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AHSFHS Article Series


   The best of the best in Alabama High   
  School Football over the past 100 seasons.






Dynasties 


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          We continue our series with our next dynasty, the Robert E. Lee Generals of Montgomery from 1956-1965. Until 1955 Sidney Lanier dominated the high school football landscape in the Montgomery area by being the only major school in the city. In 1955 Lee opened and immediately let their presence be known in the capital city by going 6-4 with a young coach named Tom Jones.

          Coach Jones built the Lee football program from the ground up after serving as the head football coach at Hayneville high school the past seven seasons. His teams at Hayneville finished with a combined 46-16-8 record according to our research. His final team went 9-1.


Coach Tom Jones

          Over the next ten season the Generals would amass an overall record of 87-8-5 and finish five seasons ranked as the number one football team by at least one source. In a time prior to the football state playoffs, each of the ten teams would finish in the top ten of a newspaper poll at the end of each season.

          Between 1957 and 1970 the Capital City owned big school football in Alabama. In every season except 1965 either Lanier or Lee won at least a share of the state championship. When the state playoffs were introduced in 1966 Lanier won the first three title games and Lee won the next two.

          Some of the players from these football teams included; Ben Wood, Cecil Foster, Carl Hopson, Ernest Pilgreen, Bart Kennedy, Spence McCracken and Buddy Beshears. A young Terry Beasley played wide receiver for the 1965 team as a sophomore.

          The best team from this era was likely the 1958 Lee Generals. Lee, playing in only their fourth year of existence took over the top spot in the rankings in the fifth week and held it the rest of the season. Four early leaders. Phillips, Murphy, Gadsden and Sidney Lanier all lost to propel the Generals to the number one spot.

          The Generals were tested twice during the season. First in a 14-0 win over Ramsay of Birmingham and in a season ending 26-19 victory over cross-town rival Lanier before 21,000 enthuastic fans.

          The Generals rolled through the season and arrived at their final game against archrival Sidney Lanier needing a victory to secure their first state title. They had only faced the Poets once during their brief history losing to them the previous year. On November 14th the two powerhouses of central Alabama squared off at the Cramton Bowl.

          The Poets led early but the Generals kept hammering away until they captured the win. Bart Kennedy ran two yards for a 7-6 General's lead. Following a Poet fumble, Ben Wood ran 14 yards to give the Generals a short lived 13-6 lead. Three plays later Lanier tied the score at 13-13. Rodney Bell scored on a one yard plunge to put Lee up 20-13 at halftime.

        The lone second half score for Lee came on a 71 yard drive by the Generals ending with a pass from Kennedy to Jerry Moreland to make the final score 26-19 in favor of Lee.

          They were named unanimous state football champions by every newspaper poll in 1958. The Birmingham Post-Herald and the UPI selected the Generals over undefeated Etowah and Hueytown teams. In the final UPI poll the Generals garnered fourteen first place votes to only one for undefeated Etowah.

          Quarterback Bart Kennedy, halfbacks John Moore and Rodney Bell and fullback Ben Wood led the offensive attack for the Generals while the line was anchored by center Craig Hopson.

          Kennedy gained over 500 yards rushing as a senior at Lee. He completed 56 of 86 passes for 756 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bart Kennedy

          In 1959, The Generals were riding a 19-game winning streak into their final game against Sidney Lanier. The Poets entered the game with a very unusual 3-6 record but pulled off the upset of the year in defeating Lee by a 14-7 score. 

          Even with the upset loss, the 1959 Lee team won their second state championship as determined by the voters at the Birmingham News. The team was led by co-captains John Livings at end, Billy Williams at center and Carl Hopson from his fullback position. Ben Wood rushed for 1,054 yards as a senior in 1959 for the Generals.

          The three-peat came the following season (1960) when the Generals finished with a 9-0-1 record. That team was also voted the top team in the state by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Lee edged out Vigor for the top spot even though the Wolves were the only unbeaten, untied team in the state.

          The only blemish of the Generals record came in week four against a stubborn Banks team from Birmingham. It was only the second season the Jets had fielded a team and the 7-7 tie was most certainly the biggest upset in their brief history.

          The Generals scored on the second play of the game when Charles Crysel raced 75 yards for a touchdown. The Banks Jets answered with a long drive to tie the score but neither team could put another point on the scoreboard that evening.

          Lee had one last chance when Crysel intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 88 yards to the Banks 2-yard line but the Generals fumbled the football away on the next play.

         The 1960 team held onto the number one ranking for every week except one in the ASWA poll to claim another state championship.



The Lee Generals and the Lanier Poets prepare for battle.

         The 1961 team began the season ranked number one before once again tying Banks 7-7 in Birmingham and lost the season finale to rival Sidney Lanier. The Generals finished the season with a 8-1-1 record.


          The season-ending game against the Lanier Poets was played for the state championship. After playing a back and forth game Lanier scored late in the third quarter to take a 14-7 lead.

          The Generals fought back and scored in the fourth period but missed the extra point and the Poets had ended the General's 19 game unbeaten streak once again. In the past four seasons, 40 games, the only two losses had come at the hands of the Lanier Poets. Sidney Lanier was award the state title by the Alabama Sports Writers Association in their final poll while Lee finished tied for third with Decatur.

         The 1961 team was led by halfbacks Wayne and Johnny Beasley along with fullback Charles Crysel. Against the Tuscaloosa Black Bears, Crysel threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Beasley off a fake field goal as the Generals pulled out a 7-0 win.


