LOOKING BACK: Southampton / Franklin football — 1955

Published 9:28 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

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It was a smooth, well drilled, and hard-hitting Southampton High School football team that romped over the Franklin High School team, 31 to 18, in the very first game ever played between the two schools.  It was on Friday night, October 21, 1955 – in Franklin – with over 3,300 people in attendance.

The outstanding run of the game came in the first quarter, when Harvey McLemore of SHS kicked off to FHS; halfback Frankie Parker caught the football on a dead run on his own 15 and galloped 85 yards for a touchdown, with only one SHS player, Henry Hedgepeth, laying a hand on him, and then only momentarily.  The other SHS players had been blocked out of the play.   The crowd was stunned. 

Frankie Parker’s run came immediately following a 70-yard march down the field by SHS which had received the opening kickoff, and they did not relinquish the ball until over pay dirt.  Harvey McLemore kept the FHS defense in a state of confusion on this march; mixing up his plays, including a key pass to Newit Cabell from the 14-yard line, which put SHS on the 2-yard line.  With a quarterback sneak, McLemore bucked over for a touchdown.  

The second touchdown for FHS came when McLemore fumbled on the 20-yard line after being hit by Benny Scott.  Haley Newman recovered for FHS.  Curtis Rook went up the middle to the 4-yard line, and Frankie Parker took Albert Faison’s hand-off and went over tackle for a touchdown.  

The second touchdown for SHS came with three minutes left in the first half; James Foster cut over tackle from the 2-yard line, putting them ahead 13 to 12.  

Southampton’s third touchdown came early in the third quarter, when FHS tried their “touchdown play”, and a bad pass from Albert Faison caused Frankie Parker to fumble, and it was recovered by SHS on the FHS 30-yard line.  Two plays later, Frank Foster darted through the line for a touchdown, but the play was called back; SHS was penalized 15 yards for clipping, and the ball was placed on the 29-yard line.  Harvey McLemore hit Frank Foster in the flat with a nice pass to take the ball to the 6-yard line; and, on the next play, SHS received a penalty for backfield in motion, and the ball was on the 11-yard line.  Foster went up the middle to the 1-yard line and Hennen Davis, 125-pound scatback, plunged over for the touchdown.  The third quarter ended with SHS in possession of the ball on the FHS 18-yard line – and leading 19 to 12.  

At the start of the fourth quarter, it took only 4 plays for SHS to score another touchdown, with Mike Beale going over from the 3-yard line.  McLemore’s kick was good and SHS was leading, 25 to 12.

The FHS third touchdown came early in the fourth quarter; Frank Foster fumbled the ball on his own 49-yard line, and it was recovered by FHS.  Albert Faison took to the air, hitting Jimmy Nicholas for a 9-yard gain, and Curtis Rook – for 32 yards – who took the ball in midair on the 8-yard line and plowed the remaining yardage for the touchdown, with less than two minutes left in the ball game. 

A fumble by Frankie Parker on his 49-yard line set up the last score for SHS.  On the first play, McLemore started to the right side of the field, reversed himself, with most of the FHS team after him, and scooted up-field to the FHS 14-yard line, where he was run out of bounds.  James Manning Nicholson went over center for the touchdown from the 2-yard line.  McLemore’s extra point kick try was blocked. 

Then, Albert Faison took to the air and, on a long 40-yard pass from his own 32-yard line, hit Curtis Rook on the SHS 28-yard line, for the longest pass of the game.  However, FHS lost the ball on downs.     

The Tidewater News sports analysts reported that the entire county was talking about Southampton’s win over Franklin.  They pointed out the clean play that was seen on the gridiron.  True, the boys hit hard but it was good, hard, clean football.  At the end of the game, both squads raced to midfield and congratulated each other.  The FHS Broncos, coached by Charlie Saunders, are a better team than they showed in that game.  

One commentator stated “That football game did more than anything to weld together the communities sending students to the new SHS:  from Ivor, Boykins, Drewryville, Newsoms, Courtland, Sebrell, and other communities.  Under coach Lewis Holmes Davis, a cohesive football team was developed – made up of boys from throughout Southampton County.

Special recognition was given to hard-hitting Harvey McLemore who impressed everyone with the way he handled the ball, his deception, and his confidence.  He seemed to know where he was going at all times, slashing his backs through an indifferent FHS line.

Frankie Parker stood out for Franklin; in the first quarter of the game, he received McLemore’s kickoff and ran 85 yards, unimpeded, for a touchdown.  And, Parker scored a second touchdown in the second quarter of the game.   

To this day, some of the older people in the area still talk about that football game – the very first game between the two schools; and, some say, that it was one of the most exciting games ever played in the area.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net.