John Shearer: Participants Nostalgically Recall First Modern Era Baylor-McCallie Football Game Of 50 Years Ago

Sunday, September 26, 2021 - by John Shearer

Fifty years ago this fall, a new experience that was actually not so new came for students at Baylor and McCallie schools. 


On Oct. 8, 1971, the two independent schools that were both then all male and had just dropped their military curriculums faced off in football for the first time since 1940.

The result was a 9-7 Baylor victory over a similarly skilled and equally competitive McCallie squad.


It was quite an event due to the novelty of it, and some might argue that the excitement and anticipation were as heightened then as for any Baylor-McCallie game since, even though it is a big game and event every year for the students and supporters of both schools.


“It was going to be totally new, so it was going to be the biggest game of the year,” remembered 1971 Baylor running back David Dick. “We were all excited about it. There was a lot of talk about it. It seemed like a huge event for all of us.”


Lawrence Mills, the standout McCallie quarterback in 1971, has similar memories of the anticipation leading up to the game. “There was a real buzz about bringing the game back,” he said.


As Baylor and McCallie get ready to face off once again on Oct. 1 at McCallie School, most thoughts of course will be on this year’s game. McCallie will be hoping to extend its streak of consecutive victories over its local prep school rival to six and gun for a third state championship in a row.


On the other hand, Baylor, showing plenty of firepower on offense this season, hopes to stop the streak against the powerhouse Big Blue.


But amid yet another game, a few might think back to that Friday night of 1971 when the modern-day rivalry was just beginning again.


A look at the history reveals that Baylor and McCallie had evidently played a couple of times before Baylor began to get more serious about its sports program in 1908. That had come after McCallie had opened in 1905 as a more expansive college preparatory school on a new campus on the McCallie family farm at the foot of Missionary Ridge.


The two schools would play every year from 1908 through 1940 on the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the University of Chattanooga’s Chamberlain Field, although they might have also met on Andrews Field where Engel Stadium is now on at least one occasion.


Due to an apparent heightened intensity in the game and rivalry, and maybe the fact Baylor had a standout player in 1940 named Eddie Prokop, who would go on to finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1943 at Georgia Tech, McCallie initiated the dropping of the rivalry game. McCallie might have seen Mr. Prokop, a fast runner who was seen as a popular student at Baylor, as too much of a recruited player, having come from Cleveland, Ohio.


The two schools that were then military would continue to meet in other sports, and by the late 1960s, the wrestling matches and basketball games became quite intense, Mr. Mills remembered.


The exact intricacies of how the football rivalry was renewed in 1971 could not be tracked down, but McCallie evidently initiated that move as well. 


Retired McCallie headmaster Spencer McCallie III, who was on the staff at McCallie at that time and already taking on some administrative duties under his father, Spencer McCallie Jr., said he was not directly involved.


But he recalled that the Mid-South Association, which featured Baylor and McCallie and other prep and military schools in the region, was dissolving.


Some of the private schools in the new Southern Association of Independent Schools were changing schedules and playing public schools, and McCallie officials began to think more about their schedule.


“Somewhere in there it looked very strange that Baylor and McCallie, who were playing each other in every other sport, were not playing in football,” recalled Mr. McCallie this week. “It looked reasonable to start the football rivalry to say the least.”


In retired Baylor headmaster Herb Barks’ memoir-style book, “Walking the Hill,” he references the fact that McCallie had requested to renew the rivalry about the time he was starting his stint as headmaster in 1971, and he and Baylor thought it was a good idea as well.


How Baylor came to host the first game is also lost, but it might have been a gesture offered by McCallie, since officials there initiated the renewal of the rivalry. And Baylor was also opening a new stadium.


In the years before 1971, Baylor had played its home games on Friday afternoons at unlighted Rike Field in front of the current fieldhouse, and that would have been inadequate for a Baylor-McCallie game. A few bigger games dating back earlier had been played at Chamberlain Field.


News reports before the 1971 game talked of the anticipation. A story in the Chattanooga Times the day of the game said, “Baylor and McCallie tonight breathe new life into a football rivalry that died 31 years ago, and interest has spread like wildfire throughout the city.”


