.J. Meacham and Custer County Superintendent of Schools George Meacham Jr. during his return to home visit. This happening shortly after Meacham's official West Point graduation in the spring of 1917.
Ironically before Meacham, the boy from Oklahoma, had played football for Army, the Army had played "foot-ball" in Oklahoma some eighteen years earlier. Two years before the 20th Infantry arrived at Caddo Springs in 1885, Reverend Miller from Bryn, Pennsylvania, had shipped a Christmas box to the Cheyenne Boarding School. When opened, the boys of the school immediately grabbed the "foot-ball" which provided excellent amusement and exercise. Under the tutelage of Professor Potter, the Cheyenne boys were drilled into a competitive "foot-ball" team. Within two years, Stacy Riggs, Robert Sandhill and their fellow teammates of the Cheyenne school were publicly challenging the young men of the Darlington Agency, Fort Reno soldiers and the boys of the Arapaho school to play a game of football.
Upon arrival of United States Army, 20th Infantry, Companies C and D to Caddo Springs (now known as Concho, Oklahoma) in May of 1885, the Cheyenne boys were quick to challenge the travelling soldiers to a game of "foot-ball." After pitching their tents for camp, the travel weary troops enthusiastically accepted the challenge with official Caddo Springs game time called at 6:30 p.m. The soldiers had spent the past few months engaged in the removal of intruders and trespassers from Oklahoma's public lands. After marching 188 miles in the process of returning to their station at Fort Reno in Indian Territory, the soldiers found themselves in the middle of some "foot-ball" action against the Cheyenne school boys.
After winning the toss, twelve picked soldiers went on the offensive but soon found themselves outplayed by the firm and rapid movements of the well trained school boys. After winning two games before sundown, the confidence of the Cheyenne school boys was encouraged by the presence of their superintendent, Dr. Whiting. With such confidence and courage, the "foot-ball" club accepted a challenge to play the soldiers again on the forenoon of the fourth of July at Fort Reno in 1885. With three of their teammates moving, ironically but unrelated, to the Lawrence School, the Cheyenne boys were unable to meet the challenge at Fort Reno on the fourth. They claimed, however, that their opponents "should be thankful that such was the case, as it undoubtedly saved them from sustaining another defeat."
After attending Southwestern Normal and playing football in Weatherford, Meacham served as superintendent of Lookeba (Oklahoma) schools in 1910-11 before arriving on campus at the state's university (OU) in the fall of 1911. With academics always a priority, his love for football would keep him on the field for another fifteen years multitasking his many talented skills. Meacham arrived in time for OU's first undefeated season under the guiding light of the infamous Bennie Owen in 1911. Edgar was the only first-year man on the squad to letter in football. Much like today's hurry-up offense, Meacham graduated in three years lettering in both football and track. He would serve as assistant coach to Bennie Owen for another ten years after concluding his football playing days in 1913.
The Sooner football star was selected by popular vote of the student body as the winner of the Letzeiser Medal in the spring of 1914. The annual award was sponsored by Letzeiser Jewelry Company of Oklahoma City and given to the best "all-around" student at the University of Oklahoma. Meacham was selected based upon 50% for scholarship, 20% for student activities, 20% for athletics and 10% for literary work.
E.J. Meacham, a younger football playing brother of Lawrence and Edgar, entered law school at the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 1915. After playing football at Southwestern Normal for the previous three years, E.J. would also join the Sooners gridiron gang as a second Meacham brother to play for Bennie Owen.
With no evidence that either of the three Meacham brothers played for Clinton before representing West Point Academy and Oklahoma University in Norman, it is known that a few of their siblings and descendants did in fact contribute, in a large way, to the early and mid twentieth century construction of Clinton's Red Tornado football tradition.
As the three older Meacham brothers excelled at Army and OU, the Clinton football program was battling its way past some dark days and towards a brighter future that would eventually unfold in the early 1920's. While high school teams from around the state were posting scores and highlights of their 1915 seasons, Clinton High School was sidelined for the entire season due to a severe player injury from the previous 1914 season. Clinton coach R.M. Randle shared with state press, "the player injury is responsible for the absence of football for our local eleven." Coach Randle's somewhat vague statement would leave many to believe that Clinton had been playing football and a Clinton player had suffered great injury causing the suspension of the high school's football program. Examination of facts exhumed from 1914 divulges that Clinton did not play a down that particular year, but, they did host an exciting game between Cordell and Elk City. For this to happen, gridiron theologians could conclude that Clinton was in fact a football savvy town and they evidently had a field attractive enough to attract the attention of surrounding towns willing to travel to Clinton and square off their high school elevens in front of what was reported as possibly the largest crowd, at the time, to see a football game in the state of Oklahoma.
