1961 HHS Football Team
District 17-AA Champions
Season Record: 10-1
#54-Don Payne, #43-George Jordan, #22-Cullen Ray Davis, #20-Donnie Jennings, #41-Dennis Scott, #30-Johnny Wolverton, #42-Corky Tidwell, #32-Glen Ward, #67-Donnie Rogers, #83-Bernie Hollenshead, #25-Ronnie Barber, #63-Ken Mash, #75-George Herring, #73-Bobby Young, #69-Larry Daily, #80-Mike Pyron, #51-Paul Clark, #19-Ronnie Jennings, #14-Dick McGirk, #53-Joe Galiga, #76-Tommy Tune, #81-Larry Allen, #68-Bill Plunkett, #71-Carl Max Bennett, #66-Larry Dutton, #84-Keith Stanford, #35-Tommy Gaston
Not Pictured: #11 - Wesley Boots, #16 - Dwight Pace, #25 - Jackie Hollingsworth
Coaches: Dale Archer, Jesse Smelley, Jim Ben Watson, Dexter Bassinger (Head Coach)
The 1961 team at the HOF Induction
The 1961 Hillsboro High School football team entered the season as the favorite to win the District 17-AA Championship. The Warbirds, as they were commonly known, also boasted of a #9 preseason state ranking. Though the Eagles had not made the playoffs in five years, Head Coach Dexter Bassinger had high expectations for his squad. The team started the season with eighteen lettermen returning to the team.
Game one of the season pitted the Eagles against the visiting Clifton Cubs. Engineered by the running of halfback Cullen Davis and the quarterbacking of Dick McGirk, Hillsboro powered its way past Clifton 26-7. Davis scored 3 times as they rolled past Clifton. Hillsboro only had 39 passing yards, but they used the rushing game to their advantage as they had 214 rushing yards. The only score that the Cubs could manage came with a little help from the Eagles, when the Eagles fumbled on a punt attempt in Hillsboro territory; the Cubs finally scored.
Coming off a nice win over Clifton, the Hillsboro Eagles travelled to face off with the Wilmer-Hutchins Eagles. This battle of Eagles tilted quickly in favor of the boys from Hillsboro. After the stingy Warbird defense led by Carl Max Bennett and Corky Tidwell forced a punt, Dick McGirk hit Dennis Scott with a 29-yard touchdown pass. Joe Galiga added the PAT to give Hillsboro an early 7-0 lead. McGirk later scored on a one-yard sneak. The Eagles missed the extra point, but had a 13-0 advantage in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd quarter Cullen Davis, assisted with a key block from Larry Allen, scored on a 65-yard run. The Eagles again missed the extra point, but were up 19-0. The Warbird defense held strong and McGirk hit Davis for a 60-yard score. Galiga made the PAT making the score 26-0 with 1:23 remaining in the first half. Hillsboro came out after halftime, scoring 18 points in the 3rd quarter. George Jorden got the first of the three Eagle scores running behind Carl Max Bennett and Joe Galiga. Soon the Eagle got the ball back once again. Pulling a play from deep in the playbook Cullen Davis scored his third touchdown on a double reverse. Also getting in on the scoring was Glen Ward as he ran off tackle. Jorden scored his second touchdown running up the middle for 50-yards. The Eagles crushed Wilmer-Hutchins 51-0.
The Ennis Lions invaded Frazier Field to give the undefeated Hillsboro Eagles their toughest test of the season. It would be a night to seek revenge for the visiting Lions as they had not forgotten the 21-8 beating by the Eagles in Ennis the previous season. The stars of last year’s Ennis contest were back for another swing at the Lions. Halfback Cullen Davis and end Joe Galiga tallied the decisive scores against Ennis in the rival match last season. Several changes in the starting line ups for the Eagles had been made for this game. Tommy Tune has been moved back into the starting offense at left tackle. On defense Ronnie and Donnie Jennings had won starting corner positions. Everything else shall stay the same according to head coach Dexter Bassinger. Both Bassinger and line coach Jim Watson thought the Ennis game would be hard fought. Hammering out the holes in the Ennis defense, were ends Galiga and Allen, tackles Bennett and Tune, guards Mash and Tidwell, and center Dutton. Hillsboro mangled the Ennis Lions 40-0 to start the season at 3-0.
Teague had a strong start, but quickly fell short when the Eagles’ defense dug in and held off the Lions 12-0. The Eagles and the Lions battled back and forth and the first half ended in a 0-0 stalemate. The game remained tied until there was only 4:12 seconds remaining in the game. The Eagles finally crossed the goal line. All four Eagle running backs pushed and pounded until they finally got a touchdown. The touchdown was quickly followed by a short Teague punt and the Eagles finished the game with a second late score. The Eagles headed home with a win after a stingy defense held Teague to 8 1st downs and to total of 142 yards of total offense. This started off the season with a 4-0 streak, and set the foundation for a great football year.
