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50 Years of Greatness: Celebrating our football legends of 1962

October 8, 2012

The class of 1962 was honored at halftime of the Borger v Palo Duro game Friday night.

On October 5th, 1962, the Borger Bulldogs took the field against the Palo Duro Dons in front of a home crowd of 6,000 fans. It was the first district game in a season that has been unmatched by any Bulldog football team ever. On this same day in 2012, we honor those men who were a part of that legendary team.
The 1962 team was made up of 14 lettermen from the year before. They were rated the team to beat in district 3-4A and ranked 8th in the statewide pre-season poll. Wayne Rape started the year as the quarterback, Lee Johnson at fullback, A.C. Tillman and Jerry Wilson at halfbacks, Melvin Gibbs at center, Bill McKinney and David Walton at guards, John La Grone and Bob Gaiser at tackles, and Joe Robinson and Fred Linton at ends. All 11 were returning lettermen. Junior Neal Barden was also a part of the offense.
On defense, La Grone was at middle guard, Joe Coffer and McKinney were tackles, and Johnson and Gaiser were ends. Walton and Gibbs backed up the line, while Linton, Tillman, Rape, and Robinson made up the secondary. Rape was the place-kicker and Dean Alexander was the punter.
Sophomores on the team were halfback David Dillingham and end Joe Barron. La Grone, Gibbs, and Johnson were elected tri-captains for the 1962 team.
Coach Gene Mayfield, who had been in Borger since the 1958 season, said prior to the season, "It would be foolish for me to say that we are going to lose every game this year, and it would be foolish to say we can beat everyone. We may be a contender, but breaks, injuries, and the ability of inexperienced players to come through will decide just how strong we will be this season." These words would definitely ring true as the season progressed.
Mayfield chose to upgrade the non-district schedule replacing Snyder and Duncan with powerhouses San Angelo Central and Odessa High.
The Bulldogs opened the season on September 14, 1962 in San Angelo with a crowd of over 10,000. The game went down to the wire, and Borger won 18-13 with a score in the final minute of the game. Alexander got the ball to Bearden for 10 yards and a touchdown with 39 seconds left. The Borger defense did not allow the Bobcats past their own 35 in the second half. Wilson (24 yards on 10 carries) recalls the game as the toughest game he ever played in at Borger High. He was sore for days and Rape suffered bruised ribs that limited his playing time.
The second game was against Dumas at home, who was ranked #1 in 3A at the time. Dumas was favored, but Borger would prevail 13-0. Dumas went on to win state that year and did not lose another game. Johnson had 122 yards, and McKinney recovered a fumble that led to a Coffer touchdown. The offensive and defensive line's play was sensational. Dumas' left tackle, Kenneth Williams, later said of La Grone, "I got enough of him, that's for sure. John La Grone was the best player- bar none- that I ever played against."
The third game of the year was against Odessa. The Bulldogs were now ranked #6 in the state. Wilson was now starting at right cornerback instead of Tillman, and Alexander replaced the ailing Robinson at safety. Tillman and Alexander both scored touchdowns and the Bulldogs rolled 14-0.
The fourth game against Palo Duro was the first district contest of the year. The Bulldogs were healthy and playing in front of 6,000 fans at Bulldog Stadium. Wilson ran for a 76 yard touchdown to put the Dogs up quickly, and Alexander had a punt return for 78 yards to lead the Bulldogs to victory 20-0.
The next game at Tascosa was said to be the toughest game in the district. Borger was ranked #4 in state now, and favored by two touchdowns. A 51 yard punt return from Alexander and a "magnificent reception" by Wilson to set up another touchdown set up the 14-7 Bulldog victory. La Grone had 17 tackles in the contest and Gibbs had 7. It was said had Tascosa won, they would have went to state.
The Bulldogs marched down to Plainview for the next contest and won easily 55-0. They had 512 yards on the night, and held Plainview to 11 yards rushing.
Lubbock High was the next victim of the now-ranked #3 Bulldogs who won 28-13 in a Saturday night contest.
Lubbock Monterey was the ninth game of the year for Borger. They rolled 40-0 and Gibbs blocked three punts that night. McKinney also had an interception and ran it back 55 yards for a touchdown. The Bulldogs had no turnovers in the contest.
After that game, the Bulldogs found themselves ranked #1 in the UPI poll. The voters in this poll were coaches from all over Texas. It is the first that Borger had been #1 in a state poll, although two other polls ranked them second. Coach Mayfield said of the ranking, "It's a real honor to be #1 and at the same time it scares you too. I just hope we can play that brand of football. Our kids should take real pride in this, but at the same time it sets you up for every team you play. It will fire up the opposition and give them every incentive to play over their head."
Amarillo High was the next contest, and it was a close one. They pulled out a 14-8 win on a game-saving interception by Alexander. Wilson had a 77 yard run in the game as well and had 133 yards on the night. By winning, they clinched their 3rd consecutive playoff spot and maintained a #1 ranking.