Local Elk City coverage shared a descriptive of immediate consequence for this atrocious injury that happened in the fall of 1914. "The unfortunate incident which occurred at Clinton not only barred foot-ball from our school, and dropped a blanket of sorrow over all Southwestern Oklahoma, but also perhaps permanently disabled one of the most naturally talented players who ever donned the moleskins."
Before a crowd reported to be the largest audience to ever witness a high school football contest in western Oklahoma, if not the entire state, Cordell defeated Elk City 42-13 at Clinton on November 20, 1914. The weather was unusually warm for football players but great for the large crowd of spectators and enthusiasts gathered on the sidelines almost encroaching the field of play. All was considered good until the paralyzing injury to Tom Russell happened with just a few minutes to play. Upon head on contact with fierce effort to tackle a Cordell halfback, Tom Russell was not expected to live through such horrendous injury sustained. With Cordell well in control of the game, Russell broke through the line of interference and head first into one of the Cordell players. The impact visually made a depression on the brain and instantly paralyzed Russell from the chest down. Russell was transported to Clinton Hospital and later removed to his home in Elk City with chances of "probable" recovery.
What brought the two teams together for a clash in Clinton was a controversial game played two weeks previous in Elk City. The home team refused to play unless they were granted permission to use their own personally selected school teacher referee instead of the standard "courtesy referee" provided by the visiting team from Cordell. After an hour of battle against Elk City, the referee and about one hundred home team fans, Cordell literally had to "escape" with a tie game and most of the skin on their hide.
After Cordell gained a 7-0 lead, the home grown official began to operate against fairness to the game and towards home team favor. Allowing infractions against the home team to go uncalled was not as obvious but prevailed to the wishes of a rambunctious home crowd. Sometimes giving Elk City five downs was most obvious and quite unfair to the game and all players involved.
Despite the obvious, Cordell's well trained eleven held their own and forged a lead and was driving to extend that lead when outraged fans encroached the field. In a rush, they surrounded the Cordell team while waving their fists in the air with a few blows landing here and there during this uncalled for melee of madness. After the field was cleared of fanatical fans and one Cordell player was ejected, the visiting team from Cordell drove the ball close enough into Elk City territory to attempt and miss what would have been the game winning field goal.
This particular game was a true reflection of the old "mob" style of football games from nineteenth century Europe. Home crowd intimidation ruled both the game and their personally selected referee. Elk City, utilizing the fear factor created within a weird scienced and archaic gridiron gangster environment, scored their only touchdown in the fourth quarter. The kick to follow actually fell a couple of feet short, but, while looking around at the angry mob of home team fans, the fearful referee held up his hands with signal of good with the game ending in a 7-7 tie.
The community of Clinton became a safe haven mediator site following the fiasco in Elk City. Both teams looked forward to squaring off on a fair and square gridiron. Special arrangements were made with the Frisco to hold the evening south bound train to give Cordell fans an opportunity to see the entire tie deciding game. On November 20, 1914, fans from Elk City, Cordell and Clinton made up what was mentioned as the largest crowd to see a game in western Oklahoma. A game played to conquer the unheard of and dishonorable use of home grown officiating in the previous football game. Who better to bring fairness and experience to the game than Oklahoma University standout and now coach Edgar Meacham? Under Meacham's rule as referee, it was either teams opportunity to win with honor and dignity. Cordell did just that with their 42-13 victory. A sweet taste of victory that was embittered for all with Tom Russell's paralyzing injury as he lay motionless on a long forgotten football field of vengeance and sorrow in Clinton, Oklahoma.
