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The Sun 15

Top parish prep teams of the last century

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The rich history of high school sports in Franklin Parish is almost too much to take in.

Over the last century, the rural agriculture-based parish has provided fodder a sports writer could only dream to encounter in the course of a career.

From magical seasons on the gridiron, to greatness on the diamond, and some of the most legendary basketball dynasties high school sports has ever seen, our parish has a sports history that is to be revered and cherished.

As the dog days of the 2015 summer approaches, it's time to revisit some of those legendary teams and their amazing stories.

Due to consolidation many of these school's no longer exist, but the legends and community pride that grew from these wondrous accounts of yesteryear will never die.

These picks are mine alone and are based on what I've seen and heard during my life in this parish, as well as what I've been lucky enough to research in the vast archives of The Sun that spans over a century.

Here we visit the first five of fifteen of the greatest prep teams of the last 100 years in Franklin Parish.

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No. 15 - Crowville Football (1994)

Known as the "dream season" by the Bulldog faithful, the 1994 Crowville squad was without a doubt the best in its school's history. Coached by James Shirley, the Bulldogs marched to their only undefeated regular season ever, before losing a heartbreaker to Ringgold, 30-22, in the first round of the Class A playoffs.

Seniors Chris Bobo and T.J. Wesley guided Crowville on their 10-0 regular-season campaign, shining light on a program few knew much about outside the parish. It was the best record Crowville had put up since 1958, when they finished 9-1-1.

Bobo was an all-state selection, throwing for 877 yards and rushing for 1,693 yards for 24 total scores. Wesley had caught 54 passes for 721 yards, while scoring 16 total touchdowns.

This was the peak of the glory days for Bulldog football, as it was the fourth straight year they made the playoffs after a previous 30-year absence from the postseason.

No. 14 Ogden Boys Basketball (1988)

There are scores of sensational hoops squads to come out of the Liddieville school, but in 1987-88 season, the Trojans dominated nearly every team on its massive schedule.

Led by senior Tim Williams, a 6-foot-6 physical center, the Trojans amassed a 43-4 record, ultimately coming up short in the Class C championship game against Pineview.

With three players over 6-foot-5, the Ralph Ross coached group beat every Class C and B team it faced that year outside of the championship game. The Trojans also beat 3A and 4A schools during the regular season.

Williams finished the season with a whopping 30 point, 11 rebound average, earning him all-state honors.

No. 13 Wisner Baseball (1979)

1979 was a very good year for Wisner High School.

In March, the boys' basketball team claimed the school's first state title. A few months later, the Bulldogs were hoisting a second championship trophy after beating Central Catholic 10-4 in the Class 1A baseball title game.

Wisner coach Louis Johnson skippered the Bulldogs to 20-4 overall record. They were led by a solid senior group of Jesse Young, Josea Watson, Don Herron, Mickey Tims, Rodney January and Mark Roberts.

 Tims was the ace arm, going 8-1 on the season with 78 strike outs.

The Bulldog squad had 14 come-from-behind victories on their way to the championship, including three in the playoffs.

No. 12 Ward III Girls Basketball (1988)

The Ward III girls had an amazing run through the late 1980s with a core group of players that amassed a 123-6 record in a four-year period.

After going 40-2 the previous season, the Lady Tigers ransacked their competition in 1987-88 slate, holding the top-ranked position in the then-prestigious News Star World poll for the entire season.

Coached by Genny Harris, they finished 46-2, before losing by a point to Pleasant Hill in the in the Class 1A quarterfinals for the second straight season.

Sandy Bryan, Jennifer Jennings, Tonya Reeves, Amy Smith and Wendy Clark all had incredible seasons and they would all return the following season, which would turn out to be the most magical of all. Angie Hoover was the lone senior on the squad.

No. 11 Winnsboro Girls Basketball (1960)

Legendary coach Carrice Russell Baker won her fourth Class A championship at Winnsboro in 1960, when the Lady Wildcats went 30-5, coming back from 14 points down to beat Mount Carmel of New Iberia in the title game.

