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By Whitney Keith
Over the next month, we will be highlighting teams in Ava High School football history that have stood out for their performances.
This week’s article will focus on the 1977 and 1980 teams.
“This was a very good defensive team,” said Coach Larry Silvey, who led the squad to an 8-1-1 record that season.
Beginning the season, Silvey and the other coaching staff had an inkling that the squad would likely do well.
“The year before, we were state-ranked most of the year and ended the year with an 8-2 record,” he said.
The 1976 team also finished second in the SCA conference.
“We returned a good number of players,” Silvey said. “We were really confident that we’d be a conference contender.”
The 1977 squad was the first at Ava to win a South Central Association (SCA) championship, making those predications come true.
The squad’s one tie was with Mountain Grove, in the time before overtimes were used.
“We played at Mountain Grove in front of the largest crowd I had ever seen at an Ava football game,” Silvey recalled.
That game was billed as the SCA championship game, as the Bears and Panthers were neck-and-neck for the honor. However, the game ended with no conclusion made.
However, by the end of the season the Bears would come out on top as conference champions.
The team’s only loss came from Salem, who was “a very good squad that year,” Silvey said.
Ava scored 237 points against their opponents that year, while their opponents scored only 60 points.
“There were no weaknesses up front,” Silvey
The 1977 season is on the record books, tied as Ava’s second best season as far as best won-lost record at 88.8 percent (the other season us the 1963 season).
The 1977 team also allowed only an average of 6.7 points per game, good for second place in Ava’s record books.
“Dan Witt was one of the captains and a great leader on the defensive side,” Silvey said.
Witt also led the team in tackles that year with 83.
The 1977 squad had seven members make the SCA All-Conference first team, two members make the second team, and five honorable mentions.
The team also had two players make the All Ozarks selections – Jimmy Frye (first team) and Roger Twitty (second team).
“That is probably a bigger honor than having an All-State player, because the All-Ozark team is against schools of all sizes, not just one class,” Silvey said.
Frye was also the SCA’s outstanding selection for a back, and Silvey was the coach of the year for the conference.
Keith Dougherty was the SCA sprint champion.
Silvey noted that the 1977 team were good sportsmen both on and off the field.
“They were good students, good role models around school and the results on the football field speak for themselves,” he said.
Chip Sell, a player on the 1977 squad, said that the team had a great coaching staff and the players all worked hard.
“Coach Silvey knew how to get the most out of his players,” Sell said.
He recalled the game against Houston, which Ava won by a 48-0 count.
“It had rained a bunch and the field was in terrible shape,” he said.
He remembered Bob Moore tackling someone on the sidelines, then coming back to the huddle covered from helmet to toe in mud.
“It was kind of a Cinderella season,” said player Lester Platt. “There were lots of ups and downs.”
The 1980 season ended with a 10-2 record for the Bears, with an 8-1 record in the SCA to win the conference.
The squad was also the first Class 3 District champions for Ava, along with being state-ranked, as the 1977 squad was.
In fact, in the ninth week of play, the Bears were ranked second in the state.
The squad lost only their last regular season game (to Thayer) and the second round of state playoff-play.
They defeated a 10-0 Republic team in the first round of state play to advance to the final eight teams.
“This was a very balanced team, both defensively and offensively,” Silvey said. “They had a good passing game and an outstanding running game offensively.
“This was just a very good football team.”
Avs scored 305 points in their games that season, while their opponents only scored 94 points.
Silvey said that he predicted a good season for 1980, even though the 1979 season ended with the Bears only having a 5-5 record.
“The five teams we lost to in ’79 had records like 8-2, 8-2, 10-0, etc,” Silvey said.
The Bears had two All-State and All-Ozark selections, Rod Witt and Steve Huskey, both of which made the first team for All-Ozark.
Witt was first team All-State, while Huskey was second team.
Huskey and Witt were both also outstanding SCA selections; Witt as a back and Huskey as a lineman.
Witt holds second place honors in Ava’s record book for most points scored in a season (150 points, behind Scott Williams’ 168 points in 1985).
Quarterback Steve Silvey has Ava’s second-highest passing percentage for the 1980 season at 60.7 percent (behind Jonathan Batcheller’s 63.2 percent in 2006).
Silvey also holds Ava’s record for best passing percentage in a game with 80 percent completed passes against Thayer.
He tied his own record, set in 1979 against Liberty.
Marvin Dixon ties for first place in Ava’s record books for the longest running play, with a 96-yard play against Willow Springs in 1980 (tying with Chance Dry in 2005 against Houston).
The team has seven first-time all SCA selections, four second team selections and five honorable mentions.
Silvey noted that the SCA conference had nine members at that time, so competition was stiff for all-SCA honors.
The team was dedicated to their tasks, and had a lot of heart.
“We believed we could win even when we got down. Someone would always step up to give us the edge we needed,” Platt said.
He said that the team is still close today, and anytime they run into each other the topic of conversation always turns to the 1980 football season.
“It doesn’t take us long to start talking about that year,” he said.
Reflections is a weekly column exploring the history of Douglas County. Current topics include local day trips, school history and Douglas County residents who have a special talent. If you have an idea for an article, please call 417-683-4181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org