The Hillsboro Eagles upended the Reicher Cougars in a battle of speed. Despite four fumbles and an interception, the Eagles came out victorious in a 26-14 defeat of the Cougars. Hillsboro’s defense held Reicher to a total of 102 yards. Halfbacks Cullen Davis and Dennis Scott overcame Reicher’s speed with a display of their own special talents. Davis rushed to a pair of touchdowns with 78 yards on 14 carries while Scott had 56 yards on 10 carries for the Warbirds. Hillsboro offensive attack rolled up 306 total yards. With the season at its midway point, the Eagles remained perfect at 5-0.
The Gatesville Hornets traveled to Fraizer Field to play in front of a crowd of over 4,000. Cullen Davis started the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown on a pitch-out from QB Dick McGirk. Joe Galiga added the PAT to give the Eagle a 7-0 advantage. The Eagles second score can when Joe Galiga recovered a Hillsboro fumble in the end zone. He then kicked the point after to make the score 14-0. The final Hillsboro score came when Dennis Scott crossed the goal line at the end of a 60-yard touchdown run. The score electrified the home crowd. Galiga added the extra point to extend the Eagle lead to 21-0, The Hornets later scored after taking advantage of an Eagle fumble. The local paper headlines read, “Hillsboro Shatters Gatesville to Grab 17-AA Drivers Seat - Eagles Thump Hornets 21-6.” After the win, the Eagles fell from #5 to #6 one spot behind Brady.
The Eagles traveled to West to play the upset-minded Trojans. After a scoreless 1st quarter, quarterback Dick McGirk connected with halfback Dennis Scott for a 24-yard touchdown. Joe Galiga added the extra point to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead. Hillsboro scored twice in the 3rd quarter. McGirk scampered in from the 5 to give Coach Dexter Bassinger’s Eagles a 13-0 advantage. Fullback George Jordan scored on a 13-yard run and Galiga added the extra point to extend the Eagle lead to 20-0. The final score came when Cullen Davis raced away from the Trojan defense on a 55-yard dash. Assisting the offense, Glen Ward intercepted two West passes.
Friday the 13th was the Blackcat's day of misfortune, as the Eagles gave them a 32-6 smashing. Cullen Davis gave great help to the team, as he dashed one, eight, and 58 yards to 3 touchdowns as well as his usual 100 yards rushing. With a minuteman defense, using Mexia’s backfield as a substitute for their stomping ground. Even with the Blackcats' persistent 200 offensive yards, the Hillsboro Eagles defensive linemen had them like deer in the headlights, all night.
Hillsboro traveled to McGregor and came away with an easy 39-0 victory over the Bulldogs. The Eagles came out swinging as Hillsboro had a 33 point lead by halftime. Cullen Davis scored twice in the 1st quarter. Donnie Jennings also added a score on a 47-yard scamper and later scored in the 2nd quarter. Dick McGirk opened the 2nd quarter with a score of this own. Hillsboro scored the final touchdown late in the 4th quarter when McGirk hit Mike Pyron in the end zone. Joe Galiga converted on 3 of 6 PATs. The Eagle defense led by Larry Allen, Carl Bennett, Galiga, Tommy Tune, Bill Plunkett, Bernie Hollenshead, and Larry Dutten tormented the Bulldogs all night, allowing only 13 yards rushing for the night. The victory clinched at least a share of the district championship for the Eagles.
The Marlin Bulldogs traveled to Frazier Field on the final night of the regular season in what would be the district championship. The Eagles ended the regular season against Marlin with a 13-0 victory. The win vaulted Hillsboro into the Class AA state playoffs and capped off a perfect 10-0 regular season. The final state rankings of the season had the Eagles sitting in the #6 spot. Having climbed from #9 to #6 during the season the next opponent would be #5 Brady.
Entering the playoff, the Hillsboro Eagles had only one player that had any playoff experience. The Brady Bulldogs, a playoff experienced team, had made the playoff six consecutive times. The Warbirds did not let the lack of playoff experience hold them back. The Eagles loaded a charter bus at 12:30 p.m. at the legendary Doughty Hall and headed for Brady for an 8:00 kickoff. Brady’s stingy defense held the Eagles to 162 total yards on offense. It was a heartbreaking end to a historic season. The 1961 HHS Football Team remains only one of four teams in HHS history to win 10 games and one of three teams to have a perfect regular season.
Congratulations to this great team for your accomplishments.