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A Story 100 Years In The Making
A Story 100 Years In The Making
Glenn Parrish
Thursday, October 08, 2020

At one time there was a television police drama named 10-8 which, when uttered by a particular character, meant he was on duty, or in service.

At Booneville, 10-8 if forever significant. If you consider the first game a birth, then the BHS football program was born on October 8, 1920.

The Bearcat program made a splash that day with a 46-0 win over Magazine. It has gone on to win 731 football games to date.

Even earlier?

To be completely fair, the playing of football in Booneville pre-dates the 1920 season, by as much as 12 years, when a Booneville team, with players named May, Avera and Warren, beat Magazine Ouachita Academy by a single point.

Football was mentioned again in published reports in 1911 and 1912 but game accounts are sporadic at best and the program was described as having been of the “freight train” variety, which meant there had never been recognized leadership of the program.

There are no reports of games played in 1913-1915 and all athletics were discontinued through World War I.

1920s

It would be in 1920 when the sport of football became an organized activity and debuted with the win over Magazine. It was the only bright spot of the first season as the Bearcats and their first coach, Charles O. Moore, went 1-5 that year.

How new was football in the 1920s? Although it had existed since 1912, what is currently known as the Arkansas Activities Association did not assume a ruling role in the sport by high schools until 1923.

That was also the same year the Bearcats finished above .500, which came after an 0-2 start.

Coach Moore wrapped up his tenure as head coach after one more season in which the then most wins for the program was established during an 8-4 season that left Moore’s final record at 22-22-1.

The tradition of homecoming began before the decade ended, when in 1929 Louise Ward was the Homecoming Queen and had the responsibilities of handing the football to the Bearcat captain and a bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums to the Paris game captain.

1930s

The 1930s began with a first playoff, of sorts. A 7-0-1 conference mark was deemed equal to one of 4-0 by the Belleville team, meaning the two teams had to face one another for a title, which Belleville won.

In that same season, which pre-dates lighted stadiums, the following poem was penned about the game with Greenwood.

The shades of night were falling fast

As the Greenwood team just passed and passed

But the result remained the same

Our fighting Bearcats won their game.

In 1932 the Bearcats laid claim to their first conference title – there have been 35 to date – doing so in their first season under Ralph “Bud” Blythe.

Blythe would stay for nine seasons in which there were 41 total wins with three conference titles.

Among those Great Depression Era teams was the first undefeated Bearcat team, the 8-0 squad of 1938.

1940s

The 1940s were a rough decade that saw Blythe’s exit after the 1940 campaign and five other men fill the role of head coach through 1949. 

That means one-third of all the head coaches throughout the history of the program were on the sidelines in the 1940s.

World War II disrupted a good portion of the 1940s and football was of less importance for most of that period. 

However, in 1945 and 1946 J. Perry Mikles was the head coach. During those two seasons there were 18 Bearcat wins, including the first 10-win season in 1946.

In 1947 the Bearcats made their first trip to the playoffs, beating Siloam Springs in Van Buren in the first round and losing to Forest City in Conway two weeks later. The 1947 and forthcoming 1952 playoffs are still not credited to the program by state officials.

The end of the decade saw Tom Murphy in charge. That would be significant.

1950s

To say Murphy, a 1933 All Southwest Conference football and basketball player at Arkansas, was revered would be a gross understatement. Murphy and the Bearcats had six straight .500 or better seasons to open the decade.

The 1952 team lost just once and beat Nashville in a playoff game in Mena, before losing to Searcy in the semifinals.

One of Murphy’s teams, the 1953 club, was historic in that it was the second undefeated season. The 11-0 Bearcats of that year scored 366 points and allowed just 12.

Following the 1952 season the playoffs were discontinued so the season ended with a 21-0 win over Paris, which was the closest of the nine shutouts that season.

Murphy, whose teams won three conference titles, became too ill to carry on but left as the program’s winningest coach at the time after the 1955 season.

1960s

Ray Paschall  had taken over in 1959 and stayed at the helm through 1963, leaving after 36 total wins.

Following Paschall there were two dark years that saw six wins total and ended with the arrival of Gene Bradley before the 1966 season.

