By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
This article was originally published in The Messenger on October 28, 2011 as part of the top teams countdown.
Prior to the ’57 season, there was much skepticism as to the expectations of the Gadsden Tigers. Beginning his second year at the helm, head coach Jerry Watford knew he had a few good players returning from a 1-7-2 campaign in 1956. The coach did not, however, realize exactly “how good” those players would be.
The Gadsden Tigers had one of the stingiest and roughest defenses ever assembled in this county. Featuring three scoring threats, their backfield was one of the most potent of its generation. According to one player, the front-wall opened gaps in defenses “big enough to drive a truck through.” In 1957, these three produced Gadsden High School’s first state championship.
The Tiger backfield featured two speedy halfbacks and a grinding fullback. Halfbacks Harry Littleton and Gid Riddle were poised to score from anywhere on the field in any situation, while fullback Terrell Wallen punished middle linebackers with quick strikes up the middle.
The running game was successful courtesy of the offensive line. Center Myron Hawkins, guards Ted Hawk and Jack Allred, tackles Pat Waldrop and Johnny Hefner, along with ends Ron Stancill and Joe Crawford outmanned every defense that lined up in front of them. The linemen could pull for sweeps, seal-off for traps or knock opponents head-on to allow the backs to gain any needed yardage.
How good was the Gadsden defense in 1957? The Tigers shutout nine of 10 opponents, while allowing only six points on the season, that score being a single touchdown in Week 7.
The defense featured ends Ron Stancill and Wallen, tackles Hefner and Waldrop, guards Allred and Bobby Lambert, linebackers Larry Busby, Hawkins, David Nolan and Olen Brown, and backs Jerry Heard and Gerald Reynolds. The front line averaged around 185 pounds, well below the average of most opponents in 1957.
As good as the Gadsden offense was in 1957, the championship was won on the backs of the defense.
The Tigers thwarted every scoring attempt during every game during the season, save one. Many teams had opportunities to score on Gadsden, some even backing the Tigers to first and goal situations. But the Tigers always stood tall and stopped all threats.
In the first game of the season, visiting Red Bay of Chattanooga, Tenn., attempted to punt from their own 5-yard line. Wallen rushed through the line and smashed the punter, forcing a fumble in the end zone and recovered it for the touchdown.
Wallen’s play against Red Bay was telling of the Tiger defense that night. Playing in a torrential rainstorm, Gadsden allowed only 18 yards of offense. Riddle and Littleton balanced out the rushing attack, which totaled 212 yards en route to a 21-0 victory.
Butler visited Murphree Stadium in Week 2. The Huntsville squad managed multiple scoring threats, but no points. The Tigers won 18-0.
Because of heavy rains, the Week 3 tilt with Decatur was cancelled. The Tigers shifted their focus to county rival Etowah.
Jim Glover’s Blue Devils visited Murphree Stadium in Week 4 and were favored to win the match.
The two rivals battled to a draw after neither team was able to tally any points. Played in front of an estimated 12,000 fans, the game featured hard hitting from both sides, neutralizing both team’s offenses. The Blue Devils threatened late in the game, but the Tigers’ defense held for the tie.
Gadsden visited Albertville in Week 5. The Tigers whipped Aggies 40-0.
Gadsden’s homecoming tilt against Huntsville in Week 6 was no match, either. Littleton scored from 65 yards on the first play of the game en route to a 27-0 lashing.
Gadsden visit to Scottsboro in Week 5 was the most anticipated match of the season.
The Wildcats were led by the highly touted Pat Trammell. A powerful and crafty quarterback with a cannon for an arm, Trammell is commonly known for his victories under “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama.
To Gadsden High School football fans, Trammell is known as the only person to score points against the Tigers in 1957.
The Wildcats managed a short scoring drive after a Tiger turnover in the third quarter.
After two plays on the goal line, Trammell went over the top for the first (and only) points against the Tigers in 1957. Wallen blocked the extra point attempt.
As for the rest of the game, Trammell was held in check. Stancill and Wallen kept the quarterback on the ground, allowing him to connect on 3-of-9 passes for 29 yards. The Tigers tamed the Wildcats 27-6 behind the Littleton/Riddle attack.
Gadsden visited Anniston in Week 8. Following a Riddle touchdown in the third quarter, Wallen attempted to recover an on-side kick.
A frustrated Bulldog player attacked Wallen and a fight erupted. After several minutes the fight ended and the players separated. Riddle and Littleton poured it on the Bulldogs, and the Tigers won easily 26-0.
Gadsden matched up with Emma Sansom in Week 9. The 6-0-1 Tigers were favored in the match because of the powerful frontwall and relentless defense. Rebel runner Pat Thomas and Littleton were neck-to-neck in scoring going into the game.
Gadsden used a steady attack in the fourth quarter to grind out a 21-0 victory. Littleton scored twice to take the lead in the Big 3 scoring race over Thomas. The victory also sealed a Tiger berth in the annual Charity Bowl at the end of the season.
Littleton added to his scoring tally in Week 10 against the Decatur Red Raiders. Rescheduled because of rain in Week 2, the game ironically was played in a downpour. Littleton scored all the points in the game, a pair of touchdowns that gave the Tigers a 12-0 victory and an 8-0-1 overall record.
Gadsden and Sansom met in the 12th Annual Charity Bowl in a highly anticipated rematch. Watford did not expect a lop-sided victory enjoyed in the first matchup. The Tigers had much at stake in the Charity Bowl, including an undefeated season and a state championship trophy.
The Rebels believed the key to stopping Gadsden was eliminating Littleton. In fact, the strategy turned out to be a “pick your poison” situation. Riddle led all rushers with 147 yards and a touchdown. Hawk opened up gaping holes in the middle of the Rebel defense, allowing the shifty halfback to gain his yards.
Riddle and Littleton did their usual damage, and the Tigers finished the Rebels convincingly 27-0 and finalized Gadsden’s record at 9-0-1.
Gadsden High completed its first undefeated season since 1940. The Tigers were blemished, however, with the naught tie with Etowah earlier in the season. The blemish was not enough to harm Gadsden’s state rankings, and the Tigers were awarded the state championship.
Littleton was also awarded the Big 3 scoring crown. The senior tallied 12 touchdowns in 1957 and earned a football scholarship to Georgia Tech University.
The Big 3 All-County squad was littered with Tigers in 1957. Stancill, Wallen, Waldrop, Hefner, Hawk, Hawkins and Littleton earned first team honors. Crawford, Lambert, Reynolds and Riddle were named to the second team. Donnie Lyda, Tommy Smith, Allred and Bobby Worley were given honorable mention.
Hawkins and Littleton were given All-State honors, while Hawkins was named to the All-Southern team.
Joshua Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org