By: Billy Crawford
The article is written in remembrance of Paul Nicholas and Johnny Martinez, star players on the
Wampus Cats championship team who would later give their lives in military service in Viet Nam.
Wampus Cats fans who followed the team over the years generally agreed that the 1963 (class of 1964) was the first team to win a football district championship. Since 1959 the Pineville Rebels had won the 3-AA championship, with theCats finishing in second place. That changed In front of a packed house on a cold November Friday night. The Cats defeated the Rebs 21-14 to win the championship. The celebration was on!
There were high expectations for the ’63 team. Many of the junior and senior players had been playing together since Junior High,coached by C.A. Hughes. In fact, that had not lost a game in two years.
Then, in the summer of 1961 Fort Polk was reactivated. Students of military and civilian personnel families began arriving in the community. Many were excellent athletes that joined athletic teams, including this ’63 team.
After completing the 3-AA district schedule undefeated, the final home game was the traditional match-up against the arch-rival DeRidder Dragons, who had won the 4-AA championship. The Leesville Leader reported that “Head Coach Cecil Doyle disappointed the record-breaking crowd by holding out regular players “hampered by injuries” including all-state running back Tommy “Trigger” Allen.
The Cats won the game easily, 28-6. Team Captain R.J. Fertitta,Jr. accepted the L.S. Hopper Trophy after the game.
The first round of the state playoffs would be a rematch between the two teams. A mid-week coin toss for home field was won by
Head Coach Ted Paris. The game was scheduled for Friday, November 22, 1963 in Wampus Cats Stadium. Then, shortly after noon on that Friday, LHS Principal Joe Parker made a tragic all-call announcement: President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated as he rode in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Out of respect, the football game was postponed, to be played the next night.
In a wild and wooly game, in which the Cats had a total offense of 395 yards, the Dragons prevailed 34-19.
The following week the Dragons lost to the Minden Crimson Tide in NSC stadium in Natchitoches. Minden next defeated Larose-Cutoff 28-21 to win the 1963 AA State Championship. Minden’s quarterback Freddie Haynes, L- running back Joe Labruzzo, and Tommy Allen all signed to played for the LSU Tigers.