Claudine Watson, twice an all-state selection, averaged 32 points that season, scoring 39 in the championship game. Ganeath Wilson, Frances Robinson and Jean Watson all averaged over 10 points a game as well.

It was the last state title for the Winnsboro girls basketball team, who captured the crown previously in 1954, 1955 and 1958.

It was the beginning of a Hall of Fame career for Baker, who went on to win four more state title at Jena High School in the 1970.

During her 39-year coaching career, she won over 1,000 games and is still state's winningest girls coach. Her teams posted an astounding 972-191 record.

She was 588-138 with 20 playoff appearances and 11 district titles at Winnsboro after taking over as head coach at the age of 19 for the 1946-47 season following her graduation from Louisiana Tech.

No. 10 Franklin Academy Girls Basketball (1978)

The Tensas Academy Lady Chiefs narrowly defeated Franklin Academy twice during the 1977-78 regular season, earning the district crown. But it was coach John Creech and the Lady Cougars that had the last laugh and the ultimate prize to go along with it.

FA battled its way to a 46-40 win over the Lady Chiefs in the Louisiana Independent School Association Class A title game at Memorial Coliseum in Ruston, earning the Winnsboro school its first state championship.

FA point guard Patricia Bringol notched 15 assists in the title game, feeding the rock to Lisa Miller and Nannette Gill, who each scored 17 points. Lisa McCain added 12 points.

Other members of the title team that finished with a 18-5 record were Shonni Stephens, Laura Thompson, Patricia Roberts, Regina Vick, Julie Gill, Brenda Arnold and Lydia DeMoss.

FA has since won baseball and softball titles in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. 

No. 9 Fort Necessity Boys Basketball (1959)

The 1958-59 Fort squad was the first boys basketball team to ever win a state title in Franklin Parish, beating St. Mary's 77-53 in the Class C championship.

In 1921, the Winnsboro girls team became the first parish team to win a state crown, with Baskin and Ogden girls following with titles of their own. But it wasn't until Fox Johnson's bunch came along that an area boys team could hoist the hardware.

Led by three-time all-state selections Milton Linder and A.J. Burlew, Fort Necessity finished with a record of 46-5, including 20 wins by more that 35 points.

Linder later signed with Northeast State (now ULM) after averaging 19 points per game as a senior.

Hoytt Erwin, Jerry Thomas, W.L. Robbins, Robert Reeves, Bill Linder and James Taylor were also members of what would be the school's only state championship.

8. Winnsboro Football (1994)

The closest Winnsboro would come to the elusive football state title since 1968 was the 1994 season.

Coach Don Easterling's Wildcats used a power-rushing attack spearheaded by Antwan Holmes,William Bass and Michael Henry to rush for over 3,500 yards. Lynn Middleton was the quarterback, his third year as the starting signal caller. 

But the Winnsboro defense was its deadly weapon. Led by future LSU Hall of Famer Anthony "Booger" McFarland, the Wildcats held their opponents to 12.3 points per game, earning them the nickname "The Killer Bees", for their black and gold uniforms combined with their feisty play.

The Wildcats finished 8-2 in the regular season before notching wins over Vidalia, West Feliciana and Springhill in the playoffs to set up a monumental semifinal showdown at Wildcat Stadium with Class 3A power St. James.

Winnsboro held the lead until the last 16 seconds of the game, when St. James broke the heart of the thousands in attendance by scoring on a reverse to win 21-20, denying the Wildcats of trip to the Superdome.

7. Gilbert Football (1975)

Gilbert ran through its 1975 season without a blemish before losing a heartbreaker to district-rival Sicily Island in the last game of the regular season. Gilbert coach Wyman Collie later told The Sun he thought that loss helped his team refocus for what was to be the year of the Demon.

