Victory milestones are cherished in any program and serve as worthy goals on which to build.
Because many Texas high school football programs began over a century ago, the record keeping wasn’t necessarily as detailed as most of us would like when accuracy is at a premium.
For instance, Temple is one of a dozen programs — along with Cameron Yoe — that is part of the 700-win club. The Wildcats come into the 2019 season with 766 program victories, which put them in a tie for third place overall with Plano, behind Highland Park (832) and Amarillo (783) and just in front of hard-charging Mart (764). After the Wildcats celebrated their 700th victory in 2013, it was later found that the celebrations were too late as six more victories were discovered in heretofore unknown archives. Temple had certifiable victories in 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1914 that boosted its overall total.
A victory can’t be a victory — or losses or ties either for that matter — unless it has been recorded somewhere, somehow for posterity. This is not a major issue for games played in the latter half of the 20th century when there was more consistency in newspaper reporting or even in school yearbooks. But records from the pre-World War II era are often shaky, particularly for rural schools.
Next up on the local landmark victory list is Rogers, our area’s third-winningest program. The Eagles are three official wins away from joining the 600 club. The term “official” is another way of saying “as far as we know” or the Eagles have “at least” 597 wins.
Overall, Rogers sits in a tie for 60th in program victories with Forney and Denison.
The opinion here, though, is that the Eagles probably already eclipsed the 600-win threshold. We just haven’t unearthed those victories.
What is known is that Rogers was playing organized football as early as 1911 and the team went at least 1-1-1 that season.
However, there are gaps of at least five years between 1914 and 1922 in which there is no record of a Rogers football game. It wasn’t unusual in that era for rural schools to not field a team in given years because of a lack of participation or other factors, plus teams may not have played more than a game or two as comparable opponents weren’t always readily available. In the case of Rogers, there are swaths of time in which it was unknown even who the head coach was.
Joe Lee Smith, the preeminent Texas high school football historian who is enshrined in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame for his work, believes there are still plenty of outcomes yet to be discovered.
“One thing is for sure, there are many more games out there for most rural schools in the Temple region that we don’t know about,” Smith said. “(It’s) highly probable that Rogers has around 625-plus wins, but can’t find all the results.”
The disappointment is that they may never be found. Football games in the first quarter of the last century were no doubt competitive affairs among community schools, but too often games weren’t recorded anywhere that is verifiable.
Like the old tree falling in the woods riddle, if a game is played but never reported or recorded anywhere, did it happen? Historically speaking, no.
Newspaper reports are the first draft of history but if there were no reports made, it’s next to impossible to recover that score, or at the very least a victor, as the years march on. Games were played. Somebody won. Somebody lost. Unless you happened to be there, nobody knows about it.
Nevertheless, here’s an early congratulations to the Eagles for when they reach the 600-victory plateau, which figures to happen at some point this season. In reality, though, it could just as well be a belated congratulations for a milestone that was accomplished some time ago.