While Elk City's Russell was not expected to live and survived, a Hobart player who was expected live died in the following fall of 1915. Seventeen year old Clark Mansell did not survive a broken shoulder blade and severe spinal injury that paralyzed him from the waist down in Hobart's 68-0 win over Snyder on October 22. Mansell, son of a Hobart Judge, died in an Oklahoma City hospital on October 28, 1915, one week after the game took place in Hobart. Local, state and national press covered the tragic news. Mansell's injury was recognized as the "first death from a football injury in the state of Oklahoma this year." A bit eerie as the statement reflects an open end to the high probability of others. Luckily there were no more deaths due to football in Oklahoma in 1915. Mansell would be one of fifteen college and high school players nationwide to lose their life while participating in the game of football in 1915. Ages would range from eleven, fourteen and fifteen years old on up to twenty years old.
Several southwest Oklahoma schools suspended their football programs after Mansell's death. Tom Russell's paralyzing injury in 1914 and Mansell's death in 1915 were the determining factors as to why Clinton's eleven could not be found on the Oklahoma high school football map in 1916 as well. Some schools would return to the gridiron earlier than others. Additional hard line plunging research leads fans, coaches and players toward a sound of silence theoretical thought that it would be the post World War I fall of 1919 before Clinton would officially play another down of football on the disheartened and quiet plains of western Oklahoma.
Even in 1919, it was big news when Clinton ended up on the wrong side of defeat. One documentation of such defeat revealed the one and only (high school) loss Clinton suffered in 1919 carried some bragadocious Bull Dog verbage as the fresh but talented eleven from Clinton fought valiantly to a one point deficit. Even bigger news seems to be everyone had forgotten the tragedy of 1914 that suspended football action up to and through World War I. Within a span of nine years without internet access, John Stocks and his comrades who took on Sentinel in the fall of 1910 not only became old news fast, they were completely forgotten.
With a new administration and a new coach looking to construct post war success, evidently Clinton and its gridiron gang gazed forward without looking backwards and actually fielded a highly competitive team in 1919. New coach J.C. Stearns had graduated from Snyder High School in 1915. Stearns' football formulated resume included a quick two years to higher education as he graduated from Kingfisher College in 1917. In the fall of 1915, Stearns quarterbacked the college to 67-0 loss against Bennie Owen's Sooners from Norman with Edgar Meacham on the OU staff as assistant coach. In the fall of 1916, Stearns quarterbacked the college from Kingfisher to a 97-0 loss at the hands of the mighty Sooners.
After graduating the from the small college of Kingfisher in 1917, Stearns enlisted in the Navy where he served until January of 1919. He completed courses in Electrical and Submarine schools earning the highest 3.94 grade honors in his class. Even after serving Clinton's public school system as coach and principal, Stearns would move on to earn a doctorate in physics at the University of Chicago in Illinois and was heavily involved in the Manhattan Project that would eventually produce a means (atomic bomb) to the end of World War II.
Though Clinton High School of 1919 had no internet, no experienced players, and, had completely erased their football past, coach Stearns led them to a superb one loss season not counting their opening 18-0 loss to Southwestern Normal (college) of Weatherford. After dropping the game to the collegiate eleven, the Clinton eleven dominated Sayre's eleven 25-6. The Clinton boys, whom most had never even seen a game, held on to their undefeated season by the skin of their teeth with a 12-12 tie with Hinton. Following in week four, Altus would become the one point of high school defeat blemishing the season of record. Bouncing back from the disappointment, Clinton would display its ability to lose and improve as they annihilated the previously tied Hinton team 39-0.
In the Altus contest kicked off at 2:15 p.m. on November 21, 1919, the pigskin never left the ground while scooting along, with a bounce here and there. It was a tough one for Bull Dog halfback Herman Peace to field but when he did, one of the best contests of the 1919 season was game on in Clinton.
Altus scored their only seven points in the first quarter of play with a strong three minute and sixty yard drive after holding Clinton on four downs. Altus kicked goal to take a 7-0 lead. Clinton was noted for "knocking down several Altus pass attempts" and their defense shut down Altus for the remainder of the game.
Problematic issues arose for the Clinton offense as they could not score in the first half against what seems to be an always tough Altus defense. Altus broke up pass attempts and made tackles for loss throughout the game.
Clinton scored their only touchdown within a scrambled comeback mode in the second half. Evidently the kick for goal after touchdown was missed leaving Clinton on the short side of the post war Great Gridiron Battle of 1919.
