Local sports: ’53 Bearcats just happy to be remembered

bmccormick@heraldonline.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Walter Jenkins’ Rock Hill Bearcat teams of the 1940s and 50s had a hard time scheduling games. Not only were they good, Jenkins’ squads so physically beat up opposing teams, that no one would play them. That stemmed from Jenkins, the coach listed under “old school” in the dictionary.

“I think the guys were more afraid of Jenkins than they guy they were playing against,” said Grady Lyles, a member of Rock Hill’s 1953 state championship team.

Last Friday night during halftime of Rock Hill’s game with Boiling Springs, 11 men - Bill Few, Johnny Butler, Bernie Mangum, Mickey Beckham, Carroll Hester, Broadus Thomason, Russell Smith, Bob Plexico, Bill Jordan, Ron Gordon and Grady Lyles - were honored at midfield. They were Jenkins’ undefeated 1953 state championship team, his third during a 13-year stint in charge of the school’s football program.

They’re not as young as they were running around the old Memorial Stadium back in the days before facemasks. When told they would be honored on the field at halftime Friday night, the ’53 Bearcats joked that they would have to start moving at the end of the first quarter. Lyles said there were two tackles, two ends and two backs still living from that team, almost enough for a starting offensive unit.

They were something in their heyday though. In ’53, the Bearcats outscored their opponents 230-32, allowing just five touchdowns all season. Raymond Head and Broadus Thomason were selected to the Shrine Bowl, as well as the All-Southern team, chosen from a 12-state area. Thirteen players went on to college ball from that team, which was voted No. 1 in the final poll of the season by sportswriters from across the state.

Sixty years later, the remaining Bearcats were just glad someone remembered.

“The atmosphere, the attitude of the people, the way we were treated,” said Lyles, “I’m 76 years old and to be asked to do something like this, it just makes you feel good. It was overwhelming.”

Five questions with Fort Mill junior Mason Jordan

Today is National Comic Book Day- do you have a superhero you like, and if so, why?

I like Batman because he’s got cool gadgets, costume. He looks pretty sweet.

Interesting that it’s National Comic Book Day. Do you think comic book are a big deal in this day and age?

Not really. I never really paid attention to them when I was a kid. I like superheroes but I don’t really read comic books.

Do you read books at all?

When I have to.

What’s a book that’s stuck with you that you read recently, whether you had to or not?

I liked Hatchet. It’s pretty good. It’s about a guy that lives on his own in the woods. I like the outdoors so I’m kind of into that kind of stuff.

(Jordan plays offense and defense for Fort Mill) Do you have a side of the ball you prefer?

I like offense a little bit better because you can manipulate the defense and do your own thing.

Y’all have a lot of young guys playing this season, what’s the biggest leap from ninth grade to 11th grade in varsity football?

I think just confidence. You’ve got to have some confidence going in there. You can’t think ‘oh I’m just a sophomore, an underclassmen, I can’t play with these varsity kids.’ I just think it’s more confidence. Anybody can do it physically; it’s just in your head.

We’re out here on this lovely green field, what do you guys think of the turf?

We like it. It kind of stinks with all of the astroturf getting in your shoes, but it looks good so we like the looks of it.

Fred Lee, Asa Watson Good Works team

A pair of local college football players were named to the Allstate AFCA 2013 Good Works Team, which honors student-athletes for community and charity service. Former Chester Cyclone Fred Lee (University of Buffalo) and former Rock Hill Bearcat Asa Watson (N.C. State) were honored with inclusion in the 11-man NCAA Division I team out of a field of 150 nominees.

Not surprisingly, Lee had just given a talk to a group of high school students about making good choices when he was surprised with his award.

“I’ve been involved in the community all summer and doing so much work and losing countless hours of sleep to do this,” Lee said. “To know that people recognize me and that people actually care about the things I do means a lot when you put a lot of time and energy into being a positive person. To be honored like this is a blessing.”

Lee mentors at-risk youth, volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House and a local veteran’s hospital, and participates in a number of on-campus activities at Buffalo.

Watson’s charitable efforts include mission work in Jamaica in 2012 and Skid Row in Los Angeles in 2011, as well as numerous activities in the Raleigh area.

Jessica Tooley named The Sun Conference Offensive Player of the Week

Former Fort Mill High School soccer standout Jessica Tooley was named The Sun Conference Offensive Player of the Week last week, after scoring and assisting two goals each in USC-Beaufort’s pair of games.

Tooley scored twice and assisted on a third in USCB’s 4-3 win over Erskine last Tuesday, before assisting on the Sand Sharks’ lone goal in a 7-1 loss to Division I Alabama State Sunday.

The sophomore leads the NAIA-level Sand Sharks (3-4-1) with two goals and four assists so far this season.

Region 3 swim meet Saturday

The Region 3-AAAA swim meet will be held at the Rock Hill Aquatics Center on Saturday, Sept. 28.

More than 250 male and female high school swimmers from eight schools - Clover, Fort Mill, Lancaster, Nations Ford, Northwestern, Rock Hill, South Pointe and York - will vie for top titles in 22 events.

Pre-meet activities begin at 9:15 a.m. and include senior swimmer recognition and the National Anthem sung by the Northwestern High School Troubadours. Northwestern High School is hosting the event during which school records are likely to be set and swimmers earn state cut times to swim at the South Carolina High School League AAAA State Swim Meet on Oct. 5, 2013 at the University of South Carolina. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

Bret McCormick •  329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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