Somebody had to break the ice
Sept. 6, 2001
Did you know that Tim Gibson, Mickey Sellers, Ronnie Snyder, and Bobby Espey all have something in common when it comes to high school football in Lauderdale County.
No, they weren't the original Four Horsemen.
The four's claim to fame is that they scored the first touchdown in the football history of Northeast Lauderdale, Clarkdale, Southeast Lauderdale, and West Lauderdale, respectively.
Northeast was a step ahead of the other three county schools when it came to starting its football program as the Trojans kicked things off for the first time in 1961. In their first three games, however, they only actually kicked off once per game as their offense took a while to get untracked. Three games into the season and the Trojans had yet to score.
Northeast opened with losses to Decatur (21-0), Neshoba Central or Neshoba County as it was called back then (25-0), and Myrick (21-0). Decatur's win snapped a 13-game losing streak.
Gibson finally found the end zone for the Trojans as he scored on a 1-yard run in a 20-7 loss at Edinburg in the fourth game of the 61 season.
And no, Billy Crystal isn't considering making a movie out of the play.
Although Clarkdale, Southeast, and West didn't begin their programs until 1962, it didn't take those teams nearly as many games to find the end zone … perhaps because they were playing each other.
Sellers scored Clarkdale's first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the Bulldogs' debut game on Sept. 7, 1962, against Southeast.
Also in that contest, Snyder scored on a 5-yard run for Southeast.
Espey scored on a 45-yard burst in West's 32-12 win over Beulah Hubbard in the Knights' second game of the 62 season. The game was played at Union as neither Beulah Hubbard or West had its own field at that time.
Espey, who's a pretty fair golfer these days, also scored the first basket in that program at West Lauderdale.
With a year's head start, Northeast shut out Clarkdale, Southeast, and West by a combined margin of 218-0 in the 1962 and 1963 seasons. Clarkdale and Southeast both scored in losses to the Trojans in 1964. West finally broke the ice in the 1965 game.
In 62, Northeast also had a 6-0 victory over the Meridian B' team.
Did you know?
Neshoba Central began its football program in 1959 and lost all four of its games that first season.
The Rockets got their first touchdown in school history on an 80-yard kickoff return by Junior Spears to start the second half of their season-opening 33-6 loss to the Brooksville Bulldogs on Oct. 8, 1959. The game was played at Philadelphia High School.
Other losses that year were to Union's B' team (27-7), Ethel (35-0), and Philadelphia's B' team (13-0). Spears also scored Neshoba's touchdown in the game with Union's B' team.
Howard Wells, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., who played at Jones Junior College and two years at McNeese College, began the Rockets' program.
The Rockets got their first win in 1960 as they beat Decatur 7-6 at East Central Junior College. The Rockets didn't play their first true home game until 1964, blanking Carthage 12-0.
The Rockets ignited in 1987 as they began a string of seven straight state playoff appearances, all under head coach Chuck Friend. Friend, who is now at Tuscaloosa Central, had a 103-41-1 record in 12 years at Neshoba.
The Rockets have an all-time record of 230-195-9 heading into this week's game with Forest.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com or call him at 693-1551 ext. 3234.