Perfect reunion: Chaffee salutes 1956 team

Friday, October 20, 2006

The school put together its only undefeated season 50 years ago.

A season that started with an improbable win turned into one of the greatest seasons in Chaffee school history.

Now, 50 years later, Chaffee football players will reunite to celebrate the lone undefeated season in school history. A reunion of the 1956 team will take place 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Activities Center at Chaffee High School.

"It was really a great year, as you can imagine," said coach Bob Goodwin, who led the Red Devils for seven seasons, including the undefeated 1956 season.

Chaffee finished 9-0 that year, kicking off the season with an upset win against a Sikeston team that had won 25 straight heading into the meeting.

The lead paragraph of the Southeast Missourian story following the game read, "Pandemonium broke loose in Chaffee Friday night as the Chaffee Red Devils pulled off a staggering 12 to 6 upset on the highly rated Sikeston High Bulldogs."

It was a defining win against a team which had dominated competition throughout Southeast Missouri. Sikeston had lost just one game the previous eight seasons in going 78-1.

"We scored, then we had to hold on," Goodwin recalled. "Sikeston at the time had really an outstanding record."

Chaffee jumped to a 12-0 lead over Sikeston in the game, a major turnaround to previous meetings. Sikeston lost four fumbles in the game, while Ed Hanna led Chaffee with 80 yards rushing. Hanna and Tom Gibbons scored for the Red Devils.

In the previous eight meetings, Chaffee had scored just two touchdowns. Sikeston had beaten Chaffee 48-6 the previous year, and the games had not even been close between the two teams since Chaffee's last win over Sikeston in 1942.

"That was a very, very big deal. No one expected it," said standout Ryland "Dutch" Meyr. "I don't think we did, in fact. I remember my dad crying because he felt sorry for them. That was such a big deal for us to beat them. We had a lot of great athletes."

Ed Chronister, quarterback for the 1956 team and a four-year all-conference selection, recalled the Sikeston newspaper stating the game would be a "walk in the park" for the Bulldogs.

"We scored on like the third play of the game and the walk was over," Chronister said.

Just the mention of the Sikeston game sparks plenty of memories for all the players of that era.

"Even to us looking at it from the perspective of 50 years later, the very idea of the smallest school in the state of Missouri playing 11-man football could beat all those teams in our conference and the teams in the big conference, including Sikeston -- no one could beat Sikeston at that time," said Mark Hopkins, a standout on the squad and spearhead of the 50th reunion.

"Just the memory of being on the field warming up with 22 of us, looking on the other sideline at their team that dressed 55 kids and played two-platoon, and they were enormous. It was really a phenomenon from start to finish. None of us will forget it, that's for sure."

The Sikeston game was only the season-opener. Chaffee was hardly challenged the rest of the season in winning the Little Six Conference. Among the victories was a 21-6 victory against St. Vincent, which was undefeated at the time of the game. Other nonconference wins came in convincing fashion over much-larger schools Jackson and Charleston.

"St. Vincent was also undefeated when we played them and we kind of took care of that," Chronister said. "Until that season, we hadn't beaten Sikeston or Jackson or Charleston -- those were four pretty big schools. It was kind of a magical season.

"We just had a real tight-knit group of guys. We just worked really hard. That season was kind of a once in a lifetime thing. That's why we're celebrating it."

The team was littered with future collegiate players. Seven of the starting 11 went on to play college football, most for Southeast Missouri State. Meyr was inducted into Southeast's Hall of Fame in recent years. Hanna signed with the University of Missouri out of Chaffee.

"How does a little school with only four seniors and 10 juniors in that year turn out that many boys who ended up playing football in college?" Hopkins asked. "Lots of that is a tribute to Bob Goodwin."

Chaffee was led by the backfield of Chronister, Gary Glenzy, Gibbons and Hanna. Chronister and Hanna, along with lineman Meyr and Hopkins were first-team all-conference that season.

"We were not fancy," Chronister said. "We had three plays to the left and three plays to the right. We just made it work. It was simple. We had smart linemen who called their own blocking."

The mastermind behind the squad was Goodwin.

Goodwin, now 80, did not have an assistant and also coached basketball and baseball at Chaffee.

"Bob Goodwin was just really a wonderful man and a wonderful coach," Chronister said. "He was just in total control of our lives actually. All we did was eat, sleep and talk about football. There was never an opportunity for anyone to get a big head."

Goodwin's influence may have played a part in helping numerous players from the 1956 roster go on to coach. Southeast Missouri football has been littered with Chaffee graduates in the coaching field over the years, many coming from Goodwin's reign. Goodwin, Meyr and Gary Lynch, who also played at Southeast, all coached at Central High School at one time.

Gary Glenzy, Hopkins and Chronister all went on to have long, successful coaching careers, just to name a few.

"That's one of the things that makes me most proud," Goodwin said. "I can't think of any kids I had down there that didn't do well. They're outstanding citizens."

Added Hopkins: "A little bitty town has had one heck of an impact on this region for a long time."

A season such as 1956 can bond people for life, especially those from a small community. The junior and senior classes from the team routinely hold reunions together, and Saturday night will include the school's alumni banquet following the 2 1/2-hour reunion.

"We've all stayed in touch," Meyr said. "With such a small group, we all pretty much know where the other teammates are at. Every five years, we get together as a class and reminisce about the good old days."

This will be the first reunion of the whole team in some time, and a good majority of the players are expected to be in attendance.

"We're hoping we have a good turnout," Chaffee athletic director Terry Glenzy said, a freshman on the 1956 squad. "They felt like there would be close to 40 or 42 there. It will be a good time. Guys telling some tall tales."

"It is exciting to get together," Hopkins added. "Some of the people that will be there on Saturday I haven't seen them since we left high school."

1956 season

Chaffee 12, Sikeston 6

*Chaffee 20, Jackson 2

*Chaffee 33, Portageville 18

*Chaffee 40, Dexter 21

*Chaffee 26, Hayti 0

Chaffee 21, St. Vincent 6

*Chaffee 46, East Prairie 6

Chaffee 41, Charleston 6

(* -- Little Six conference games)

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