It also pointed out that tickets had sold out within a day or two after they went on sale for the 4,000-seat stadium, although some standing-room-only tickets would go on sale 90 minutes before the 8 p.m. game.


They were anticipating possibly 8,000 people that night, but it was apparently only about 4,500 to a little over 5,000, but still quite an overflow crowd.


The story in the Chattanooga News-Free Press about the game said, “It’s been 31 years since the Red Raiders and Blue Tornado varsities battled on the gridiron, and the tension at both schools has built up to an almost unbearable pitch, although the administrations have striven to keep down the pressures.”


On the day of the game, Baylor had also taken out a full-page newspaper ad. Featuring a photo of the entire student body, it said, “We back Red’s Raiders. Baylor, win or lose, we’ve got great spirit.” The Red’s Raiders was a reference to Baylor coach “Red” Etter.


Banners made by both schools were also seen about town.


The game prediction was close to being a tossup, although Litkenhous sports had made McCallie the slight favorite, and three of the five News-Free Press Prep Experts picked McCallie. They were Ward Gossett, Sam Woolwine and Roy Exum, while Terry Hardwick and Dan Cook picked Baylor. 


In the game, Baylor went ahead 6-0 with 4 minutes left in the second quarter on a David Dick 6-yard score, after McCallie looked as if it might score first with a long drive in the first quarter before Jimmy Thrasher missed a 27-yard field goal. Those three points would have ended up being the difference in the game.


The Blue Tornado also had a good drive on its next possession deep into Baylor territory before a Baylor defense led by co-captain Tommy Sutherland stiffened and Rick Bryant recovered a fumble on fourth down.


Then, with 15 seconds left in the half, Baylor sophomore Mike Shuford kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Red Raiders up 9-0 at intermission. The field goal, which redeemed for Mr. Shuford a missed extra point, came after quarterback Steve Tipps had completed Baylor’s first pass of the night to Phil Carson, and sophomore Andy Rutledge had made a good run.


At halftime, Baylor dedicated its new stadium in honor of recently retired business manager and highly successful former football coach Humpy Heywood, who was in his first year as head coach in 1940 when the rivalry was dropped.


In the third quarter, Baylor appeared as if it might enjoy a comfortable win as it drove deep into McCallie territory. However, the Red Raiders did not score and McCallie under the passing skills of Lawrence Mills drove down the field and scored on a 21-yard TD pass to Brooke Hawkins.


Among his other receivers he hit that night were running back David Anderson, John Hawfield, Hal North, John Straussberger and Harry Long.


Midway through the fourth quarter, McCallie was driving again to try and take the lead, but a fourth-down pass to Mr. Long down to the Baylor 29 came up a little short following a measurement.


McCallie was hoping to get the ball back, but a personal foul on one fourth-down punt by Baylor and another personal foul due to a missing mouthpiece on another fourth down kept McCallie from getting the ball back. As a result, Baylor was able to run out the clock for the 9-7 win.


Among those who were contacted for their memories of that game, all still remember various aspects, although they point out with a laugh that 50 years was a long time ago.


“I do remember rushing for 88 yards and scoring a TD and beating them, 9-7,” said standout tailback David Dick when contacted. “And I remember we had a lot of great young players.”


He said several sophomores, like fullback Andy Rutledge, Mike Shuford and Bobby Edmondson, who ran the ball some from an end position, were already playing. That class would go on to finish second in the state in 1972 and win the state and be claimed mythical national champion by one poll as seniors in 1973.


So, he believes they helped Baylor greatly that night, even as younger players.


He also recalled with praise the tactical coaching skills of second-year Baylor coach E.B. “Red” Etter after a stellar career leading Central High, as well as those talents of defensive coach Gene Etter, who was also his ninth-grade coach.


Mr. Dick, who went on to play tennis at SEC tennis power Georgia and has been involved in the real estate mortgage business in Atlanta, also still remembers the joy of winning that night.


“It was fantastic,” he said. “I’m sure we all went out and celebrated.”


Baylor classmate Buzz Willett was a monster man – a hybrid cross between a linebacker and defensive back – and returned punts, despite his small, 5-foot-7 size.


He recalled vividly how different the McCallie game seemed than the other Baylor games that year.