Several rooters from Altus caught the train to Clinton for this particular big game. So many that the hotel in Clinton could hardly accommodate their players. With no room at the inn, evidence suggests a few Altus players had to stay with some Clinton families transforming the event into a reflection of great sportsmanship that existed within this early twentieth century time-frame.
Before exiting this 1919 window of time, press coverage substantiates the fact of Clinton losing two games in this post World War I celebratory year. In the previously mentioned first contest of 1919, the eleven from Clinton clashed with the collegiate eleven from Southwestern Normal and were shutout by those pioneering college boys of what is now known as Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. Following the loss to Normal, the high school team of Clinton got back to playing within the realm of the high school arena on November 14 and soundly defeated the undefeated Sayre eleven 25-6.
Gameday with Sayre was acknowledged as "one of the most exciting days of the year for C.H.S." and its student body in 1919. As the football team met and decidedly defeated the fast Sayre team, post game celebrations included seniors from both teams adjourning to the Home Economics room where a delightful supper was served by the girls of C.H.S. The room was delightfully decorated in the senior class colors of purple and gold with each table featuring large bouquets of yellow chrysanthemums. Toasts and speeches were offered up by members of each team. All gridiron rivalry seemed to vanish within the revelry and the Sayre players departed with expressions of gratitude for such a delightful evening.
Still leaving room for error due to the pure lack of internet access, local press again acknowledged 1919 as being Clinton's first year in football. A savvy Coach Stearns may have just manipulated a now highly interested press a "stearn" military look in his eye and a "stearn" focus on a flourishing future for Clinton and its football program. If such press would have accidentally included the term "successive" with claims of "first," their accuracy would have been on target as the program moved forward through the twentieth century and into what is now the twenty-first century in a succession of years that maintains to this date.
Published scores from the 1920 season indicated Clinton High School and Captain Meacham competed at a championship level. They shutout Mangum 33-0 and battled that southwestern Oklahoma powerhouse team, Altus, to a scoreless 0-0 tie. Northrip was recognized as the star player for Clinton in this intense and defensively dominated gridiron game.
With internetless state press also incorrectly recognizing Clinton as "starting its second year of high school football" in 1920, Clinton posted five gridiron victories while losing only two with the hard fought Altus game ending in the previously mentioned tie. Of course in Clinton, a tie game is closely associated with "kissing a sister," so, with no overtime, the next contest could not come soon enough. Despite the frustrating loss now made awkward, a first sign of aerial attacks (forward pass) was considered a success within this particular 1920 season. Injuries, a big problem for every team of the era, to several key players may have kept the team from going undefeated. Northrip was the outstanding star of the backfield. "Houston, Hunt, Lowrance, Big Northrip, team captain Alvin Meacham and Nance all played stellar roles," said coach J.C. Stearns.
In the year of 1921, hard line, between the lines and outside the lines plunging research reveals a small gain of information relative to scores and next to no gain relative to highlights or players of football in Clinton. Much like the pathway to eternity, the data trail is somewhat narrow but a complete list of season scores paint a portrait of thrills and excitement with some disappointment blemishing the background.
1921 looks to be the original "Custer County Conflict" year with Clinton twisting up Weatherford into tornado like wreckage with a 20-0 goose egg shutout. As the excitement of this week two news sinks in, the disappointment of a week one 27-6 loss to Cordell still carried a lingering sour milk aftertaste. Pucker up as in week three, Clinton and Lawton battle to a 0-0 tie. Week four was victorious over Mangum 27-0. The forward passing game was on against Mangum as most of the ground gained by Clinton was by air combined with some heavy duty line plunges. Jones and J. Gore were the stars in Clinton's victory over Mangum.
Clinton's forward passing offense took off big time in week five with an 80-14 blasting of Snyder. The high octane offense continued a torrid pace with a 60-0 beatdown of Anadarko in week six. Posting up 140 points in the previous two games, seems Clinton's offense and defense took a Saturday off but forgot to inform Enid. They lost 62-0 in week seven. Concluding the 1920 season in week eight with a 7-7 tie against an always tough Hobart team, a 4-2-2 Clinton team could celebrate the century old genesis conflict victory over Weatherford while licking their wounds of ties and defeats before a next season rolls around. Yet to be identified as All-State, Clinton guard Henshaw was selected to the third squad of the "All Oklahoma Highschool Team."