Gilbert star running back Larry Beckwith scored from 8-yards out, then converted the 2-point conversation with three minutes left, putting the Demons up 8-6 over Second Ward in the Class A state championship.

Second Ward, who was 13-0 entering the contest, made one last stand, but the Demons shut them down on fourth down in the red zone to clinch the school's only state crown.

Beckwith finished the season with 1,923 rushing yards, marking one of best single-season rushing efforts in parish history.

6. Ogden Girls Basketball (1946)

The Ogden Lady Trojans won consecutive state titles in 1946 and 1947, in the early stages of a remarkable run where Franklin Parish school's accounted for 15 girls basketball titles in 15 years.

The Lady Trojans went 32-2 in 1946 to win the Class B crown.

In 1947, Ogden went 29-1 and beat Baskin in the Class B championship. That would be the last time Tiny Tarbutton's Baskin teams would lose in 218 more games, still a world record for the longest winning streak in sports.

No. 5 Winnsboro Football (1967)

The summer of love came and went, setting up a magical season for the boys of fall at Winnsboro High School.

Head coach Charles Murphy and assistants J.W. Mercer, Bobby Collins and Don Easterling rallied the talented group to make black and gold history, finishing the regular season undefeated and claiming the school's first District 2-1A title.

The Wildcats defeated Farmerville, Bunkie and Vanderbilt to advance to Class A state title game, the school's only appearance ever in the championship event in football.

Because this was long before the Superdome Classic, or the Superdome for that matter, the Wildcats were the away team in the title game, forced to travel to Kinder.

Winnsboro Mayor W.E. "Frenchie" Marioneaux urged local businesses to close their doors at Noon the Friday of the title game, and nearly all of them did. Reports from the game said nearly 2,000 Winnsboro fans showed up at Yellow Jacket Stadium to support their Wildcats.

Unfortunately, the elusive state title escaped Winnsboro that day, losing 16-7 to Kinder in an old school leather-popping classic.

Sun Sports Writer Otis B. Hassell wrote, "The Wildcats never gave up at Kinder, fighting their guts out until the final seconds. Their plays that had worked so well all year, just failed to click that night…The Wildcats were consistent in their aggressive blocking and stubborn defense all season, but their great teamwork was the biggest factor in their success."

The Wildcats finished the season 12-1-1.

Leading the team offensively was 190-pound senior fullback Mike Lord, who rushed for 2,203 yards for 20 touchdowns. At nearly 200 pounds, Lord was considered huge in those days for a even a lineman. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry.

Larry Kolb was the Wildcats senior quarterback, throwing for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for six more scores. Mike Kramer, a 160-pound junior split end, caught 30 passes for 921 yards and eight touchdowns.

Mike Albritton was a roustabout of sorts that year for Winnsboro, playing tailback, linebacker and punted for a 41.1 net average.

Other standouts listed from Sun reports were Butch Williamson, Larry Clark, Scott Perkins, Jimmy Parks, Steve Elrod, Bud Anders, Tommy Lupo, James Evans and Billy Ray.

The Wildcats moved up to Class 2A the following season and remained the top-ranked team for most of the 1968 campaign, before losing in the opening round of the playoffs to Jesuit of Shreveport, who were the defining 2A champs.

No. 4 Baskin Boys Basketball (1986)

The Rams had long been known in the state and around the country for their basketball lore, but it was mostly in reference to the girls basketball programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

That all changed in the 1985-86 season, when Doug Clark led Baskin to a 39-2 record and a Class B state title, beating Sibley 75-70 with literally the entire community of Baskin in the stands at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

The trio of Ausberry brothers (Matthew, Wayne and Lavell) spurred along the Rams success that season, as they scored 55 of the Baskin's 75 points in the title game. Matthew scored a game-high 26 points that night, with 20 coming in the final two periods.

Michael Clingan was a 6-foot-3 rebounding machine for Baskin, averaging 12 per game. Marvin Smith was the other Baskin starter, a gritty guard that had seven assists in the championship game.

