John D. ‘Blackie’ Lane was Wakefield’s high school coach for all sports for several years beginning in 1948. He was an all-sports stud fresh from graduation at Emporia State Teacher’s College. With these credentials he had high hopes of developing some respect for Wakefield’s assorted teams. This was the challenge he faced every day.
By my senior year Blackie had shaped our six-man football team into a minor power. As a result, the team could smell victory over every opponent well before we got onto the field. In our season opening game with Randolph I ran the opening kickoff for a touchdown. This morale booster was only the beginning of a substantial victory. Our reputation may have preceded us through scouting and press reports, and served as a magnificent stimulus for our subsequent opponents to make careful preparation for our arrival.
Our next game was with White City, a little town southeast of Junction City. It was a Friday afternoon game, with White City having the home field advantage. It was a long ride from Wakefield for our short caravan of cars. While we were riding, White City’s team was busy planning its strategy for victory. Little did I know at the time that I would be targeted in the opponent’s nefarious game plan. Their plan was quick, brutal, and unusual.
In those days football padding was in its infancy. Helmets were still being made of treated leather and lacked real rigidity. They were padded inside, but had no internal structure and no mask to protect against direct contact injuries. On the opening kickoff one of our backs got the ball and was running up the field. I was ahead of him by some considerable distance when a player from White City came up behind me and planted his fist squarely in my face. I landed on my back and remember little more about the kick-off. I ran off the field before the blood started gushing from my nose, depriving our opponents of any sign of a successful attack.
The two officials were busy watching the ball, and missed the action completely. Blackie was livid at such an unprovoked attack on the opening kickoff. In the absence of official sanctions, Blackie determined that a retaliatory response was an essential minimum. In the process, White City was about to learn why our coach was called Blackie.
At his first opportunity Blackie collected several heads, and the offending player was identified. Thereafter we referred to him simply as Igor. It follows that his team quickly became Igor’s team. As the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, their leader also became Igor’s coach. With the offender identified, the retaliatory plan acquired a reasonably sharp focus.
As I was still bleeding into a towel on the sideline, I was not privy to the details of the conversations and plans involved. Blackie had a private meeting with three of our beefiest players. An appropriate signal was devised to trigger the precise play when the plan was to occur. Given their instructions, they all resumed their usual duties.
Dick Elkins was one of the key players in this retaliatory response. As a farm kid, Dick was used to a little dirty work, like shoveling manure and throwing bales. After a long day throwing bales, when Dick’s natural strength was waning, he would have to heist bales to the top of a tall stack of bales using his knee. This was a crucial quality in his pivotal role as the slot-man in the designated trio.
Blackie motioned to me that I might want to keep my eye on Igor during the next few moments. On signal during one play, the trio isolated Igor on the field with one on each side, and Dick in front. Igor was scarcely visible until he was suddenly catapulted three feet above the surrounding trio, undoubtedly from Dick’s well trained knee. A wry smile crossed Blackie’s face. In his book this was not yet revenge. This was simply getting even. Revenge was to follow in a most poetic form of justice.
The above activities all occurred within the first five minutes of the first quarter. While our team was quite skillful, the emotional stimulus of these events produced a kind of coalescence which molded the team into a virtual football juggernaut. My bleeding subsided within a short period of time, and I was able to rejoin the newly found spirited play.
A little known and obscure rule in six-man football at the time dealt with declaring a team victory at any time when the difference in score between the teams reached 35 points. A few minutes into the second half we scored the game-ending final touchdown: Wakefield 40, White City 0. At that precise moment, Igor, Igor’s team, and Igor’s coach were left standing on the field as we left immediately for home.
In Wakefield football, up to that time, the clock had always decided the end of the game and the victor. On this infamous day, a novel football record was set through this game-ending touchdown early in the second half. With the shameful defeat of this scurrilous opponent, Blackie had achieved a full measure of revenge.