For those Clinton fans wondering when a first actual championship was earned on their gridiron of glory, wonder no more as 1922 was a big year. A newly formed Southwestern (Oklahoma) Athletic Conference was cooperatively assembled at a special meeting held in Clinton on September 22 of 1922. It was not only created for football but for other sports as well. A change from Saturday games to Friday contests in this meeting set the foundation to a long term tradition for western Oklahoma high school teams relative to regular season games to be played.
The newly formed conference featured a much different landscape of teams compared to current times. The inaugural southwest conference football squads included gridiron gangs of eleven from Carnegie, Clinton, Cordell, Erick, Frederick, Mangum, Sayre and Weatherford. To date, Cordell and Mangum both had a strong history of helmetless success within their recent past while Clinton and Weatherford had been battling their way to moderate levels of football prosperity.
The year of 1922 brought about the use of "specialized" coaches for the first time in western Oklahoma. Charles Werner of Southwest Teachers' College and OU's School Of Coaching took charge at Cordell. Elmwood Allison, formerly of Kingfisher College and a summer understudy of football at the University of California would lead the Clinton eleven in 1922. L.H. Bennett of Southwestern was selected by Allison to be his assistant. Bennett had spent the previous summer at the University of Illinois Coaching School picking up new ideas. Fred Mayberry, a star at Oklahoma A and M and Annapolis Naval Academy, directed the gridiron destiny of Carnegie. Guy Lookabaugh, famous wrestler and footballer at Oklahoma A and M would guide Frederick through their 1922 season. George Tyler, a star lineman for Oklahoma City High School and Oklahoma University introduced Bennie Owens' system to the conference through his Sayre eleven. Frank Anderson of Southwestern Teachers' College would navigate the Weatherford team through its second season of play.
The construction of the conference reflects a first of its kind innovation and the business-like approach set the foundation for near a century of west Oklahoma high school football to follow. For Weatherford, 1922 was acknowledged as only their second year of competition at the high school football level. Clinton had competed intermittently since 1910 with modest success. The historical records of Cordell and Mangum both reflected a higher level of talent, success and longevity within the realm of the new conference teams.
In the actual kick-off game of Clinton's inaugural conference play in the season of 1922, the high school eleven began their battle for the championship of this newly created Southwestern Conference against Weatherford on October 7, 1922. With games against this particular opponent now being labeled the "Custer County Conflict," researched information suggests 1922 would be the second of many rivalry battles between Clinton and Weatherford and the first with conference implications attached to such contests.
Clinton, outweighed twenty pounds to a man in 1922, had victory within grasp at Weatherford only to lose within the last ten minutes of play. Weatherford scored three touchdowns during its come from behind rally to post an 18-12 victory to earn bragging rights in this ninety-nine year old Custer County Conflict.
Blocked punts and poor generalship were considered responsible for Clinton's demise. Late in the game, Clinton's eleven held the heavy plunging Weatherford runners on the one yard line for four successive downs, only to lose the ball behind its own goal on a blocked punt that allowed Weatherford the game tying score.
The most brilliant play of the game came from Clinton's R. Gore who swept around the end of Weatherford's eleven to score a touchdown on a sixty-yard punt return.
Despite the disappointing loss to Weatherford, Clinton rebounded to become the first Southwest (Oklahoma) Conference Champion with a record of 5-1. Carnegie was second at 4-1 with Cordell, Sayre, Weatherford, Erick, Frederick and Mangum to follow in order.
Clinton's overall record for the year of 1922 was 9-2 with losses coming against Weatherford and those pesky Bulldogs from the far southwest in Altus. Highlight wins were a plenty as Clinton opened the regular season with an 81-0 victory over Independence followed by a 33-0 shutout of Hinton, followed by a 21-6 win over El Reno. Avenging the loss to Altus in week four, Clinton bounced back in a big way by defeating Mangum in a rout 81-0. Clinton finished the '22 season as Southwest Conference Champions while blazing a hot trail of win streak wins against Cordell 18-6, Carnegie 12-7, Sayre 25-20 and Erick 32-0.
