Championship Chronicles Part 6: 1942 East Texas State Lions.

In the Fall of 1942, Football season was not the only things on people’s minds in rural Northeast Texas. Not even a year before, Japanese Air Raiders attacked Pearl Harbor, and before long, The United States declared war on Japan, and in turn Nazi Germany declared war on the United States. The peaceful days were seeming to be over in the United States. Bob Berry had left his post as head coach to join the war effort, but assistant Coach Dennis Vinzant had the opportunity to stay. Vinzant had proven himself a successful Basketball coach, but now he had to try his hand at something, coaching the Potent ET Football team.

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The Lions had not won a conference title in 3 years, which was something that was very rare at that time. The Lions had numerous players that had previous experience that would not be playing to help in the war efforts that were being ramped up. The group that Vinzant had was a small in both stature and numbers. For the first time, the Lions had the least amount of talent, and their toughest schedule. The beginning would be tough.

The season started with a trip to Abilene to face Abilene Christian. Faced with a talented Wildcat team, the Lions fought but lost 13-7. Another road trip to Northwestern Louisiana State produced another hard fought loss, 13-0, followed by another road trip to Howard Payne, where the Lions fought a Border Conference Champion team tooth and nail, but yet again the Lions found themselves at 0-3 with a 13-7 loss.

While covering the team, one of the few playing in Texas at the time, The Dallas Times Herald said of the Lions; “A small but determined group to the northeast in Commerce is fighting the top teams paying in Texas, decimated by small numbers, an inexperienced coach, and many replacement college football players. They will be a team to watch.”

That prediction turned out to be right. The next week, East Central Oklahoma visited Commerce and the Lions shut out the Tigers 38-0. The Kangaroos of Austin College visited Commerce and were treated just as harshly as the Lions beat the ‘Roos 34-0. Conference play started in Commerce with Sam Houston State visiting, and the Lions pitched their third straight shutout, 32-0. Once Again, the Conference would be decided by games against Southwest Texas State and North Texas State.

The Lions and Bobcats slugged it out in San Marcos to a 7-7 tie. A win would have given the weary Lions a conference title. Once again, it was the North Texas State Eagles in their way of winning an improbable conference title.

In Commerce in front of a standing room only College Field crowd, the Lions, battered, bruised, but not broken, took down North Texas in a heroic effort 16-7. Nobody expected the Lions to win, but the win is one of the biggest in program history given the time and the situation. The game ball is still on display in the Hall of Fame case in the University Fieldhouse. A proud moment for the Lions of Old ET, and another title.

The ’42 team put 6 players on the LSC First Team. Halfbacks Arnold Johnson and Johnny Bogue, Running Back Rex Stulz, Defensive End Buck Perine, Offensive Tackle James O’Dell, and D-End Clyde Whittemore.

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