The Vagabond – 1897 football game

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By Danny Crownover

The first major football game played in Gadsden played February 22, 1897 at the Alabama City Bicycle Park between the Montgomery Athletic Club and a team of local stars. The score ended in a 0-0 tie, as the wet and slippery field prevented anything but straight-ahead action and line plunges. Montgomery had the heavier team and would probably have bulled through to victory but for the weather.

The stands were well filled, and local pride manifested itself in a flutter of white and purple, the Gadsden colors. Apparently, there was enough white and gold Montgomery colors to relieve the monotony.

The first half was a see-saw affair with neither side making serious threats to score. Montgomery seemed content by crashing through the middle of the line and made very little effort to run around the ends, largely because of the soggy field. A heavy rain fell during the second half, and the players wallowed in the mud and pools of water.

Just before the final whistle, Montgomery was threatening to score when Earl Lay made two tackles to stop the advance.
Mrs. Louis L. Herzberg and Miss Buena Vista Riley were the Gadsden sponsors, while Miss Eula Duncan and Miss Leila Fletcher represented the visitors.

Louis L. Herzberg served as the umpire, Will Hight as the referee and local newspaper reporter Tom McHan as the linesman.
Playing left end for Montgomery was Bibb Graves (pictured above at right), who eventually served two terms as governor of Alabama.

The Gadsden lineup included Kidd at center; Will Hasson at right guard; Livinsgton at left guard; Rush Chadwick at right tackle; Ed Hughes at left tackle; Earl Lay at tight end; Brevard Montgomery at left end; Perkins at left halfback; Charles M. Wood at right halfback; H.M. Davis at fullback and Hughes at quarterback.

Lay played college ball at Auburn, Montgomery at Duke University. Wood at the University of Alabama and Davis at Boston College. Chadwick, Hughes and Hasson did not have any college experience but were well-coached.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net. 

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