Documented highlights to note from the September 29, 1922, game with Hinton include the eleven from Clinton "outclassing" the heavier team from Hinton. This game was played on Clinton's home gridiron with the home team taking an early lead with two touchdowns scored within the first quarter of play. Clinton backs continuously plowed through a weakening Hinton line and skirted the ends with superior speed for steady gains. Clinton's Covin scored all five touchdowns with teammates Williamson, Wisely and McLin being recognized as performing best in the shutout victory against Hinton.
October 13, 1922, highlights against El Reno include the Clinton eleven rolling up 442 total yards in their 21-6 win against the Central Conference team. A newspaper subliner references the "Clinton Twisters" which is the first mention of anything close to a Tornado identity discovered to date. Covin, R. Gore, Wisely and Northrip were given star honors for their performances in this near century old win over El Reno.
With a one conference loss Clinton team temporarily at the bottom of the standings, and, with four regulars out of the game against Mangum, it looked like a gloom and doom October 27, 1922, contest for the traveling Twisters. Quite the opposite. Clinton won by their largest conference score of the season. Reserves seemed to strengthen the Hub City eleven instead of their expected contribution of struggle. Amazingly, R. Gore blasted the Mangum eleven with two scampers totaling 100 yards and two touchdowns within a two minute time span. The work of Williamson at tackle, McLin, Clinton's "midget" guard and the tackling of Armstrong and Penn were considered the features of performance in this overwhelming 81-0 blowout victory. Mangum's punter, Johnson, was recognized as the best seen on a Southwest Conference field to date. A team and its coach may be in a bit of trouble when their punter is considered a star of the game. Sure enough, Mangum finished last in the first season of Oklahoma's Southwest Conference play.
On November 25, 1922, Clinton clinched the first Southwest Conference Championship at home with a "brilliantly" played game against Erick. With a powerful display of effort that Erick could not match, Clinton dominated from beginning to end. After forcing an Erick punt, The Twisters drove 80 yards for their first touchdown. With a series of line plunges by Covin and Armstrong and end runs by R. Gore, Clinton swept down the field to score within the first three minutes of play.
Clinton High School concluded their "most successful season in her gridiron history" with a remarkable win over a non-conference eleven from Hobart. The entire first half against Hobart was "desperately contested" with Clinton leading 7-0 at intermission. The Hobart eleven fought valiantly but was unable to hold Clinton's great backfield in the second half. Touchdown after touchdown was plunged over the line of goal as Clinton won by a shutout score of 33-0. Covin performed brilliantly in his last gridiron game wearing a high school uniform. As in all previous games during the season of 1922, he was recognized as an individual star of Clinton's football team.
When all was said and done, Covin was placed on the second team All-State list behind Tulsa's quarterback Ledford. Only one Southwest Conference gridiron star made first team. Sayre's guard Maberry was the chosen one. Clinton's End Wisely received honorable mention along with Franzen (tackle) of Weatherford and Fourier (tackle) of Sayre. Other Southwest Conference All-State honorable mentions went to Martin (halfback) and Moore (fullback) of Carnegie.
Within the Southwest conference All-Stars and at halfback, Clinton's R. Gore and Cordell's Gudenoge was deemed slighty better than Engle of Sayre. Engle was recognized as a heady, consistent player and an important cog in the "famous" Sayre passing attack migrating to the west with Bennie Owen (OU) disciple and new Sayre coach George Tyler.
Clinton halfback R. Gore was chosen All-Star of the Southwest Conference for his long "spectacular" dashes down the field that made his name a "byword" throughout the conference. Gore's many punt returns all the way to the goal line were garnered with a deceptive change of pace and speed and set him above the rest as All-Southwest.
Wisely of Clinton was selected at End rising above a great players that included Deshane of Sayre, Gilbreth of Frederick and Garrison of Cordell. Wisely was considered a crafty, cunning demon on the defense and was in on every play on the offense. He was one of the heavier players on a mostly outweighed Clinton eleven and his speed helped make him the central cog on the defensive side of the ball.
Concluding his fourth year of high school football, Williamson had become thoroughly familiar with the fine points and strategy of the game. He was acknowledged as a "natural" born leader and respected by everyone he played with and against. Richly deserved, Williamson became a standout of the standouts selected for the first team "Oklahoma All-State" eleven in 1923.
