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50th Reunion

'58 Football Team
Reunion Activities
Unlocated Classmates
'58 Football Team

Photos and Press



August 8, 2008

The envelope please ... it's 1958!
Tank Johnson
The Oak Ridger

Going into the final hours, it looked like the 1991 Oak Ridge football team had things sewn up and would be named The Greatest in Oak Ridge history by the readers of The Oak Ridger.

Not so fast.


As more than 50 votes poured in during the final hours of voting, fans of the 1958 team laid it on the line, completing the comeback and allowing the hallowed team led by coach Jack Armstrong to carry that title instead.


And what a battle it was. When it was all said and done, the '58 team finished with 241 votes. The Joe Gaddis-led team from 1991 came in with 222 votes and the Emory Hale team of 1980 had 145.


But this was no contest, friends. In fact, all along we talked about the non-scientific voting procedures, the casual methods in which fans could cast their ballots and the fact that this was one man listening to readers, hoping to generate a buzz within the community.

This was no contest this was a celebration of Oak Ridge football.


For those who thought this was a contest, I'm sorry. But, like most of the players and coaches from those three teams realize, you can't compare teams in newspaper articles or by talking about it among yourselves.

The only way to compare football teams is to have those teams compete against each other.

And we all know that's impossible. Sure, Jackie Pope looks like he could run for over 100 yards against an opponent right now, but there's no way the three teams could play each other.

And even then, we know that things change. People have changed, whether it's the additives in food or pure and simple evolution, players are bigger and faster these days. But I still wouldn't under estimate some of those teams from the past.


Anyway, I hope everyone who read this little series enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Talking with the players, some of the coaches and even the daughters of some of the coaches has been extremely fun. I also know it generated a lot of chatter in Oak Ridge, with people debating the teams and coming up with their own reasons one team or the other should be considered the best.


But, after talking to so many, I think it came down to that National Championship. You know, the one many people want to disprove and dismiss. Well, it happened and it helped create the lore that is Oak Ridge football.


It is amazing. I have to admit, I thought the 1991 team would win this little experiment because more of their fans and players were around and were part of the "Internet" generation. And it looked as if that would be the case, but the last-day heroics by the '58 fans pushed their team right over the top. Right where they probably deserve to be.



MY VOTE: The entire time, people asked me who I voted for. I kept quiet, evaluated the players, the teams and even the fans because I needed to rely on their accounts because I was not here.


So, which team do I think should have won in our Best Team competition? The fans and the community of Oak Ridge, that's who the winners were, now and when all three of these teams were performing on the field.


There's your real winners and what an opportunity it must have been to be part of the Oak Ridge community then. The opportunity to get excited and become part of something that was so special ... it had to be a tremendous feeling. The memories that were created, the friendships and bonds that were formed that's the key, and that's the thing these players often talk about when asked.


It's not the gold footballs, or the wins. It's those life-long friends and those glory days when the Oak Ridge community rallied together, supporting the team and wishing them the best, through good times and bad. Ah, the good 'ol days.

Copyright, 2008, The Oak Ridger. All Rights Reserved.

Oak Ridger, Aug 28, 2008
Top - Larry Richards, Jackie Pope, Evans Webber, Coach Don Bordinger
Bottom - Leslie Kent, Tommy Bowers, Skippy Brinkman
Oak Ridger, Sept 3, 2008



August 1, 2008

1958: Legends of the Fall
Tank Johnson
The Oak Ridger

Complete and utter domination.

That's how you could sum up the 1958 Oak Ridge High School football season -- and you don't have to look far to prove it.


Just take a look at two numbers. One is 43.8, which is what the Wildcats' offense averaged each game. And the second is 2.6, the average points the Ridger defense allowed that year.

Any questions?


But teams in Tennessee knew what was coming. They could tell a storm was brewin' in 1958, just from what had happened the two seasons prior. There was no denying that something special was going to take place in Oak Ridge, and it was up to Jack Armstrong's boys to deliver.

We can start in the backfield with tailback Jackie Pope. You mention football in Oak Ridge and his name will come up ... it HAS to.


Pope averaged 17.2 yards per carry in 1958. The numbers he and the offense put up are staggering, and just think what they would have been if they'd played the second half?

Most of the time, Oak Ridge had things well in hand by halftime; so the starters got to rest.

But joining Pope in the Wildcat backfield was Howard Dunnebacke, a tremendous fullback who set the tone in 1958 with a 44-yard touchdown run on the season's first offensive play.

Wilson Mills and Bobby Mitchell took the blocking back and wing positions.


In the line, Oak Ridge had players such as Evan Weber, Eddie Alexander, Richard Ulm, Roland Henderson, Sam Owen, Mike Brady, Larry Richards and Skippy Brinkman. Others included Lewis Lanter and Grady Wade, making up a deep line for Armstrong and the Wildcats.

Brady is considered by many to be the best center ever at Oak Ridge, making the All-State list along with Pope that season. Richards did as well, dominating anyone who lined up across from him.


Brinkman, who started since he was a sophomore, was huge for that time and was a crushing defensive lineman. He and the rest of the senior football class in 1958 never lost a home game and essentially put Oak Ridge on the map in the game of football.


... But Game No. 10 on the schedule defined the season. That's the one everyone talks about, with the Wildcats taking on Chattanooga Central as close to 15,000 fans gathered at Blankenship Field.


It was No. 1 in the state (Oak Ridge) vs. No.2 for all the marbles. Central had won the state title the year before, and they were big and they were mean.


The first nine games of the season had seen the Wildcats outscore their opponents 424-20 and the closest opponent was McMinn County, which took a 40-14 spanking at the hands of Oak Ridge. Another interesting facet of this 1958 Clash of the Titans was Union Carbide shooting color film of the game, using this new-fangled thing called slow-motion footage.


The much-anticipated battle lived up to the hype; but Oak Ridge got two scores from Pope to win the game 14-6. That single moment, that game and that 1958 team went on to personify Oak Ridge Football in the eyes of so many in East Tennessee. The size of the crowd was unheard of at that time, but that Friday night built momentum for the game of high school football, turning it almost cult-like to so many here.


You can talk about football being a different game, players being smaller, or whatever excuses you may want to make about the glory that has been heaped upon the 1958 team. The simple fact is this: It wouldn't be such a special, pride-filled experience putting on the Oak Ridge football uniform if not for the exploits and triumphs of the 1958 team and all teams in that era.


If you respect the tradition of Oak Ridge football, you must respect the teams that loved their community so much that they fought hard, worked tirelessly, and won games to forge it.
Copyright, 2008, The Oak Ridger. All Rights Reserved.