September 9, 2008:
On Tuesday, September 10, 1907, the Chattanooga Times reported on page 3, “The Central high school is now figuring on a football team. Among the members of the county high school faculty is Coach (Curtis) Green, formerly of the Battle Ground Academy, Franklin, Tenn….it is believed he will put out a fast team at Central high school, providing money can be secured to start the movement..”
This answers the question, “Which came first, Central or the football team? And the answer is the school, but only by a few days. The football team did precede classes in the new building by nearly three months. I’ll have a few followup notes under the 101 Years ago heading, leading to Central’s first two football games in October 1907 against Baylor and City.
September 12, 2008:
Central’s football teams have faced many great players and coaches over the years. One such encounter occurred in the Fall of 1919. New head coach Rusty Cornelius had to cope with losses of star players who were “recruited” along with Coach Rike to Baylor, and an inexperienced team that had played only three games the previous year with no head coach. Cornelius hastily cobbled together a schedule of seven games with whoever was available. Remarkably, with great leadership from a junior quarterback named Dean Petersen, Cornelius forged a 5-1-1 record, with five shutout wins, the only blemishes being a 0-0 tie with Rike’s all-star Baylor team and a decisive 33-6 thumping by an obscure military school, Fitzgerald-Clarke Academy of Tullahoma, Tennessee. The 33 points by Fitzgerald-Clarke were the only points allowed by Central that season.
So what was Fitzgerald-Clarke Military Academy? Turns out it was one of a handful of college prep schools used by Vanderbilt and other colleges to help promising athletes pass college entrance exams. In this particular year, 1919, Fitzgerald-Clarke had, amongst others, a 6-1, 210 lb lineman named Lynn Bomar from Texas, who would later become an All-American at Vanderbilt and play professional football for the New York Giants. Ironically, 1919-20 was Fitzgerald-Clarke’s last year as an institution, for the school barracks burned down just after the football season ended, then the school burned down and never reopened. But perhaps more noteworthy was their young football coach who, out of a job after the school calamities, followed the pipeline to Vanderbilt as an assistant coach. By 1923, at age 31, he was head coach at Alabama, then by 1930 head coach at Duke, where he would remain until 1950. Overall he won three National Championships at Alabama in seven years and had an unprecedented winning (110-36-7) record at Duke. Plus a 1-0 career record against Central. His name – William Wallace Wade.