BLAST FROM THE PAST
KMHS basketball over 100 years old, football should turn 100 in year ‘22
(October 7, 2020 Issue)
Had the pandemic not come along, Kings Mountain High School would be playing its 98th season of football right now.
Hopefully, the season will be played in early 2021 with an abbreviated seven-game regular season and a four-round state playoff. It is assumed, if that happens, the players would hit the field again in the fall of ’21 but that, too, could depend on the pandemic and/or decision from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
The first Mountaineer football team in 1922 did not even have a coach. Uniforms were hand-me-downs from Trinity College (now Duke) and their shoes were Boy Scout shoes to which a local cobbler attached rubber cleats for 50 cents a pair.
Of course, none of the original Mountaineers are still with us but in earlier years players recalled the beginning in stories in The Herald.
It all began when a few players from Davidson College came to Central School to talk to the high school boys about organizing a football team.
Eighteen youngsters agreed to play. They didn’t have a coach. Two local doctors, Dr. Hood and Dr. Norman, agreed to coach and others around town helped out.
Later in the year, Fred Ormand took over as coach.
Although none of the original Mountaineers, when interviewed by The Herald later in life, remembered the team’s record it is believed to have been 3-2-1. Of the information recalled by players and reported in The Herald, the Mountaineers lost to Lincolnton 12-0 in their first-ever contest, tied Gastonia 0-0, beat Cowpens on a forfeit, shutout Mt. Holly 19-0, lost to Charlotte 25-0 and defeated the KM All-Stars 35-0.
Some of the game results were reported to The Herald, and others were not with a small blurb saying “The Kings Mountain boys played football Friday.”
In a Herald story in 1949, it was reported that Charlie Saunders ran a 60-yard touchdown against Mount Holly, Forrest Houser caught a touchdown pass from Hoyt Mathews, and Lawrence Lovell scored on a “double pass” from J.M. McGinnis.
The forfeit win over Cowpens came as a result of the Cowpens team getting upset with an official’s call and walking off the field. The Mountaineers - you never heard or read about them referred to as Mounties during that time - were leading 7-0.
The late Joe Lee Woodward, in a 1974 feature story in the Kings Mountain Mirror-Herald, told editor Gary Stewart that the first football game he ever saw, he played in against Lincolnton.
“They beat us on two end-around runs,” he noted.
Woodward said the Mountaineers ran a “box formation” and the center snapped the ball directly to the player that was going to run it.
Passing was almost non-existent at the time because footballs were almost round, Woodward noted. “The ball was big and bulky and we always played with one ball until it wore out.”
Teams traveled to games in cars.
One of the original Mountaineers, Plato Goforth, was in the eighth grade. In his final year, 1926, the Mountaineers finished undefeated but did have four ties.
The teams played their home games near Deal Street on a field at the current site of Bridges Auto Parts. He remembered that some fans would give a player that scored a quarter, and he caught five touchdown passes in a game against Mt. Holly.
Members of the original team included Joe Lee Woodward, Herman Hayes, Hoyt Matthews, Tom Fulton, Jake Hord, Forrest Houser, Howard Pursley, Lloyd Ormand, Tom Saunders, Hoyle McDaniel, Charlie Saunders, Clemonsee Boone, J.M. McGinnis, Plato Goforth, Odell McGinnis, Fred Plonk, Royce Green and Lawrence Lovell.
Pursley, who played baseball at KMHS beginning in 1918, said he thought the Mountaineers were playing baseball as early as 1912 when he moved to town from South Carolina.
Pursley was playing baseball in KM when the rivalry with Shelby began around 1921. He said it came about during a baseball series between Neisler Mills and a mill from Shelby.
He recalled that just about every textile mill and many communities in all the area towns had baseball teams and they’d play about three games a week. It was a highly competitive league that drew a lot of fans.
Pursley was a highly-recruited pitcher but chose not to go to college or the pros. Some other outstanding players here during those years included Coman Falls, Red Layton, Arthur Hord, Ormand and catcher Jake Early. Early spent 10 seasons in the major leagues and caught the entire 1943 All-Star game for the American League.
Grover also produced some great baseball players during that time including John Gold, Jim Blalock, Bub Keeter, Al Crisp, Buck Shuford, George Royster and Wayne Conner.
Kings Mountain chose an all-star team which fell to Grover in the post-season. Players included Red Layton, Humphries and Carl Moss of the Margrace, Cornwell, Coman Falls and Skimp Stowe of the Stags, Morrison of the Bonnie, Cole of Pauline and Hunter and Hayes of Mauney.
Pursley recalled that the Mountaineers played basketball on an old dirt court near St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. In the thirties basketball was played on the stage at Central School.
Woodward was a 6-3 eighth grader in 1922 and was the tallest player on the team. Of course, he was a forward. He played tackle and quarterback in football and first base in baseball.
All games, especially basketball, has changed tremendously since then both in style of play and rules.
“Back then,” Woodward recalled in a 1974 article in The Herald, “after a basket the ball was taken back to center court for a jump. No players except the centers were allowed at center court. The other players went to the four corners of the court and the center would give a signal to let us know who he was going to tip the ball to.
“The guards were called chewing gum guards,” he said. “They stayed with their forwards all the time. Because of that Ed Lovell coached his forwards to run in circles so we’d have a step on the guard when the ball was tipped.”
As for fouls, he said, one could put his hands up in front of their man to keep him from getting a shot at the basket but you couldn’t hack him.
“Play was rough,” he noted, “but I don’t remember ever fouling out.
“Uniforms were usually cut off pants. Goals were home made and didn’t have baskets on them. Goals were made at a machine shop.”