THE 1975 Gilbert Demon State Championship team was honored Friday night at the Franklin Parish football game. Attending from the team were: (from left) Robert Emfinger, John Morgan, Vernon Majors, Doug Roberson, Carey McCoy, Nathan Johnson, Michael Stribling, Brady Stribling and Thaddeus Edwards. (Sun photo by Monica Huff)
In 1975, the Vietnam War was coming to an end, the movie Jaws was keeping people out of the water, cost of gas was 44 cents per gallon and a small-town football team was making history.
The 1975 state championship Gilbert Demon team was honored at Franklin Parish High School’s football game Friday night.
Talent was abundant for the Gilbert squad, but the backbone and secret to their success was the close camaraderie.
“We played for each other,” said team quarterback, Robert Emfinger, who now owns two Texas pharmacies. “Coach Wyman Collie worked to build young men as much as he did a football team. He taught me values and things in life that I use today to help me in my business and to be successful.”
The Demon team featured a crushing defense which allowed only nine offensive touchdowns the entire season and limited the majority of teams they faced to less than a 100 yards of total offense. Gilbert’s defense was so dominate one team had less than 10 yards of total offense while another had negative yards of total offense at the end of the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Demons featured what was described as “bull-like rushes” from Larry Beckwith and the quick John Morgan who also had several interception returns for touchdowns throughout the season.
Beckwith and Morgan were the “work horses” of the team, Emfinger said.
Beckwith had “quickness to the hole” and Morgan had “a keen sense of where the ball was defensively and was a good tackler,” Emfinger said.
Gilbert 16 - Newellton 0
In the first game of the regular season, Gilbert blanked Newellton 16-0. With field conditions being muddy, Gilbert relied on their ground game - a tatic they would use throughout the season.
Beckwith rushed for 125 yards and scored one touchdown for the Demons against Newellton.
Gilbert’s defense was king against Newellton holding the Bears to just 76 yards of total offense and just one first down in the first half.
“Our defense did a tremendous job,” Collie said, in a 1975 interview with The Sun. “I don’t think Newellton will be held like this too many times this season.
After Newellton, Gilbert had back-to-back open dates before they faced their cross-parish foes, Crowville Bulldogs. Adding to the excitement was Gilbert’s upcoming homecoming festivities.
Crowville was coming off a 0-0 tie with Wisner, but the Bulldogs soon would find out Gilbert was no Wisner.
Gilbert 54 - Crowville 0
The Demons did not disappoint the homecoming crowd as they ran past the Crowville Bulldogs 54-0.
Gilbert amassed 402 total yards against Crowville. The majority of the yards, 329, came from the powerful duo of Beckwith and Morgan. Beckwith carried the ball 17 times for 137 yards, and Morgan tallied 131 yards on eight carries.
To open the scoring, Emfinger connected with Morgan on a 35-yard pass.
Later in the first quarter, Andy Coleman would score from 19 yards.
Beckwith would enter the scoring stats in the second quarter when he would put one in from three yards out. Morgan would follow with another score later in the second.
Beckwith was not finished as he also scored in the third quarter from three yards outs.
Will Morgan would add the final touches to scoring on a fourth quarter six-yard run.
Collie said his defense did a “outstanding job” and started naming defensive players but stopped and said, “In fact, the entire defense played a good game.”
Gilbert’s next foe was Sterlington, a team described by Collie as “real quick” and had the ability to “score from anywhere on the field.”
Collie’s strategy against the Panthers was “we’re just going to grind it out.”
Gilbert 42 - Sterlington 6
The first score of the season against Gilbert came against Sterlington when they ran for a 70-yard kickoff returned in the final quarter, but it was all Demons before that.
As Collie forecasted, Gilbert ground 234 total yards on the ground during the game.
John Morgan ran for two touchdowns and returned a reception for five yards for another score.
Beckwith punched in a pair of touchdowns from two yards out.
Collie called Sterlington a “good test” and said “we were expecting a real tough game but were able to go ahead and take them.”
As the dust settled at Sterlington, Gilbert looked to win a district matchup at LaSalle.
Gilbert 34 - LaSalle 0
Gilbert’s defense continued their ironclad ways as they blanked another team on their way to claiming a win in Olla.
The Demons did not score until the second quarter when Beckwith had touchdown runs of one yard and 65 yards. He added another score later in the game.
John Morgan had a long touchdown run of 87 yards. Leroy Robinson entered the scoring stats as he recovered a fumble and scored on a 30-yard dash.
Gilbert’s offense racked up a total of 269 yards rushing.
