Gil Worth Sr.
Special to the DD-T
The 1965 high school football season was my first year working as a referee rather than a head linemen or a field judge. The officials all met in a meeting room at the high school in Indianola on a hot August afternoon.
After about two hours of rules review, we were given a list of the games we were to work along with the other officials who would work with you. The first game on my list was in Drew Mississippi, where they would play host to the Belzoni eleven. Kickoff for the game was set at 7:30, and it would become my practice to get in touch with my fellow officials via postcards telling them that I would hold a pregame meeting in my Asto Van in the parking lot of the football stadium.
I drove to Drew and parked next to the fence just outside the Drew dressing room. My other two officials arrived a few minutes later, and we all climbed into my van. Both men were strangers to me, and I wrote down their names on the index card that I keep in my pocket for reference notes.
One of the officials was a rookie, and the other had whiskey on his breath. Boy! What luck!
After about 20 minutes of rules review and responsibilities, I led the pair into the stadium to look over the field and to meet the head coaches of both teams. After an introduction, I always ask one important question.
“Coach, do you have any unusual formations that might catch the officials off guard?”
When I put this question to Coach Paul Pounds, he answered, “No.”
But then he added, “I do have one problem. I have a tenth grader that I am going to put into the game at quarterback after the game gets going. This kid is highly excitable and will probably jump his own cadence count. So, give me a break, if you will. The kid played on my American Legion Baseball team this past summer. He can hit, he can run and he can throw.”
It was about this time that Coach Pounds got wind of the whiskey on the breath of my head linesmen, and he called me off to the side.
“Do you know that one of your linesmen has been drinking whiskey?” the coach said.
I told him, “I was aware of it, but I told the man to keep his flag in his pocket. We need to make a showing if only as a guise.“
With that Coach Pounds agreed to let the man stay on.
Belzoni had a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter when Drew called a timeout. I looked over at the Drew sideline and saw Coach Pounds holding a tall fiery, red-headed kid by the jersey trying to give him some last minute instructions. He could not have weighed in at more than one hundred and sixty pounds, and he was about ten inches taller than Coach Pounds.
He barely finished telling him what plays he wanted him to run when the young man rushed out onto the field and slid into the middle of the Drew huddle on his knees.
He broke from the huddle and beat everyone to the line of scrimmage ready to run his first high school football play. He had to step to one side to allow his center to get to the ball.
He received the snap from the center and dribbled it like a basketball until he recovered it. Then he scrambled for another five yards. When he faded back to throw a pass, he lost the football and had to run with it again. But this time he picked up extra yardage. On third down he became confused and called for a timeout. I looked over at the Drew sideline and saw Coach Pounds with his face buried in his hands. It might have been cruel of me but I could not resist. I walked over to Coach Pounds and said, “Coach, You better tell this kid to stick to baseball because he will never make it on the football field.”
I have lived long enough to eat those words, and I gave a copy of this story to Archie himself. To my surprise, Archie told me he remembered that night.
“The professional games all run together in my memory,” Archie told me. “And I ran for my life while I was at Ole Miss. But, those high school games, they were all pure fun.”
I was a high school quarterback at Henry Grady High team in Atlanta, Georgia and I know exactly what Archie is talking about.
Gil Worth Sr. is a longtime resident of Greenville. After a long and successful career owning the Gil Worth Tire Company, Worth is now retired. One of his hobbies includes writing about the many memories he has as a lifelong sports fan.