“Before the game started, it was totally different,” he said. “You could smell cigar smoke. People were calling me up and asking how everybody looked. It was a different deal than any game before or since.”


He also remembered that a few dozen spectators might have been inside a stadium for a typical game when the teams were warming up, but for this one, he noticed the student section was already full long before kickoff.


“There was a lot of atmosphere,” he said.


Mr. Willett, who went on to play tennis at Georgia Tech and then entered the wholesale fiberglass insulation distributing business and is now retired in Charlotte, said the victory over McCallie helped vault Baylor to a 9-1 season. 


And the rest of the season kind of mirrored that game, he added.


“We won every game by 2 to 5 points,” he said with a laugh, adding that the team did have another big win against a very good Oak Ridge team, 7-6, later in the year.


Among the other contributors he remembers on the Baylor team besides those previously mentioned were linemen Steve Walker and Tip Trevarthen, wingback Tim Moore and end Jon Napper.  


Baylor knew that the key to victory over McCallie not only in 1971 but maybe even more in 1972 his senior year was to stop quarterback Lawrence Mills. Mr. Mills would become a familiar name among McCallie and Baylor students who followed him, and he said he identified with that having grown up in the Brainerd area following Brainerd High’s football team.


“I used to go to the Brainerd High Rebels games, and we knew every football player,” he recalled. “It was important.”


He was playing some elementary school football in the fifth grade when he was noticed by McCallie staff member Jim Lyle. Mr. Mills ended up coming to McCallie in the seventh grade as a financial aid student, he said, but quickly fit in with the rest of the students, particularly on the football field.


He said that McCallie had been coached by Mike Knighton, who had a connection to Newnan, Ga., and he brought assistant Jim Norris with him. But coach Knighton got an opportunity to go back to Newnan before the 1971 season, so coach Norris was named as the new head coach.


While Baylor was developing into a two-platoon system, in which someone played only offense or defense, McCallie at that time still had some players going both ways, he said. Baylor was also more run oriented, as most high school teams were at that time, while McCallie was a little unusual in passing a lot due to the skills of Mr. Mills. At that time, passing about 20 times a game, which Mr. Mills did, was a lot on the high school level.


And Mr. Mills would occasionally call his own plays or check off at the line of scrimmage and run another play.


In the 1971 game, Mr. Mills completed about 50 percent of his passes, the writeups say. He, on the other hand, remembers the game more for the intensity surrounding it.


“The game itself was not very entertaining,” he recalled. “It was probably boring. But the stands were packed on both sides.”


Among his other McCallie teammates other than those mentioned were Tom Gardner (who went on to play at Navy), James Brown, John Nelson, Bobby Goodrich, Wes Brown, Bill Chapin and Davis Joiner, among others.


Mr. Mills would maybe be an even bigger part of the game the next year as a senior. Before one of those rivalry games, he recalled with a laugh, Baylor coach E.B. “Red” Etter was calling him the best passing quarterback he had seen since facing future Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung while coach Etter was at Central in the early 1950s.


Mr. Mills jokingly added that he heard before the 1972 game that the Baylor players were out to tackle him hard and get him out of the game. And sure enough, after a tipped pass in the first half was intercepted, he got hurt chasing the Baylor player with the ball.


Baylor would go on to win the second game, 36-0, in what was supposed to be a tight game after McCallie was also dedicating a rebuilt stadium christened Spears Stadium on the site of their older field, and coach Norris left after that season.


Coming in was former Brainerd High coach Pete Potter, who had a young son named Ralph Potter, the future successful McCallie coach. Although the older coach Potter would instill a more run-oriented offense and focus more on fundamentals, discipline and conditioning, Mr. Mills said they enjoyed a connection before he graduated.


The reason was that Mr. Mills was going to play football at Virginia, where coach Potter had also played after going to Red Bank High. Coach Potter would go on to coach McCallie through the 1993 season and win plenty against Baylor, particularly from about 1980-90.


Mr. Mills said he was the captain of the freshman/JV team at Virginia his freshman year as a quarterback, but injured his collarbone and shoulder his sophomore year, and that ended his career.


He would go on to operate such restaurants as Porker’s and 2503 Station Grill in Chattanooga and, as a result, has been unable to go to a lot of the Baylor-McCallie games of recent years. But he still follows them and enjoys McCallie class reunion gatherings, where they always wish they could gather with some Baylor alumni from that same year and talk about the first game.