         In 1962, the Generals fought Cullman for the top spot all season long before edging them in the final ASWA poll by a mere four points. Cullman had led since week four but after Lee beat a one-loss Lanier team in the finale they jumped Cullman to claim the title.

         Lee finished the season 10-0 with close calls against Etowah (10-7) and Lanier (7-0).

Coach Jones and players celebrate a win
         The next year, (1963) Lee lost to a very good Tuscaloosa Black Bear's team 15-6 and tied Lanier to finish the season with an 8-1-1 record.

         Tuscaloosa pulled off the upset of the season with a 15-6 win. It snapped the General's 16-game winning streak and derailed their undefeated season.

         It marked the first loss by the Generals to a team other than Sidney Lanier since 1957. It was also only their ninth loss in nine years of fielding a football team.

         The Lanier game was a classic between the two rivals. It ended in a 0-0 tie but not without drama. Three times the General drove deep into Poet territory but each time fullback Freddie Johnston missed field goals.

         The tie was good enough for the voters at the local Montgomery Advertiser and the Associated Press as they selected the Generals to the top of their final 1963 poll. The Generals finished fifth in the Post-Herald rankings behind a 10-0 Talladega team.

         In 1964 the Generals finished 8-2 followed by an 8-1-1 record in 1965. After the 1965 season, Coach Jones stepped down at Lee to accept the head coaching position at Auburn University for the freshman football team. He was considered a master recruiter at Auburn and coached Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley and other Tiger football stars during his tenure on the Plains.
 
         The Generals came back in 1966 to win 10 games under coach Jim Chafin. The only two losses of the season came at the hands of Sidney Lanier. The last was in the first ever state championship game in the playoffs. In 1967-68 the Generals went 9-9-1 before bouncing back to win two consecutive title in 1969 and 1970 with a record of 25-0.

         From there the Lee Generals were up and down until the arrival of a former player, Spence McCracken, to the head coaching position in 1984. But, that is another story for another day.



Robert E. Lee High School, Montgomery


Lee Montgomery 1956-65                 
Year Record Championships
1956 10-0  
1957 7-2-1  
1958 10-0 Birmingham News
Birmingham Post Herald
United Press
1959 9-1 Birmingham News
1960 9-0-1 Birmingham News
Alabama Sports Writers Association
1961 8-1-1  
1962 10-0 Alabama Sports Writers Association
1963 8-1-1 Associated Press
Montgomery Advertiser
1964 8-2  
1965 8-1-1  



Robert E. Lee Montgomery
1956

35 Winfield . . . . . . . . . . 12
41 Auburn . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
14 Charles Henderson . . . 12
37 B.B. Comer . . . . . . . . 13
31 Parrish Selma . . . . . 14
40 Benjamin Russell . . . 0
34 Opelika . . . . . . . . . . . 0
34 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 2
26 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
31 UMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

323 10-0 65
1957

33 Greenville . . . . . . . . 13
45 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 6
33 Greenville . . . . . . . . 13
35 B.B. Comer . . . . . . . . 6
7 Parrish Selma . . . . . 13
40 Benjamin Russell . . . 13
35 Opelika . . . . . . . . . . . 9
32 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
14 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
12 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 14

286 7-2-1 120
1958

30 Greenville . . . . . . . . 20
26 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 19
13 Phillips Birmingham . . 0
31 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 13
27 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
26 Woodlawn . . . . . . . . . . 6
46 Benjamin Russell . . . 0
14 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
40 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
26 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 19

279 10-0 84
1959

41 Greenville . . . . . . . . 0
26 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 6
25 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 0
26 Phillips Birmingham . . 6
13 Parrish Selma . . . . . 7
33 Benjamin Russell . . . 0
28 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
14 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
20 Woodlawn . . . . . . . . . . 6
6 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 14

232 9-1 70
1960

42 West End Birmingham . . 0
35 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 0
13 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 6
7 Banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
45 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
27 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 6
13 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
24 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
28 Shades Valley . . . . . 14
47 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 7

281 9-0-1 47
1961

33 Woodlawn . . . . . . . . . . 7
19 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 0
24 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
27 Parrish Selma . . . . . 7
7 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 0
22 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
40 Shades Valley . . . . . 0
33 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
13 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 14

225 8-1-1 69
1962

27 Woodlawn . . . . . . . . . . 7
34 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 7
28 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 0
10 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
40 Parrish Selma . . . . . 13
21 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 7
29 Banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
40 Shades Valley . . . . . 0
14 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 0

250 10-0 54
1963

10 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
21 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
40 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 7
29 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 0
21 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
14 Bessemer . . . . . . . . . . 7
6 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 15
69 Central Phenix City . . 7
42 Shades Valley . . . . . 14
0 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 0

252 8-1-1 82
1964

41 West End Birmingham . . 0
36 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 0
47 Ft. Walton Beach FL . . 14
34 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
42 Bessemer . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 16
16 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
27 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
13 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 7

270 8-2 123
1965

24 Ensley . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
42 Tallassee . . . . . . . . . 0
34 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
48 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
38 Lee Jacksonville FL . . 7
3 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 0
36 Phillips Birmingham . . 14
7 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
38 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
6 Sidney Lanier . . . . . 6

276 8-1-1 87

* Playoff game
# State championship game




          NEXT: Andalusia Bulldogs 1973-78.
          The Dynasties, a series of articles on Alabama high school football's best teams.

David Parker
  AHSFHS.org
  dparker@ahsfhs.org




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