PHS mascot: Phillips Blackhawks

Phillips High School
Alumni Association
P.O. Box 1710, Borger TX 79008

PHS mascot: Phillips Blackhawks

 

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'54 State Title: A Christmas Day Celebration

Web-posted Sunday, December 19, 2004
http://www.amarillo.com/stories/121904/hss_855840.shtml

Amarillo Globe News


Jon Mark Beilue


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 championship.

"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 sports.''

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 Sundays.

"It was such a close-knit place,'' Meek said. "You didn't have a division of personalities. We had our own little world.''

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 coach.

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 more games.

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 company.

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 jon.beilue@amarillo.com.
 

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