Bradley made an immediate impact, leading the 1966 Bearcats to seven wins. There were six more wins in 1967 and it was during that time Bradley led an effort to build Bearcat Stadium, which opened in 1968.

Bradley’s 1960s teams would win 27 times.

1970s

Bradley coached all 10 seasons of the 1970s with six of his teams reaching the postseason, which had returned for big schools in 1968 and smaller schools in 1969.

The 70s also saw the first tandem of 1,000-yard rushers in 1970, and the 1973 season started with six straight shutouts on the way to the first playoff win at Bearcat Stadium, which was an overtime thriller over Atkins.

The 1975 Bearcats upped the ante becoming the first team to win two playoff games, beating Joe T. (Pulaski) Robinson and Atkins.

Bradley would also lead the first Bearcat team to the state title game in 1978. Although the first title game appearance was unsuccessful, the 1978 team was the first to reach the 12-win plateau.

1980s

Bradley wrapped up his 15th year in 1980 and left BHS with 107 wins and five conference titles.

Doug Scheel, the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach, for whom the field at Bearcat Stadium is now named, followed Bradley and added to the story that is Bearcat football.

Over nine seasons, Scheel’s teams won 95 times. That’s an average of 10.6 wins per season. 

Perhaps more impressive, Scheel’s 1981 and 1982 teams lost a combined seven games, meaning the 1983-1989 teams combined to lose nine.

Included in that run are back-to-back-to-back undefeated regular seasons of 1983-1985, as well as two more unbeaten slates in 1988 and 1989.

Those five years not withstanding, nor the seven conference titles, Scheel’s greatest accomplishment came on December 6, 1986 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

It was there the Bearcats won their first state title, 42-13 over Lake Village, one year after a title game loss to Marvell.

Scheel’s 1988 and 1989 teams also reached War Memorial, only to suffer defeat to McGehee, but those two teams became the first to win 13 times in a season.

1990s

The 1990s began and ended with Kenneth Rippy at the helm. Rippy, who is also a Hall of Fame coach, further enhanced the Bearcat story.

Rippy, who had played for Bradley, had his first 10-0 regular season team with the 1993 semifinalists and he had two more 10-0 regular seasons in 1998 and 1999. 

Each time those teams and the end of the decade saw their seasons end in the semifinals, which by then were four playoff rounds deep so those teams joined the 13-win club.

Rippy’s 1999 team set a school record that still stands by scoring 640 points.

2000s

Rippy and the Bearcats broke through with the school’s second state title in 2000, beating Nashville 29-21 in War Memorial Stadium.

In the process the 2000 team became the first to win 14 times. That meant that class of seniors, as would the one behind them, combined to win 40 games during their three years of high school football.

Had there not been a cancellation the week of 9/11/2001, the seniors of that team might well have won 41. They actually had a shot at a 41st in the finals that year, but fell to Warren in a game that saw a paid attendance of greater than 10,000.

Rippy stayed on with his alma mater through the 2006 season, leaving after 17 years, eight conference titles, and 165 wins.

Scott Hyatt followed Rippy and completed the decade by leading eight, nine, and 10 win seasons.

2010s

Like Bradley in the 70s and Rippy in the 90s Hyatt was the head coach of every game of the 2010s, a decade that saw two more state titles.

Hyatt’s 2013 team ran the table to a perfect 15-0 record, beating Warren in the finals. 

Hyatt’s 2018 duplicated the feat and joined the 15-win club, currently the most wins possible, drubbing Osceola in the finals at War Memorial, finishing the season with 628 points scored.

Five times during the decade Hyatt’s teams won at least 10 games and he left the school with seven league titles in 13 seasons which included 123 wins.

Now

That leaves the currently underway 101st season with Doc Crowley as just the 18th head coach. Crowley and his staff has the Bearcats sporting a 4-1 record at the midway point.

To date the program has 731 wins over 85 different opponents. There have been 35 conference titles, four state titles. There have been 43 total playoff berths that resulted in nine finals appearances, 21 semifinal appearances, and 69 playoff wins.