- Featured Stories
- Douglas County
- City of Ava
- General Interest
By Mindy Crandall
– as told by lifetime coach and mentor, Larry Silvey
Ava is beginning their 63rd year of varsity football this fall. Listed in the article are the team records, the head coaches and a short summary of each of the previous 62 years.
There were several years during the early history of Ava’s football program, particularly in the 1940′s, 50′s and 60′s that individual and team statistics could not be located, however, all of the teams win-loss records and points scored and allowed are complete.
In 1925 football was introduced as a South Central Association conference sport. The original football teams were Mountain Grove, Houston, Willow Springs and West Plains. Two years later, Cabool, Thayer and Rolla became football playing members of the SCA.
In 1948 Mtn. View added football and became a playing member of the SCA.
During the initial years of SCA football, Ava didn’t have a football team and the Bears were a member of the Altitude League that consisted of Hartville, Mansfield, Seymour, Rogersville, Sparta, Marshfield and other nearby schools. The primary sport that all altitude league members played was basketball, however, there was also league play in softball, tennis and track.
In 1948 Ava added high school football and in 1950 became a member of what is now considered the “Modern SCA.” At that time, rules were established by the member schools requiring all SCA schools to compete in football, basketball and track. There were no SCA girl sports offered at the time.
Rolla left the SCA in 1958-1959 and Salem was added to the SCA in 1960-1961. Mtn. View and Birch Tree consolidated in 1971-1972 and founded a new high school named Liberty.
In 1979-1980 Gainesville joined the SCA participating in football and all other SCA sports. However, Gainesville dropped out of the SCA in 1986-1987.
In 1987 Thayer was allowed to continue as a member of the SCA in all sports except football. After an absence from SCA football for 24 years, Thayer became a football playing member in 2010.
Girl’s sports – track, basketball and volleyball were added in the mid 1970′s.
Additional sports such as boy’s golf, boy’s baseball, boy’s and girl’s cross country and girl’s softball are now additional sports offered in the present day SCA.
Ava’s first football team was formed in 1948. The school athletic field was constructed during the summer of 1948 and was located on what is presently the middle school playground that is between the performing arts building and the middle school building. The bleachers and press box were located on the east side of the field where the present middle school building stands. Later, bleachers were also continued on the west side of the field. It is noted in the book, A Reminscent History of Douglas County by J.E. Curry, that the school athletic field was constructed during the summer and fall of 1948. More than $6,000 to finance the project was raised by business men and citizens, on certificates which were later redeemed at face value from earnings of the school athletic activities. Football was inaugurated in Ava that fall for the first time.
The present football complex and track were constructed in 1971-1972 and all home games were played there in the fall of 1972. The first varsity game at the new stadium was played between Cabool and Ava. The Bulldogs defeated the Bears 28-0. The first varsity win on the new field was a 52-6 win over Thayer.
In 1948 The Ava Bears were under the instruction of Head Coach, Eugene Lewis with a record of 1-5. Ava’s football team only played six games in their first season of varsity ball. There were 26 members of the original squad. The Bears first victory was over Springfield St. Agnes, 13-6, which is now Springfield Catholic. The Bears scored 46 points and allowed 123 points to be scored during the season.
In 1949 the Ava Bears had a 7-3 record under Head Coach, Charles McAllister. The Bears had a very successful 1949 season. Very few schools have experienced a winning season in only their second year of varsity football. Ava scored 230 points and gave up 130 points during the 1949 football season.
The season was highlighted by wins over West Plains and Willow Springs and also the passing of quarterback, Bert Salas. Salas threw for over 800 yards in the season and passed for 237 yards against Houston including a 80 yard touchdown pass to John Parker.
1950 – Charles McAllister was still Head Coach. The Bears finished with three wins and five losses in their first year as members of the SCA Conference. The Bears were 3-7 overall. Their SCA wins were over Thayer (18-6), Mtn. View (33-7) and a most impressive win over Mtn. Grove (13-7). Their offense scored 115 points and their defensive unit allowed 156 points.
In 1951, Head Coach, Charles McAllister led the Ava Bears to a very successful season, winning seven games, losing two games and having one tie. They were 5-2-1 in the SCA. Ava had a strong defensive unit allowing an average of 8.7 points per games. The Bears offense scored 184 points. The longest punt return in Ava schools history happened this year – 97 yards by Bob Victor against Mtn. View.
Charles McAllister resigned after three seasons with a record of seventeen wins, nine losses and one tie.
In 1952, Ralph Harrison became Head Coach after the resignation of Coach McAllister. The Bears continued their winning football season under Coach Harrison, who stayed only one year at Ava. They were 4-4 in SCA and ended the season with a 6-4 record. The Bears averaged 18 points per game and allowed their opponents 11.5 points per game.
Bob Victor, running back, and Jack Jenkins, end, were the first Ava football players to make the first team SCA team. Bob Victor was also selected as honorable mention all-state. All state selections in the 1950′s and 60′s were not by school class size, but included all schools in the state making those selections an even greater honor.
1953, brought a 5-3-2 season under the instruction of Head Coach, Jack Larson. The 1953 Bears were again considered as a strong defensive team allowing only 9.6 points per game. The Bears were 4-3-1 in the SCA. They had two first-team all conference players, Jack Jenkins, end, and Jack Vinson, running back, were selected. Jack Jenkins was also honored by being selected as honorable mention all-state. He was one of the leading receivers in the conference. Coach Larson resigned after one year.
In 1954, the Ava Bears had an impressive season with a 9-1 record. The football Bears were led by first year Head Coach, John Emerson and were one of the most successful teams in the schools history. They had an outstanding offensive team that featured both a strong running and passing game. Senior quarterback, Bob Cooper, threw for over 800 yards and had an excellent completion percentage connecting on 33 of 59 attempts. He had a passing game of 257 yards against Mtn. View and 251 yards vs. Mtn. Home. The leading receiver was Senior end, Basil Garland, who had 24 receptions including 10 catches for 205 yards against Mtn. Home, Arkansas.
The Bears running attack gained 1,978 yards and was led by an outstanding offensive line and featured the running of Weldon Sanders, (79 carries for 698 yards), Jack Vinson, (67 carries for 413 yards), and Jerry Uhlman, (63 carries for 475 yards). Sanders running from the full back position averaged 8.7 yards per carry.
Ava’s only loss was a 21-12 defeat to the Rolla Bulldogs, who were state ranked and the eventual conference champions.
Defensively the Bears were equally outstanding as they allowed only 74 points during the season. 74 points is the third fewest points allowed in the school’s history. Those taking the honors of first team all SCA were Weldon Sanders, fullback, Joe Hart, end, and Jerry Hart, tackle.
In 1955 John Emerson returned as Head Coach and led the Bears to a 5-2-2 season. Coach Emerson resigned after two years at Ava and later coached in Marshall, Kansas and the Tulsa area. He had an outstanding career and was well respected throughout his high school coaching circle.
The Bears were led by the running of Senior running back, Weldon Sanders, who averaged 8.0 yards per carry as he was selected first team SCA and also honorable mention all-state. Dwight Roper was also selected to the SCA first team as a guard.
Jerry Uhlman, running back, scored five touchdowns in a single game against Houston. Ronnie Hartley also caught six passes for 137 yards in a game against Houston. The Bears were 5-2-1 in the SCA.
Weldon Sanders set the single yard rushing record by gaining 250 yards in Ava’s win over Rolla. This record lasted 30 years until broken by Scott Williams’ 255 yards versus Willow Springs in 1985.
Next week, will be a continuation – highlighting more of Ava’s football teams.