Along with the Red Tornadoes All-State tackle Williamson being a highly touted top pick on the All Southwest Conference team in 1923, Clinton's dynamic halfback Gore became a second year member of the first team All Southwest eleven. Clinton Red Tornado players earning a spot on the second team All Southwest included Dickson at end and Witten at guard.
Gore, a star for the 1922 Twisters, was the fastest man in the Southwest Conference. In addition to his speed, Gore possessed 170 pounds of "avoirdupois" with an uncanny open field change of pace that completely baffled would-be tacklers. Gore could pass, kick, plunge or dash through a broken field with equal facility. An all-around offensive threat that represented Clinton as one of its finest players in 1923.
In the year of 1923, conference realignment ruled the preseason talk around town. Altus, Hobart and Frederick joined a Southwest Conference consisting of quality elevens from Erick, Carnegie, Sayre, Mangum, Cordell, Weatherford and what would soon become known as the Clinton "Red Tornadoes."
The first conference game for Clinton already bore the pressure of championship implications and "old rival" bragging rights. Both Clinton and Weatherford entered the third round of the "Custer County Conflict" with unblemished records and with the winner getting a jump start on the championship while a loser would fall behind with little chance to trophy up.
State press recognized both teams as being "especially pointed for this game" with each team being in their "pink" of condition. Both teams were undefeated entering the contest. Adding the somewhat erroneous but dramatically embellishing fact that Weatherford and Clinton high are "rivals of many years standing" constructed a fake news press driven excitement around what was expected to be a thrilling game. To the best of researched knowledge, Clinton and Weatherford had only played each other in 1921 and 1922 with each team winning one game each. Considering two games a year had previously been acknowledged as a full season, maybe playing a team two years in a row can justify the "old rivals" hype that came with this game.
Clinton entered the 1923 "Custer County Conflict" with pre-conference wins over Hammon and Thomas. In the opening game of their '23 season, the "Red Tornadoes" walloped a hapless Hammon team by a score of 41-0. The following week Clinton scored another defensive shutout with a 9-0 win over an eleven from nearby Thomas. This while looking forward to opening up Southwest Conference play on their home field against Weatherford.
Would the Clinton eleven be "out generaled" again or pick up their second win in three years of competition against their now "old rival" Weatherford?
Well, as frustrating as it may be, "out generaled" again was found with the game descriptive as Weatherford won 19-13 on October 19, 1923. Despite a rocky start at this home game, the Clinton eleven fought with courage and while playing in desperation mode, made a sensational comeback run in the second half falling short by a six point margin. Future first time first team All-Stater Bo Williamson of Clinton was easily the individual star of the game on defense as he was in an every play. Williamson smashed his way through opposing players with ease on defense and also routed through the Weatherford defense to open up huge gaps for Clinton's backs to gallop through.
Other stars for Clinton included Wisely with his fifty-yard sprint to the goal line with ball in hand after an interception of an errant Weatherford pass. Armstrong's fierce line plunging was key in bringing Clinton back into the game in the second half. Despite the great play of Clinton's three standouts, the team itself was left behind the eight ball in conference play with little chance given of digging out like they did in 1922 when losing a first game but earning the championship in their final contest of that year.
"Hap" Briscoe's 1923 squad from Altus would also become a huge roadblock in the way of the Red Tornadoes' chances for a repeat of 1922 where the Twisters lost the first conference game against Weatherford and then mightily fought back to win the big trophy. Coach Briscoe brought his squad to Clinton on Saturday, October 27 with the game being delayed one day due to massive flooding caused by heavy rains all across south and west sections of Oklahoma.
Right away, Clinton's defense was attacked with a fake pass and sneaky hand-off to McNeil for Altus who dashed sixty yards to goal as the Bull Dogs took an early lead. With both teams being "evenly matched" in playing ability, this contest would become another tough fought dog eat dog battle to the end.
After being shut out in the first half by a stingy Altus defense, Clinton's speedy Gore put his Red Tornadoes on the board with a long dash around end just forty seconds after the second half kick-off. With big Bo Williamson at tackle opening up the outside lane, Gore was able to tie the score at 6-6 while gifting Clinton fans with hope of victory.
Williamson was the star of the game. Again, being in on every play on the defensive side of the ball and leading the way in most of Clinton's advances through a tough and stingy Altus defensive line. Clinton backs made most of their yards with hard charges behind the great blocking of Williamson.