No. 3 Ogden Boys Basketball (1984)

It wasn't a secret the Trojans would be a force to be reckoned with entering the 1983-84 season. Ralph Ross' group was riding a three-year home winning streak and had a good team coming back.

At one point, Ogden had a 27-game winning streak that season, packing the legendary Liddieville gym to capacity with fans each time the Trojans tipped off.

The Trojans battled through a tough schedule and fought their way to the Class C Final Four for the first time in school history in boys basketball. In the final week of the regular season, Ogden beat Class B Start, a team 36-0 entering the game, by 13 points.

After edging Maurepas 63-62 in the semifinals, the Trojans pulled off a come-from-behind victory against Plainview and capture the Class C championship.

Ogden's Ronnie Walker saved 12 of his game-high 24 points for the fourth period to power the Trojans to the finish line. He was named the Class C tournament MVP. Dink Black, Roosevelt Owens, Jeff Poland and Paul McKinley rounded out the starting five.

Ross, who had been coaching Ogden for 15 years and amassed over 485 victories, finally got his state title.

The Trojans finished the season with a record of 39-3.

No. 2 Winnsboro Boys Basketball (1992)

James Remedies took over the Wildcat basketball program in the late 1980s and turned it into a powerhouse in just a few short years.

From 1986-90, Winnsboro had produced three 20-win seasons and even a district championship in 1987. But the early 1990s was without question the Wildcats' heyday.

After a district title and 24 wins in 1991, Winnsboro exited the playoffs early in a quarterfinal loss to Bossier. The determined and veteran-savvy group returned the following season and forever etched their names in the record books.

The Wildcats battled through a tough district slate, before rolling through the playoffs and eventually meeting their district rival, McCall of Tallulah, in the Class 3A state championship game in Baton Rouge.

Winnsboro's Deon Wordlaw made a layup to put Winnsboro up 57-55 with one second left on the clock, ultimately sealing the Wildcats first and only state title in men's basketball.

Matt Clark, Demeleus Corbin-Jackson, Calvin Brown, Derrick Powell, Anthony Scott, Willie Nash, Kelvin Wilford, Kevin Winn and Eddie Jordan were all apart of that squad which finished with a record of 31-5.

The Wildcats would return to the semifinals the following season, but lost to eventual state champion McCall by a point.

1. Baskin Girls Basketball (1948)

You could argue several Baskin teams from the late 1940s to late 1950s as the best to come out of Franklin Parish, but the 1948 Lady Rams kickstarted one of the most storied dynasties in American high school sports history.

The 1948 team that finished 37-0 started a run of five consecutive state titles at Baskin, and was the beginning of the incredible 218-game winning streak under Hall of Fame coach Edna "Tiny" Tarbutton. They didn’t lose until Jan. 7, 1953, when Franklin Parish rival Winnsboro rose to the occasion before a packed house to beat Rams, 33-27.

The era of Baskin’s dominance began with the arrival of eighth-grader Dixie Baskin- a forward who never played in a losing game in her career.

There was a stretch of five years where Dixie Baskin scored 3,919 of the teams 10,806 points. Opposing teams scored only 4,743.

Mildred Ragdale and Juanita Glass scored loads of points during those years as well.

Others on those championship teams include Patsy Stephens, Frances Lyles, Bobbie Jean Duchense, Avis Shuff and Johnnie Merriweather.

During those golden years at Baskin, the Rams were untouchable ladies, posting winning scores like 64-3 against Wisner, 74-2 against Crowville and 59-7 against Mangham.

Droves turned out to see the Lady Rams dominate.

“We had very big crowds,” Tarbutton told The Sun in 1992. “That little old country town followed us even to the state tournaments, even though the times weren’t quite like they are now. It was difficult to travel.”

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Contact Matt Reynolds at matt@franklinsun.com or follow @bymattreynolds on Twitter. 

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