Picayune fields its first team

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lovell recalls that Picayune’s first football team in 1922 was shaken and upset after seeing Poplarville actually play a real live opponent. It was the first real live football game that any of the new Picayune players had actually seen in person.

They were not prepared for the sheer violence of the game. It was nothing like basketball which Picayune participated in.

In this new sport there were bloody noses, cuts from cleats and just sheer brutality at times.

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Lovell says that Poplarville had a big player who got mad. His name was Roscoe Lumpkin (he was probably one of the Lumpkins from Carriere), and that he just flew into the line and started “tearing up the line, slinging people around.”

He said some Picayune players later “learned to do that,” but it was all new to them at first. Some of the Poplarville players were so tough, said Lovell, that they did not even wear a helmet. Of course, helmets then were nothing but a piece of leather and some cotton attached to the inside.

 So here they are, for 1922, the first team ever fielded by Picayune High School; they were known as the Cubs. By 1925 they were known as the Maroon Tide. They were also called the Thin Red Line and in one news article were called the Yellowjackets, which was probably an error on the part of the newspaper reporter.

Here is the line-up and weights, the first string, that started the first game with Gulfport, which was played in Picayune in early September 1922:

QB Alton Johnson 135, RHB Ovied Davis 130, LHB Bock Baham 130, FB Johnnie D’Antoni 170, C  Bill Dyle 165, RG Donnie Mitchell 185, LG Frank White 150, RT Charlie D’Antoni 170, LT Jim Megehee 165, RE Dobie Holden and LE Nat Lovell.

Substitutes were Guard Bill Anderson 175; Halfback Jack Read 130; and Guard Carl Megehee 170. Special substitute was Bruce “Blister” Breland. Lovell says Breland was used only for kick-offs.

In addition, in a picture Lovell identifies Albert Cassanova, Ernest Blackwell and Ap Johnson as being on the team. Ap Johnson and Alton Johnson might be the same guy.

 Now there are several things that we must clarify here. Lovell gives no listing of the 1924 team. He only tells us, as best as we can determine, what the games and scores and lineups for the 1922 season and the 1923 season were.

 Why he leaves out the 1924 season is not clear. Of course, he left in 1924 or early 1925 to go to Hattiesburg for a railroad job, and he might have quit and left before the season began. He said he took all of his information from newspaper clippings saved by his sister, so he might not have had any clippings for the 1924 season.

 Also, notice that Holden was on the first team, playing right end, but by 1925 on the state championship team, he had been moved to fullback by then new head Coach Jackson. There he performed flawlessly. Also, another player, Louis D. Megehee, who is not on the first 1922 team, by 1925 was playing end and was punting the ball, averaging almost 50 yards a punt. He actually turned out to be one of the greatest high school and college punters in the Southeast. He played at LSU and USM.

 Exactly when Megehee joined the team is not clear. Lovell lists Louis as a sub on the 1923 team. His counsin was LT Jim Megehee and brother sub Carl Megehee on the 1922 team.

 Also, not on this first team was “Nub” Anderson, who evidently joined the team later, and was a stalwart at center by the time the 1925 state championship series of games rolled around.

 Holden and Louis D. Megehee also in 1925 were named to the state’s No. 1 offensive team because of their important play during that remarkable state championship season.

 Both also, probably at the insistence of Norman Stevens and Coach Jackson, went on full scholarships to LSU after graduating from Picayune. Dobie remained there for four years and coached the Freshman LSU football team after graduating, and Megehee left LSU after his sophomore year and enrolled at Southern in Hattiesburg, known then as the State Teacher’s College (STC).

 Megehee just last year was posthumously voted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame. One time on Sept. 29, 1929, he punted the ball 85-yards against Mississippi College of Clinton, a fete reported by the Clarion-Ledger sportswriter Purser Hewitt in a dispatch right after the game. It was a record that stood until the 1970s.

 Megehee was called the kicker with an “educated toe” and was tall, lanky and strong just like all the Megehee boys of A.P. Megehee. In addition, notice that Jack Read is listed as a sub on this first team. He would later become the QB of the 1925 state champions and would be credited along with Holden and Megehee as probably the main reason Picayune fielded such a smart and powerful team in 1925.

 Sportswriters wrote that Holden had one of the best football minds in the game that year. And he proved that was so by his legendary record as a coach after his playing career was over.