With defense holding their own against Altus and only three minutes to go, a series of desperate and hard driving line plunges brought Clinton down in defeat by a score of 12-6. With two close and tough conference losses, it was now highly unlikely that the Red Tornadoes could capture back-to-back Southwest Conference titles. Although disappointed with back-to-back losses, Clinton's eleven had played tough and were put in a position they would face several times in the program's future. With a 1-2 record on the books, it was either give up or better up and move forward to establish a Red Tornado pride that would become the foundation of a long lived gridiron tradition.
As sure as football pride has always ran as deep as the Washita river runs through and past Clinton, the Red Tornadoes rebounded from the heartbreaking losses with a huge win over a very tough and experienced Cordell team. Clinton's eleven took care of business in a big way with a 19-0 shutout of Cordell.
Following the win over Cordell and with beautiful weather and highly competitive games being played all throughout the Southwest Conference on November 9, Clinton continued to battle the nemesis of defeat against Carnegie. With both teams reaching the shadow of each other's goal line several times, neither team could cross for victory. A scoreless tie at least was not a defeat but also not acceptable on the home field of Clinton.
Straight up hard-nosed football was featured throughout this game against the Wildcats of Carnegie. Defenses for both teams were consider stars of the day with no play passes or trick plays exhumed from either team's offensive playbooks.
Stars for Clinton in this tough tied battle included both tackles Williamson and Witten. R. Gore was effective with his brilliant line plunges with the ball but was unable to get his usual outside corner and sprint for the goal line as Carnegie worked to keep everything corralled to the inside. Williamson continued his season of "great work." He was called upon to stop most of the heavy Wildcat charges and even made some hard plunging runs when called upon by the offense to carry the ball. Witten was coming into his own with a "brilliant" performance on defense.
With an important rebound victory under their belt and outstanding defensive play highlighting the sister kissing tie with Carnegie, Clinton would indeed pick up the pace and run the table with big wins over Sayre 18-14, an astounding 84-0 lambasting of the Indians (origin unknown) and a resounding season ending victory over Hobart 18-6.
Clinton's 3-2-1 conference record would fall short of the previous year's rebound performance as they were crowned as the very first Southwest Conference champions in 1922. Clinton's "old rivals" would earn honors as champions of the Southwest Conference in 1923 as the Red Tornadoes landed in fourth place behind Carnegie, runner-up Altus and the newly crowned champions from Weatherford.
Despite struggle, Clinton's futuristic gridiron grit of tradition seemed to be fortified in this year of 1923. State press acknowledged the Red Tornadoes with such accolades of strength and commitment to winning. "Getting off to a poor start and losing their first two conference encounters, each by margin of a single touchdown, Clinton's 'Red Tornadoes' finally recovered their stride and swept everything before them during the last half of the season. The most striking feature of their play has been the great fight they have displayed in every game even in the face of almost certain defeat."
Although competitive but falling heartbreakingly short against some very tough teams, Clinton's eleven delivered some high profile players to the All-Conference selection committee. The "brightest in the brilliant galaxy of stars," however, was Red Tornado tackle Bo Williamson. His gigantic stature, fast and shifty feet and cool and crafty understanding of opponent's plans made him the ultimate tackle within the conference and the entire state. Considered the "tower of strength" on his team and a terror to opposing teams encountered, as previously mentioned, Williamson became the only unanimous selection as All-Conference. Every coach of the Southwest Conference not only selected Williamson on their ballots but were also backing Williamson as a bona fide Oklahoma All-State selection.
Clinton's fullback Armstrong, as well, received high praise for his play in 1923. Considered a "perfect demon in line line plunging, an accurate passer, a good punter and one of the most deadly accurate tacklers in the whole conference," Armstrong represented the Clinton eleven as its best all-around player.
Red Tornado halfback R. Gore was also acknowledged as a valuable asset to Clinton and the Southwest Conference. Gore's electrifying speed and outside the lines rushing excited fans throughout southwest Oklahoma. His weight and speed made him one of the hardest young men to bring down on the Oklahoma gridirons played upon in the south and west parts of the state during a most exiting and memorable 1923 season.
1924 Season Highlights Forthcoming: