'54 State Title: A Christmas Day Celebration
They left on the afternoon of Christmas Eve
from Phillips in a fancy chartered bus headed for Wichita
Falls: 38 players, three coaches and their lucky bus driver.
Through 14 football games, the famed Phillips Blackhawks had
not lost a game.
Sitting up front was head coach Harold "Chesty'' Walker,
arguably the finest football coach in Texas Panhandle
history. With him were a group of boys whose visions did not
include sugar plums dancing in their heads, but a state
"Nobody thought about Christmas,'' Don Meek said. "We
wanted to win a state championship. We said to ourselves
that if we win state, that's our Christmas present. It was a
great present to ask for.''
Fifty years ago, in 1954, the Blackhawks bus broke
through a crowd of fans on the way to the 2A state
championship game against Killeen. They had a workout that
afternoon in Vernon, and then went on to spend Christmas Eve
in the finest hotel in Wichita Falls.
Many families in the little oil town outside Borger had
their Christmas interrupted. Most chose to unwrap presents
on Christmas Eve, quickly saw what Santa brought the next
morning, and then sped out of town for the afternoon game.
Some weren't happy about playing on Christmas. Doris
Hunter, a senior at Borger High School, was going to the
game. Despite the protests of her parents, she rode with
Meek's parents and aunt and uncle. As Don's steady
girlfriend, she wouldn't be anywhere else.
"They weren't happy about me going,'' she said, "but
there was no way I was missing the game. I hadn't missed
hardly any all year.''
That weekend was the pinnacle of a dream, about the only
really big dream boys had growing up in Phillips in the
post-World War II days. In the eighth grade, they vowed to
win a state title as seniors, but daydreams started much
earlier than that.
Those seniors grew up watching Walker's teams in the
1940s crank out one regional championship after another. At
one time, Phillips put together a streak of 68-6-1 during
six years. Boys couldn't wait until it was their turn.
"Phillips kids were unique,'' said Meek, a water boy for
the team from the fourth through seventh grade. "Everyone
wanted to be a Blackhawk, from the time you entered first
grade. That was the ultimate goal of anyone who liked
It was a bygone era in a town that died in 1987. But 50
years ago, Phillips was a thriving town built by nearby
Phillips Petroleum Co. Housing, provided by Phillips, was
cheap and virtually every family that lived there drew their
paycheck from the oil company.
The setting was almost idyllic, a Bedford Falls from
"It's A Wonderful Life.'' Doors went unlocked, everyone knew
everyone else. There were two churches in town, a Baptist
and Methodist, and you'd better be in one of them on
"It was such a close-knit place,'' Meek said. "You didn't
have a division of personalities. We had our own little
The main entertainment was sports, specifically football,
and they were all in it together. Walker never had to check
on violators of curfew because if any townspeople saw
somebody out late, they reported the transgressor to the
Only a few were foolish enough to challenge Walker
anyway. He was a perfectionist, a disciplinarian, an
innovator, a student of the game.
"He was ahead of his time when it came to teaching the
finer points of the game,'' Meek said. "He just had this
total command and presence about him.''
The 1954 team may have been the best in Walker's 18 years
at Phillips. At least five would sign with major colleges -
versatile Larry Lane and center Burch Ingram to Oklahoma
A&M, guard Art Bybee to Texas Tech, end Don Smith to Texas
A&M, and Meek to Rice.
"We had a remarkable young group who didn't know how to
quit or ever thought they might get beat,'' Meek said.
"We had a way of winning. All you had to do was tell each
other to 'go get it' and we'd go get it.''
Killeen, like the other 14 teams, never had much of a
chance that Christmas Day. The Kangaroos got a steady diet
of Meek. And why not? The all-state running back rushed for
more than 2,000 yards and scored 233 points.
Meek went to Walker that week, practically begging him to
carry the ball on every play.
"It was my last game, and I wanted to win so bad that I'd
carry it every play if I could,'' he said.
Meek almost did, running behind a dominant line. He
scored on touchdowns of 37 and 2 yards in the first quarter,
and kicked both PATs for a 14-0 lead.
After Killeen scored to narrow the deficit to 14-7 at
halftime, Phillips answered with a third-quarter TD on a
Meeks 9-yard run.
Phillips won, 21-13. The Blackhawks were 15-0. It was the
first small-school state title in Panhandle history, and
until Stratford went 16-0 in 2000, no area school had won
After the game, Phillips fans were frustrated because no
diners were open to eat on a holiday. Walker had arranged
for the team to eat a delayed Christmas dinner in Quanah.
Coming home, the bus driver broke the governor in the motor,
and Meek estimated they flew back home at 80 mph.
The entire community of Phillips was waiting, almost
asking to be run over.
"From the red light coming into town to the football
field, it was nothing but people,'' Meek said. "It took us
45 minutes from the time we got into Phillips before we
could get off the bus at the stadium. It was so thick that
finally Coach Walker said if you want to get to the
fieldhouse, you better get out and walk.''
All of those teammates would soon walk off into their
separate ways. Walker would leave two years later for the
University of Washington and later the Dallas Cowboys. He
died in 1968.
One year later almost to the day, Meek would marry his
sweetheart, Doris Hunter, on Christmas Eve 1955. He lived in
the desert of California before moving back to Borger in
1995 after a heart attack.
They almost all came back to Borger this summer for a
50-year reunion. Twenty-nine players and two coaches are
living, and 22 were at the reunion.
Their vanquished opponent, Killeen, now has five high
schools. Phillips High School is office space for the oil
No longer a Phillips except where it counts most - in
50-year-old memories of football trophies on Christmas Day.
Jon Mark Beilue is sports editor of the Globe-News. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.