Collin County's Greatest Game

The Texas Story Project.

The 1952 football season came to a climax in what many said was just about the best football game ever played in Collin County. It was the slimmest of victories for one team and the narrowest of losses for the other.

It was announced on McKinney radio station KMAE and in all the Collin County newspapers. The undefeated Allen High School Eagles would play the undefeated Blue Ridge Tigers for the 1952 District 14 six man football champion title.

Two undefeated teams would be playing their final game of the regular season. It was said that the game should be close and a thriller from every angle. There was nothing lacking in either team. All the color and excitement of a championship battle was expected to be on display.

Everything exciting that can go into a football game went into this one including left handed passes by a right handed quarterback, teeth rattling tackles, high hurdling runs, and a thrilling  catch and run from a kid who made the most of his first pass reception in a football game.

At the time, Allen’s population was 450 and Blue Ridge was home to 300. The game would be played on the dirt football field next to the schoolhouse in Allen. There were no bleachers and admission was free. Folks began parking their cars and trucks along the sidelines at noon. Chairs were brought from home as folks staked out spots beside the field.

By kickoff time 1,500 people crowded along the sidelines to cheer the teams on to victory. It was reported that it was the largest crowd ever assembled to watch a six man football game.

No player on either team weighed more than 160 pounds. There were a total of 21 players. Nine Allen Eagles and 12 Blue Ridge Tigers saw action on the field. Every one of them carried the pride of their home town on their shoulders.

It was all there in this spectacular battle on a dirt gridiron on a cold windy night in November. A lifetime of emotion and 15 gallons of adrenaline were spent in this one game. Sports writers for the McKinney Daily Courier Gazette reported that it was “one of the best football games ever played in Texas." Donnie White, the Blue Ridge quarterback, played a game that would be remembered by many as one of the best performances a football player ever gave.

The many thrilling highlights of the game included the great Eagle quarterback Henry Hedgcocke being dragged down by opposing linemen and switching the ball from his right hand to the left and throwing a 15 yard strike; Billy Howlett, the Allen Eagle right end, catching passes that were uncatchable; Tiger Gayle Reynolds, the only player between an Eagle and the end zone, making open field tackles time after time; Tiger Billy McTee, catching his first pass in a game and then breaking tackles and stumbling along the sidelines for another 35 yards; Kenneth Holt fighting to recover Tiger fumbles; Tommy Bickle, on the Eagle line, battered and limping, refusing to let any one bust through the middle; Billy Howlett intercepting a Donnie White pass on the 10 yard line and then running it downfield to the 5 yard line before being tackled;  and the great Blue Ridge running star Travis Bunch, injured and out of the game until the final minutes of the third quarter.

The Allen Eagles passed on every down except one and dominated time of possession by turning shovel passes from Chester Story to Harold Crouch into a grinding ground game. The Tigers never punted. The Eagles were forced to punt twice.

Time ran out as Donnie White’s game winning pass rolled off the fingertips of Travis Bunch as he and Billy Howlett fought for the ball. The crowd was silent. The scoreboard read Allen Eagles 34, Blue Ridge Tigers 34.

The coaches, players, and crowd milled around while speculating on the outcome as game officials went into a private meeting inside the schoolhouse to compare statistics.

Blue Ridge had rushed for 122 yards, thrown 22 passes with 9 completions for 224 yards and made 12 first downs. Allen had rushed for 176 yards, thrown 24 passes with 14 completions for 95 yards and made 13 first downs.

The Tigers had amassed more yardage than the Eagles, but the Eagles had made one more first down than the Tigers. Though both teams remained undefeated, according to league rules on penetration, Allen was declared the winner.

No team had ever won a championship on downs before and none have done it since. I, like many of those that were at the game on that November night in 1952, still believe we’d just seen the best football game ever played in Texas.

Ken Byler is a well-known Collin County storyteller who writes a weekly column for the Allen American.

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