In the next game, Gilbert would face Davidson High School from St. Joseph in a Thursday night matchup.
Gilbert 54 - Davidson 8
The Gilbert Demons continued to roll as they improved their record to 5-0 with a win against the Tensas Parish team - Davidson.
Seven different players scored against Davidson: Beckwith, Andy Coleman, Vernon Majors, Owen Mitchell, Doug Roberson, Robert Emfinger and Will Morgan.
The Demons put up 30 points in the first quarter alone while registering a total of 203 yards rushing.
The Demon defense continued to shine while limiting Davidson to just 11 yards of total offense. In the game, Collie realized his team was deep with talent.
“The defense did another outstanding job,” Collie said. “We also noticed some second string boys who looked good.
Gilbert would battle another Tensas Parish team, Waterproof the next week.
Gilbert 56 - Waterproof 0
Another week, another stellar showing offensively and defensively for the Gilbert Demons.
The Franklin Parish team held the Tensas Parish team to just 80 total yards for the night while racking up seven touchdowns.
John Morgan scored three touchdowns while Beckwith and Johnson scored two touchdowns each.
Morgan had touchdown runs of 55 yards and one yard while returning an interception for a touchdown.
Beckwith had touchdown runs of 21 and nine yards while Johnson had touchdown bursts of seven and two yards.
Gilbert’s record now stands at 6-0 and would face their arch nemesis the Wisner Bulldogs with a record of 3-4-1.
For many years the two teams participated in fierce battles on the football field. The stands were filled each time they played and both Collie and Wisner Coach Ronnie Stephens knew it.
“We’re looking for Wisner to be ready for us,” Collie said. “They have shown signs of having a pretty good team.”
Gilbert 52 - Wisner 7
Rivalry or not, Wisner was not much for the Demons as they easily brushed them aside to a tune of 52-7.
With the knowledge of the Beckwith / Morgan lethal ground game, Stephens instructed his Wisner team to stop Gilbert’s rush, so the Demons took it to the air.
“As the offensive leader, we took what they gave us,” Emfinger said.
Emfinger threw for four touchdowns in the game for a total of 172 yards in the air. He connected with John Morgan on touchdown passes of 28 and 90 yards. He also had a 12-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Bass and 67-yard touchdown pass to Mickey Jackson.
Beckwith contributed with an eight-yard and 25-yard touchdown run.
Wisner’s lone score came in the fourth quarter with a Joe Jenkins 48-yard touchdown pass to Donald January.
Defensively, John Morgan had an interception and returned it five yards for a touchdown.
The next week, Gilbert faced Sicily Island and their dreaded box formation, a play the Tigers ran for decades.
“We’ll work on defense of the box formation which the Tigers use,” Collie said.
Sicily Island 14 - Gilbert 8
Gilbert fell a game short of the district 3-A championship with a loss to the Sicily Island Tigers in their last regular season game.
The Tigers entered the contest with a record of 8-1 and beat the Demons 14-8.
Gilbert struck first with a Beckwith 30-yard touchdown run early in the game.
Leroy Henry of Sicily Island scored from one yard out in the second quarter to catch up to Gilberts.
Late in the third quarter, Sicily Island quarterback Carlton Finister connected with Jerry Heckard on a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Later in the playoffs, Collie would admit the loss gave the Demons a hunger to improve and make a solid run in the playoffs.
Following the loss, Gilbert moved into the first round of the playoffs to face the formidable Kentwood Kangaroos - District 5A champions.
Collie called Kentwood a “young, but well organized with some fast players.”
Gilbert 66 - Kentwood 0
Gilbert dominated Kentwood in every aspect of the game in the first round playoff matchup.
Defensively, Gilbert held Kentwood to negative yards rushing and total offense.
Offensively, Gilbert jumped on Kentwood early and often. The Demons scored three first quarter touchdowns and three second quarter touchdowns to put the game away.
Beckwith led the Gilbert offensive attack with a four touchdown performance and rushed for 191 yards.
John Morgan added two Demon touchdowns while Mickey Jackson and Any Coleman had a touchdown each.
With momentum on their side, Gilbert would host Chaneyville the next week.
Collie called Chaneyville “big, but not fast.” Chaneyville boasted of a player weighing in at 260 pounds.
Gilbert 30 - Chaneyville 6
The week of the Chaneyville contest many Gilbert players were sick and played the game weak, Collie said in a Sun interview.
Sickness or not Gilbert battled Chaneyville and came out on top 30-6.
Beckwith again had a big rushing game posting 220 yards, and his counterpart, John Morgan, rushed for 100 yards.