He considers it an honor to have been a part of it.


“The rivalry was heightened to a new level between the two schools,” he said of the 1971 game. “It was taken to a new level.


“And I feel good to have been a part of that.”


Besides the Baylor and McCallie students, some former Girls Preparatory School students also have memories of that first rivalry game of the modern era.


Hilda Schmissrauter Murray and Merry Lynn Doster Cato were schoolmates at GPS and were also cheerleaders for McCallie and Baylor, respectively, in that 1971 game and have not forgotten how exciting it was.


“It was a huge deal,” said Ms. Murray, recalling that a lot of the same activities were going on as today, with flags and banners hanging at places around town in support of both schools. “And it (the stadium) was as crowded as all get out.”


She also still remembers that her male cheerleader partner was Doug Barron for that game and during the season.


Ms. Cato, who has kept a close friendship with Ms. Murray over the years, recalled the excitement as well, even though it was sometimes hard to see all the action from the cheerleaders’ field level behind the players. 


As a Baylor cheerleader, she was happy to clearly see the Baylor victory, though. “We were excited after the game because the team was so excited.”


They both added that most GPS students were not overly as intense about the outcome of the game, in part because many of them had dated boys from both schools. And the main activity the GPS girls did in anticipation of the game was to decorate their cars. 


But they definitely noticed how important it was for the Baylor and McCallie students, with Ms. Murray recalling that the McCallie student she was dating at the time, the now-late Skip Viall, was quite disappointed afterward.


As for me, I was a sixth grader at Bright School in the fall of 1971 who assumed I would be attending Baylor the next year after having gone to Baylor Camp for several summers. I actually lived three doors down in the Valleybrook subdivision in Hixson from Ms. Murray and was a buddy of Kurt Schmissrauter, her younger brother.


I have not forgotten listening to a radio broadcast of the game or at least part of it in our living room by myself and being excited that Baylor won. I had heard that the rivalry was going to be renewed some months before when Bright classmate Ben Probasco, whose family was of course long connected with Baylor, told me.


I remember he remarked something to the effect that they would need 10 ambulances at that game because it was going to be so intense. 


While perhaps a little stretch from the eyes of an elementary school student, it did still show the passion in the rivalry. 


And it is a passion that still is going strong today, 50 years later. 


And sometimes the rivalry goes full circle. As evidence, Baylor graduate Mr. Willett said that in recent years, he ran into someone who played at McCallie in the 1971 game and the Blue Tornado alumnus remarked that McCallie had beaten Baylor again that year, with emphasis on “again.”


Mr. Willett’s remark to him in reference to the 1971 game was, “We won the one that mattered.”


* * * * *


Since the rivalry was renewed in 1971, McCallie leads in the modern series 29-24 (including three playoff games). The modern series record was tied 24-24 after the 2015 Baylor victory before McCallie won five straight.


Baylor still barely leads in the overall series if including the games from 1940 and earlier.


Here is a rundown of which team won each year and the streaks they enjoyed:


Baylor won the games in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974. McCallie won the playoff game in 1974. Baylor won in 1975, while McCallie won in 1976. Baylor came back to win in 1977, 1978 and 1979, before McCallie won in 1980.


Baylor then won in 1981, and McCallie was victorious in 1982 and 1983. Baylor claimed a victory in 1984, while McCallie began its first long streak of consecutive wins in 1985 and won in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990.


Baylor rebounded to win in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. McCallie won in 1995, while Baylor won in 1996 and 1997, and in the 1997 playoff game. 


McCallie then began its longest winning streak to date with wins in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Baylor then won in 2009, 2010, the playoff game of 2010 as well, 2011, 2012 and 2013.


McCallie won in 2014, Baylor won in 2015, and McCallie has won in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.


* * * * *


While it is likely that a handful of Baylor and McCallie alumni or longtime staff members now retired have attended a large percentage of the Baylor-McCallie games since the rivalry was renewed in 1971, I started wondering if anyone has attended all of them, including the three playoff games. If anyone knows of someone who for sure has seen all of them in person, send me an email.


* * * * *



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