By CHARLIE CHITWOOD
Jefferson’s Bulldogs can say that about themselves at the end of a regular season for the first time since 1994. They were close a couple of times – 2006 being the most painful near-miss – but the perfecto was finally tacked to the bulletin board after the Dawgs dried up Redwater 62-7 last Friday night.
Want some perspective?
Juanita and I weren’t even married yet. Ned Fratangelo had not yet been elected to his first term as Mayor. Jefferson’s defensive coordinator Steven Young was part of the Bulldogs’ dynamic and HUGE line, tasked in part with protecting quarterback Mike Smith (Brother Fling) – the father of Bulldog receiver/safety Trace Smith – who was chunkin’ touchdowns to his sibling Robert (Brother Cling).
The atmosphere in Jefferson that season was electric. A thorough butt-whuppin’ of Gilmer that season was celebrated soon after at the groundbreaking for what is now Norbord. Timmy “Red” Holt scored a handful of touchdowns in almost as many different ways.
Stak-A-Sak was the only place you could buy a world-famous Moody Dog.
AOL was offering free shiny coasters (okay, they were downloads supplied via a CD) to anyone, anywhere. Did you even have an e-mail address then?
And what the heck is Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Real-paper newspapers were still the bomb and part of the weekly routine was for Ned and I to travel to our next opponent’s town to get the weekly newspaper and some semblance of a scouting report for our broadcasts.
Jerry Bennett’s Bulldogs that season were picked third in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine’s pre-season poll – back when you had to finish first or second in your district to even make the playoffs. There were five classifications plus six-man football – only six state champs in total. Adrian Denmark – who would end his Bulldog career as one of the Top 20 running backs in state history (at the time) – was a junior and only one aspect of the Dawgs’ high-octane offense.
Bennett was the first to admit that sometimes, you had to be lucky. THAT lesson was shared with him by legendary Gladewater skipper Jack V. Murphy, whose Bears had several times come close to a state title but always seemed to have a bounce go the wrong way in the playoffs. Jefferson’s chief district rival? How about the Linden-Kildare Tigers, who were ranked ninth in the state on the season’s final week and like Jefferson, undefeated at 9-0. The Dawgs won a brilliantly-contested affair in horrible weather conditions that night and our broadcast of the game nearly didn’t happen as the late-afternoon/early-evening storms knocked out power and phone lines all over the region. We finally got a dial-tone in the L-K pressbox sometime in the third quarter.
Bulldog fans were getting frothy around the lips as the season wore on and the victories continued to pile up. Memories of the 1986 championship team’s 16-0 run were fresh and folks in Marion County were hungry for another one. Nothing was as much fun as beating Tatum in the playoffs (the Eagles had vanquished Jefferson the previous year) – two teams loaded full of big-time college football players to-be. The Dawgs would then go over to the Metroplex and thoroughly dismantled Commerce in the third round, a victory that set the stage for a Region Final with Atlanta.
But that was all then and the 2018 playoffs are about right now. Friday’s date with Mineola has the added heady aroma of “payback” for Jefferson fans, who are eager to see the Dawgs swat the Yellowjackets after losing twice to them in a recent district configuration.
There’s nothing like connecting the new to the old. Thankfully, some of the old Bulldogs had something to do with the new ones.
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