Beckwith’s longest run of the night came on a handoff right up the middle for 78 yards and a score.
During the interview, Collie admitted he was looking forward to a possible rematch with Sicily Island deep in the playoffs. Before Gilbert could face Sicily Island, another group of Tigers stood in their way: Grambling.
“They’ve got a big ball club with some pretty good boys,” Collie said of his opponents for next week.
The Demons would have to travel north to face Grambling.
Gilbert 20 - Grambling 6
Grambling’s physical size was bigger than Gilbert’s but that did not stop the Demons from rolling on into the semi-finals. Gilbert beat Grambling 20-6.
Collie compared Grambling to a college team when asked about their size and strength.
“We did a good job,” Collie said. “They are like a college team. We held them in check real good on defense. We muffled them real good.”
Gilbert built up 212 yards of total offense with 106 of those yards coming from Beckwith.
Gilbert opened the scoring in the first period on a two-yard run by Beckwith.
Next score came from a Grambling blocked punt as they tied the score 6-6 which remained through three periods.
In the final stanza, Beckwith again scored from two yards out and added the two point conversion to send Gilbert ahead.
With approximately three minutes left in the game, he iced the victory with a six-yard burst for the final 20-6 margin.
Gilbert limited Grambling to two first downs while posting 11 on the night plus picking off two errant Grambling aerials and pouncing on one fumble.
A playoff rematch against Sicily Island was not to be because of a Sterlington upset but the Demons would face University in the semi-finals.
Collie would coach against a former teammate in college and said “was going to be a tough game.”
Gilbert 34 -University 12
The Demon defense limited University to just 122 yards of total offense as Gilbert punched their ticket to the state championship game against Second Ward Eagles.
Gilbert beat University 34-12.
Emfinger hit on four of six passes including one for a touchdown.
John Morgan scored two touchdowns, Beckwith with one, Coleman one and Jackson took in an Emfinger pass for the other tally.
Morgan had the long run of the night in the first quarter as he rambled 59 yards for a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Beckwith had a 24-yard touchdown run against the Baton Rouge club.
Gilbert added touchdowns in each of the final quarters. In the third quarter, the pass to Jackson culminated a 72-yard drive after the Demons received the kickoff.
After University opened the fourth quarter with a scoring drive, Coleman scored on a four-yard burst following another long Demon march.
Collie complimented all the backs on their performance and said the line did a good job of paving the way.
“Everybody did a good job,” Collie said.
Collie hoped everyone would stay healthy for the championship matchup against the 13-0 Second Ward Eagles, although star runner Beckwith was hampered with a knee injury.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Collie said. “They are 13 and 0. They have a real quick scrambling quarterback and some good backs with a big line. On defense they have a real good nose guard.”
Gilbert 8 - Second Ward 6 — Championship Game
Sun editor Fred Ferrington called Gilbert’s effort against Second Ward “a rugged defensive effort” and Beckwith’s play “bull-like rushes” in the Demon’s march to the state championship.
Emfinger remembers for the first three quarters both teams would move the ball two or three series and be stopped.
“The offensive and defensive lines were exhausted after the game,” Emfinger said. “Actually, everybody was exhausted after the game. The game was won at the line of scrimmage.”
Gilbert’s victory was determined in the fourth quarter by a short burst off right tackle by Beckwith.
Emfinger called a timeout after Gilbert scored the touchdown and was met by Collie midfield.
“He asked me why I called a timeout,” Emfinger recalled. “I said I thought it was an important play…he told me I knew the play to call and get in there and call it. He left the play calling to the quarterback.”
Beckwith scored the PAT with another short burst off right tackle.
The late score seemed to ignite the Eagle offense as they marched down the field with time running out, but the Demon defense put on a goal line stand stopping the Eagles on three successive running attempts. On the fourth down, Gilbert broke up a pass attempt to seal the victory.
The ending seemed appropriate for the 1975 Gilbert team - a goal line stop by a dominate defense.
“It was a great win and I’m really proud of all the boys,” Collie said after the game. “Our boys knew what it was to come back. Second Ward didn’t know what it was to lose.
Collie said one factor in the game was the depth of the Eagle team.
“We just reached and gave a superb effort,” he said. “We were so determined, and we wouldn’t be denied.”
For the night, Beckwith rushed for 150 yards on 27 carries along with Coleman and John Morgan helping pile up 228 total yards rushing.
The Demon defense held Second Ward to 114 yards rushing and limited the aerial attack to 118 yards.
Gilbert finished their season with a record of 13-1 and brought a state championship trophy home.