 Here is the results of the first season in 1922: Picayune 21 Gulfport 7  Home; Picayune 6 Bogalusa 0 There; Picayune 0 Purvis 18 Home; Picayune 19 Columbia 6 Home; Picayune 0 Gulfport 37 There; Picayune 3 Rugby of New Orleans 0 Home; Picayune 20 SS Campground 0 There; and Picayune 58 Sumrall 0 Home. I believe that SS Campground was St. Stanislaus.

 Lovell points out that before the first game with Gulfport, Denson realized that most of his team had never even seen a football game much less played in one. And they had only had about four weeks of organized practice before having to meet Gulfport at Picayune before hometown fans.

 It could wind up being very embarrassing, I am sure Denton thought. In contrast Gulfport had had a football program going for years. So Denson decided to take the team up to Poplarville to see an actual game, Lovell writes.

 Poplarville for a number of years had been playing the game. He doesn’t say what game they saw but Lovell writes the sight of the game, the sheer violence of this early brand of football, put the newly aspiring Picayune players into shock.

 They had no idea that the game was that violent. Although fearful, says Lovell, nobody quit or “backed out.” It was like the World War II bomber pilots: when briefed that only about half would come back from a mission and told that if anyone wanted to back out it was okay, one pilot said, “We were just too damned ashamed and had so much pride that we would rather face death than have our fellow pilots think we were chicken.”

 It was sort of like that for Picayune’s first football players.

 He says that in the particular game they saw Poplarville play, that a guy named Roscoe Lumpkin on Poplarville’s team got real mad and began “tearing up the line.” I don’t know what Lovell meant, other than that Lumpkin just became real violent and began, as Lovell writes, “just slinging people around.” He said Jim Megehee later did that on Picayune’s team.

 Lovell writes that Denson was concerned about Gulfport’s big and rough team, so he got a guy named Bruce “Blister” Breland to come practice with the team, because Breland had played earlier at Poplarville and knew a lot about the game. He did that so Breland could, sort of, talk to the players and keep them calm. Picayune won its first game against Gulfport 21-7. Lovell does not tell much about any of the game’s action. However, I believe I read somewhere that on a kickoff, a Gulfport back fielded the ball and ran it all the way back against Picayune. But it was Gulfport’s only score.

 Lovell tells a funny and interesting story about when Picayune met Gulfport again for their second confrontation of that first 1922 season. This time Gulfport beat Picayune in Gulfport 37-0, and Lovell maintains that it was because someone from Gulfport played a trick on them, and supplied them with a huge bunch of bananas on which the team gorged itself before the game began.

 Also, the field had deep ruts in it because of a circus that had played on the field the day before the game, and Picayune’s runners were always stumbling and failing into the ruts. Combined, the ruts and the bananas, took their toll.

 Lovell gives no dates for the games or at what time they were played or on what day of the week. Most I think were played on Saturdays and had to be played during the daytime, because remember, this is the early 1920s and there is no outdoor lighting at this time.

 In Picayune’s first game against Gulfport, Picayune won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball. Denson put Breland in on the kickoff reception team, but after the first play took him out, and never played him again, Lovell writes. Why he did not let Breland play, Lovell does not say. But he said Breland continued to encourage and talk to the team, which helped, Lovell writes.

 Lovell describes events surrounding the second game with Gulfport this way: The team traveled in cars from Picayune to Gulfport. You have to believe this was really rough because all roads back then would have been dirt. Lovell says they had a couple of flat tires, and that one car blew a tire, ran off the road and flattened a fence while going through Pass Christian.

 With the mishaps they did not get to Gulfport until about 11 a.m. This is probably on a Saturday. Gulfport officials put them in a comfortable place to rest and relax before the pre-game meal. However, “some guy” with a basketfull of bananas comes by and everyone eats a bait of bananas. “Nub” Anderson ate six.

 After they ate the bananas, Gulfport officials come by and took them for their pre-game meal. Results: they were definitely bloated. Then there were the ruts. “That’s my excuse for getting beat by Gulfport in that second game: Too much to eat and too many ruts!” said Lovell.

 Next week, the 1925 state championship team. Only three years after fielding a team Picayune wins the state championship, and fields what is considered one of the best teams in the Southeast.