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Verbena High School


          Verbena is a small unincorporated community in Chilton County just south of Clanton. The town was named for the abundance of the flower in the vicinity. Settlers were in the area as early as 1832 but with the completion of the railroad between Montgomery and Birmingham in 1870 and a depot the area attracted more people.

         Many older homes are still standing standing and have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was just another typical small town in Alabama until the late 1940s when a high school football team captured the imagination of the entire state.

          James Porch arrived in Verbena in 1948 with the task of turning around a football program that had gone 0-10 the previous season. His first team finished with a record of 7-3 but that was just the beginning of what was to come for the Red Devils. In 1949 Verbena finished 9-1 and began what became one of the best runs in Alabama high school football history.

          From 1950-1955 Verbena won 50 consecutive games and named district state champions five consecutive seasons by the Birmingham News. The streak came to an end when Verbena lost during the 1955 football season to Elmore County 7-0.

          The 1950 team finished 10-0 and outscored their opponents by a combined 390-53. Only Montgomery County managed to score more than a single touchdown on the Verbena defense and they got beat 68-13. Coach Porch used the single wing offense and perfected it at Verbena over the next six seasons. James Nelson was named to the all-state team while playing end for the Red Devils in 1950.

          The next season proved to be just as dominate as the Red Devils rolled to another 10-0 record and outscored all ten opponents by a combined 322-65. In 1952, Verbena shutout four opponents and outscored all of them 344-61. Homer Robinson led the charge from his quarterback spot while Ray Wingard and Harold Pierce anchored the offensive line. All three were named first team all-state for their efforts.

          There were a couple of close games in 1953 with Marbury and Chilton County but the Red Devils prevailed to win another nine games. In 1954 they rolled to their fifth consecutive 10-0 record with possibly their best team. They outscored all ten foes by a score of 385-44 to stretch their winning streak to a state record forty-nine games.

          Verbena opened the 1955 season with a convincing 60-0 victory over an outmanned Jemison team to up the streak to fifty games before falling to Elmore County the next week by a score of 7-0. The news made all the state newspapers as the small town of Eclectic shocked the high school football world by upsetting Verbena. The Red Devils came back the next week to thrash Isabella 69-0 and finished the season with a 9-1 mark.

          Their record from 1949 through the 1955 season was an amazing 67-2.

          Coach Porch's nine-year run at Verbena ended following the 1956 season with an overall record of 81-7-1 coaching the Red Devils. The fifty-game winning streak stood until the Clay County Panthers surpassed it in 1997 with a fifty-five game streak.

          During the six season run, the Red Devils allowed more than 7 points only ten times while scoring at least 20 points in all but nine games. At a time when defenses ruled the gridiron, Verbena averaged over 36 points a game while allowing only 5.3 points per contest. It was not only the fact they won, they won going away in most games. During the streak only three teams managed to score more than two touchdowns against them.

          Following the 1956 season, Coach Porch stepped down as the head football coach at Verbena. He moved north to take over the football program at Ft. Payne. His only team at Ft. Payne finished the season with a 7-3 record. Coach Porch retired from the sidelines after the 1957 season with a 88-10-1 record.

          Verbena holds another rather odd distinction to say the least. While everyone knows a football field is 100 yards long it seems the small town of Verbena could not completely comply with this requirement. During the 1940s they played on a field that was only ninety yards long.

          Whenever there was a change of possession the ball was simply placed ten yards further from the opponent's goal. If a kickoff was run back to the 40-yard line, it was simply moved back to the 30 and spotted ready for play from there by the game officials.

          There was a deep gully on the south end of the field so the 100 yards could not be squeezed into the area where the field was built. On a long run or touchdown pass the player would disappear from the spectator's view as he ran off into the gully.

          That seems to be a good way to lose a star receiver on a deep pass pattern. The strange football field did little to hurt the teams ability to win as witnessed by their stellar record. I suppose that is what you would call a home field advantage.

          Following his arrival, Coach Porch lengthened the field to 100 yards long and through several donations and fund raisers installed lights on the football field. 

          Verbena also had a home field advantage on the basketball court of sorts. The gym was eight feet short of regulation width. The court lines were less than one-foot from the walls of the building. Any spectators wishing to watch a basketball game did so from behind the baskets.

          The fifty-game winning streak is very impressive but it does not answer the question as to whether the Verbena Red Devils should be considered a dynasty. Some argue the schedule was soft. Verbena played mostly smaller Class 1A schools but they won and usually by a large margin.

          In downtown Verbena there is a statute dedicated to Coach Porch and his players. For years Coach Porch retuned to Verbena to visit friends, attend funerals and even watched a few football games at the school. He was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

          Verbena has never come close to recapturing those glory days of long ago. The Red Devils have struggled in recent years just to qualify for a playoff spot. They have had a few good seasons scattered over the past 57 years but nothing to compare to the days when Coach James Porch led the Devils.



Verbena Red Devils  1950-55
Year Record State Championships
1950 10-0  
1951 10-0 Birmingham News
1952 10-0 Birmingham News
Birmingham Post Herald
1953 9-0 Birmingham News
Birmingham Post Herald
1954 10-0 Birmingham News
Birmingham Post Herald
1955 9-1 Birmingham News


Verbena
1950

42 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 7
43 Isabella . . . . . . . . . . 7
42 Hicks Memorial . . . . . 0
54 Goodwater . . . . . . . . . 7
42 Billingsley . . . . . . . 6
14 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 7
35 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2 Williams . . . . . . . . . . 0
48 Elmore County . . . . . 0
68 Montgomery County . . . 13

390 10-0 53
1951

21 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 6
33 Loretto . . . . . . . . . . . 0
41 Hicks Memorial . . . . . 13
50 Goodwater . . . . . . . . . 0
34 Billingsley . . . . . . . 19
20 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 0
19 Childersburg . . . . . . 0
28 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 7
49 Elmore County . . . . . 20
27 Chilton County . . . . . 0

322 10-0 65
1952

28 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 0
14 Catholic Montgomery . . 12
33 Hicks Memorial . . . . . 0
41 Isabella . . . . . . . . . . 0
41 Calera . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
40 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 6
40 Montevallo . . . . . . . . 18
34 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 7
46 Billingsley . . . . . . . 6
27 Chilton County . . . . . 0

344 10-0 61
1953

41 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 0
37 Hicks Memorial . . . . . 13
41 Isabella . . . . . . . . . . 6
27 Calera . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
26 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 6
28 Montevallo . . . . . . . . 6
7 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 0
33 Billingsley . . . . . . . 6
12 Chilton County . . . . . 7

252 9-0 50
1954

33 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 6
40 Elmore County . . . . . 7
42 Isabella . . . . . . . . . . 0
41 Calera . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
67 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 7
26 Montevallo . . . . . . . . 6
48 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 0
27 Shelby County . . . . . 0
47 Billingsley . . . . . . . 12
14 Chilton County . . . . . 6

385 10-0 44
1955

60 Jemison . . . . . . . . . . . 0
0 Elmore County . . . . . 7
69 Isabella . . . . . . . . . . 0
39 Calera . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
62 Vincent . . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Chilton County . . . . . 6
41 Montevallo . . . . . . . . 6
42 Marbury . . . . . . . . . . . 13
56 Shelby County . . . . . 0
63 Billingsley . . . . . . . 6

439 9-1 45

* Playoff game
# State championship game



          NEXT: Tuscaloosa Black Bears 1925-1930
          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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The Alabama High School Athletic Association was first organized in 1921.