DR. WAYNE RAY: Remembering Russellville’s win streak of 1967-68
“I came to Franklin County in 1965. My brother Pete coached here in 1952-61 – he died in May of ’61 at the age of 37, unexpectedly. I knew a lot about Russellville; we played Russellville my junior and senior years, so I got to know the Russellville players really well. My brother really loved Russellville. It didn’t take long until I understood why.
“I did my student teaching here in the spring of 1965 … John Blackwell was the assistant coach who came with my brother in ’52; he went into the Distributive Education program, and I had a major in biology, and he was teaching biology, so I just took his slot. My wife also came, and she worked here 35 years and was the cheerleading coach for 18 years and retired in 2000, and I retired in ’09. So we were very blessed that we had a whole career here. I coached for 10 years, I was the assistant principal, then principal. I was principal at the high school 16 years, assistant principal seven years, assistant superintendent seven years and then superintendent for about nine. They kept trying to find something I could do, I guess.
“Russellville is a special place. Rarely do you find a community that supports the school totally like they do in Russellville. At one time at the high school, we probably had the longest-tenured teachers of anywhere in north Alabama.
“When I came here, the second year we started the win streak … We built the stadium in ’66 when the city passed the tobacco tax, and the booster club helped a great deal. We were playing Walker County, which is Jasper now. It was raining … I think we beat them 40-6. The first play we ran an 80-yard touchdown. Jimmy Lovett ran it, and he came to the sideline, flipped the ball to Coach W and said, ‘It’s christened!’
“We had quite a run there and won the state championship. In the first 3A play-off championship game we played Cherokee County here and beat them 20-6, and the second game we played Colbert County – Leighton – and they were big rivals back then. We played them in Florence and beat them for the ’67 championship.
“The second year we played Troy – Charles Henderson – and they were really good, but we beat them 10-7 on a field goal … We played Saks the next week in Anniston. They played at the stadium in Anniston – that was their home field. Our stadium was a little bigger – it wasn’t a matter of having enough seating. Bubba Scott was the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, and he coached at Haleyville the ’50s … Haleyville had some good teams, but at one time I think Russellville beat them three years in a row. There was a lot of rivalry – big crowds. Anyway, Bubba wasn’t a favorite of the fans in Russellville because he had such good teams in Haleyville … and he decided then where the championship games were played, so he chose Anniston. Well that riled everybody up because all the fans here thought we should be playing here.
“So we go to Saks, and they were undefeated, but it was one of those nights where everything went our way. We beat them 51-13.
“They gave their coach a new car after the game – he’d coached there a long time – but we brought home the trophy.
“We got into the play-off the next year, but we had some of our best players hurt. We got beat by Muscle Shoals and lost to Sylacauga.
“But I was fortunate enough to experience that all during my assistant coach tenure.”