After an open week, the Bulldogs played Pampa. Three days before the Pampa contest, Wilson injured his leg in practice, and after X-rays, was told it was broken. He was the district leader in total offense and individual rushing. It would prove to be a great loss, but the Dogs prevailed in the game 40-8 after losing to them five years in a row. The "B" team coach, Jimmy Jones, took over head coaching duties for the game, as the head coaches were stranded in Dallas. Alexander injured his knee, and Dillingham replaced him. The Bulldogs finished the district as the very first undefeated, untied team after regular season.
In bi-district, the Dogs faced Irving. Borger intercepted six passes in the game and easily won 27-7. Next up was San Angelo, who the Dogs had beat the first game of the year. Rape scored two touchdowns and kicked three point-after attempts and Borger won 21-13.
In the state semifinal, Borger faced Lufkin. Dillingham had a 71 yard rush for touchdown early in the game. Lufkin offense did not pass midfield but once in the whole game. Rape had a 24 yard field goal, which was the only field goal made in the Mayfield era at Borger High. The Bulldogs won this one 28-0. Tillman injured his hip and Linton his knee in the game. Injuries would be the story of the final game for these undefeated Bulldogs.
The State Championship game paired the Borger Bulldogs against the San Antonio Brackenridge Eagles. The game was played the weekend before Christmas. Alexander was out and Tillman, Wilson, and Linton all saw very limited playing time. The Bulldog defense lost four starters to injuries and the offense had to add sophomore Robin Harrington to the backfield to start with Dillingham, Rape, and Johnson. John Tucker replaced Linton at offensive left end. Even with the injuries, the Dogs were two touchdown favorites. Brackenridge had beat the #1 ranked team in the other polls the week before.
The Dogs led 8-0 early after a safety and a touchdown. The second quarter was all Eagles, and at half, Borger was down 24-8. After the third quarter, the score was now 30-14. Borger scored two touchdowns in the 4th. Robinson scored one, and Wilson scored the other on a short run. His leg was still broken, and he played in at least 12 plays in the game. Mayfield later apologized for playing him at all. The two point conversions were both no good.
The Bulldogs attempted an onside kick, and Tucker appeared to be on top of it. He would tell everyone then and later that he had that ball. The officials awarded the ball to the Eagles, and the usually calm Mayfield was visibly angry.
Borger stopped the Eagles, and there was 2:28 left on the clock.
The Bulldogs marched it to midfield, but the Brackenridge defense holds them and runs out the clock. The Dogs lose their only game of the year, 30-26. Johnson rushed for 156 yards in the game.
Mayfield said following the game, "It's hard to say anything after getting beat in a ball game like this. They didn't run too well against our defense, but they throw like a bunch of pros, don't they?"
Brackenridge finished with 256 yards passing and three receiving touchdowns.
On the season, Borger finished with 358 points compared to their opponent's 99. Only Brackenridge scored more than 13 points against Borger. Johnson led the district in rushing with 651 yards on 123 carries. Wilson was second with 532 yards on 62 carries, and he only played in six games! Tillman led the Dogs with ten touchdowns. La Grone was a repeat selection to the All-State 1st team and Gibbs joined him.
Mayfield had requested all college coaches to wait until after the season before recruiting. West Texas State offered every senior a full football scholarship if they would enroll as a unit, but they respectfully declined. La Grone, Wilson, and Rape all accepted offers from SMU, Gibbs and Johnson to Arkansas, and Alexander, Linton, and McKinney all went to Oklahoma State.
La Grone was an All American in 1966 for SMU. He played for the Canadian Football League for eight years. He received a law degree from Baylor in 1972, and returned to Borger in 1974 where lives with his wife, Jan. He is a state district judge in Stinnett. Wilson passed on playing for the NFL, and lives near Dallas. Gibbs became a high school football coach, and is now retired. Johnson retired from a trucking business. Alexander became a career officer in the USAF becoming a colonel. McKinney played one year of college ball before joining the Navy. He returned to West Texas State in 1969 and played for former coach Mayfield in 1971. McKinney was drafted by the Bears in the 16th round of the 1972 draft. He played eight games before a knee injury caused him to give up football. Linton works for an oil company. Gaiser and Tillman are both deceased.
Just after the state game, Mayfield said, "We have a lot of wonderful boys that played football for us this season, and we'll hate to see these seniors graduate."
All of Borger echoed this sentiment, as the 1962 season has yet to be matched. We honor these Borger High School football legends and great men for their guts, heart, and determination. Fifty years of greatness, and we are still proud of all you accomplished.

(Information compiled from e-book written by C. Michael Harrington; Mayfield's Borger Bulldogs: Out of the Wilderness and into the Promised Land- The Saga of Borger High School under Coach Gene Mayfield 1958-1964. Book can be purchased online at Barnes and Noble.)

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