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Remember when? The final season of Clarksville High School football

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
A black-and-white team photo of the Clarksville HS Red Terrors, and the school’s cheerleaders. / July 08, 2020
Special to The Sun

I was saddened to learn of the passing of the co-captains of the last Clarksville High School football team. Lawrence Jones passed away on June 21 and Dennis Newton two days later.

It’s been a lot of years, but I still carry vivid memories of Lawrence, Dennis, and all of that 1954 Clarksville football team. It was a different time: Robbins Mill and the Planters Warehouse were doing well, gas was twenty cents per gallon, bottled drinks were five cents, the movie theatre was busy as was the pool hall below, Hudson Hornets were dominating NASCAR, Ike was in the White House, Bill Haley and the Comets had just released “Rock Around the Clock” (Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Fats Domino would become well known in the next year), and Virginia schools were separate and unequal.

We were lucky to be among the 203 students at Clarksville High School. Football practice started in the blazing hot August days when coaches Klocker and Glasscock worked us until all we wanted to do was let the water from the drinking fountain at the other end of the practice field wash over us (there were no showers). After two or three weeks of this, we were anxious for a game or anything that would take us away from that place. Just prior to the first game, the team selected Lawrence and Dennis as co-captains.

Our first game was against Randolph-Henry. This year they had one win already and came into Robbins Park as the favored team, but left on the short end of a 25-6 score.

Next up was an away game with Chase City. Two years earlier tempers had flared at Wilkins Drive-In and Mason Elam had been struck with a two by four that resulted in his having to be whisked away to MCV in Richmond. He was fine now and our starting left tackle. (Mason liked to say the hit to the head helped correct his eyesight.) There were no two by fours this night and we came away with a 26-6 victory.

We visited Chatham next and sang a couple hundred stanzas of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” as our bus flirted with speeds of 70-75 mph, after winning 25-0.

We defeated South Hill at Robbins Park in our Homecoming game by the score of 30-6. Courtland came to town and we squeezed out a 14-13 victory. We traveled to Helena High School in North Carolina and won 34-6. Gretna came to Robbins Park with a highly touted team and we managed to win 18-6.

Along about this time (Oct. 15, 1954), Hurricane Hazel paid Clarksville a visit and left Robbins Park with extensive damage to the concrete walls. It would be quite some time before the damage was repaired.

We faced Chase City at Robbins Park for a second time and Willis Men’s Shop offered a pair of shoes for the Clarksville High School “player of the game.” There were a number of players that merited consideration after we won 47-0. Lawrence, Dennis, Keister Blanks and Clinton Hayes had outstanding games, Bob Burnette did a great job at quarterback, and Jack Hite drop-kicked the 47th point. But Sal Thomasson walked off with the shoes for hauling in a number Bob’s passes. (Is it too late for a recount?)

The final game of the season was in South Hill. For much of the day it looked as though Hurricane Hazel had returned and when we started our pregame warmups, the rain was so heavy it was difficult to see from one sideline to the other. Still, someone made the decision to to cue up the National Anthem and have us play some football.

There would be no singing on the return trip to Clarksville that evening. We lost 2-0. We gave up a safety on the first series of downs and neither team could manage much of an offense in the muck. It was a challenge just to hold onto a mud coated pigskin. One Clarksville touchdown was called back when Keister took a handoff from Bob and ran 25 yards for what seemed like a score. But, the play was called back. The ref said Bob’s knee had touched the mud before he handed off to Keister. (Funny, I don’t recall a whistle or anyone trying to stop play as the play unfolded.) Anyway, the game came to an end and we were all caked with mud from head to toe except where a tear or two might have escaped. A few weeks later, a Clarksville group was kind enough to host an awards banquet for the cheerleaders and team in the basement of Robert’s Grill.

Our 8-1 record was good enough to win the District championship … not perfect but pretty damn good.

Then it was time to move on to baseball (we would win the District championship). And did I mention the beautiful Clarksville High girls? They made poodle skirts, bobby sox, and saddle oxfords look good.

It was, as Frank was to sing, “a very good year.”

(Got your own memories of sporting glories of yesteryear? Contributions are welcome from alumni of all county schools — Clarksville, Chase City, South Hill, West End, East End, and the list goes on. Email your write-ups and photos to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). com. All submissions are subject to editing.)

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