The following posted on The Central Connection November 11, 2008
On October 15, 1937 Central made a return trip to Cleveland where two years before they had so decisively dominated the Bradley County football team, that Chattanooga Times reporter Springer Gibson anointed them the “Purple Pounders” for the first time. On this evening, Central again ruled the first half in front of a disgruntled group of Bradley fans. During the opening kickoff of the second half, the Pounder’s football Captain, Dexter Hodges, was running free on an apparent 80-yard touchdown return, when he was rudely upended by a shoestring tackle via one Charles Ledford on the 10 yard line. On the next play Central would fumble near the goal line, and Bradley would temporarily hold, eventually losing 21-0; so Ledford’s solid hit would not change the outcome of the game, other than shaving 6 or 7 points off Central’s winning margin. Hodges would later remark that Ledford’s tackle was the hardest hit of the game against Central.
There would not be a story here, except that the 5 ft 8 inch, 130 pound tackler was a 21 year old taxi driver, who, taking the dare of some buddies at halftime, resolved to tackle the next Central runner approaching Bradley’s goal. And the opening kickoff breakdown by Bradley’s coverage team gave him ample opportunity to show his talent. As Hodges looked back to see if any Bradley player were in close pursuit (they weren’t), he didn’t see the fan come out of the stands and lunge headfirst at his ankles, ending his race down the sidelines. The referees didn’t know exactly how to rule, and curiously decided (as home refs are wont to do) to penalize Bradley half the distance to the goal, rather than award the visitors a touchdown that was the certain outcome, had Ledford not inserted himself into the fray.
The Chattanooga Times gave this play the game highlight, as it was the most newsworthy action that occurred that evening in Cleveland. Some 16+ years hence at the Cotton Bowl, an Alabama player named Tommy Lewis came off the bench to tackle Rice star Dickie Moegle , abruptly ending what would have been a 95 yard touchdown from scrimmage. In that venue, the referees rightly awarded Rice a touchdown in a 28-6 win over ‘Bama. The following day, Wirt Gammon of the Times favorably compared the 1937 Bradley-Central and 1954 Cotton Bowl fiascoes in his “Just Between Us Fans” column. Upon reading Gammon’s essay, Mr. Ledford, still a resident of Cleveland, made a hasty phone call to Gammon, in which he protested the comparison, asserting that (1) he was a civilian in street clothes while Lewis was a highly skilled athlete in full pads, and (2) Lewis did not prevent the opposing team from scoring, while his own effort had indeed prevented Central from scoring.
Most of the above information was recently e-mailed to me by Charles Ledford, Jr. of Hiram, GA, who had read my Central Football history essays at the Chattanoogan.com and wanted to know if I had any details of the incident (I didn’t, other than that an unnamed Bradley fan had indeed tackled Mr. Hodge to start the second half). This was apparently a favorite family story of the Ledford’s for many years. Charles E. Ledford Sr. went on to serve in the Army during WWII, and was on Iwo Jima when the famous flag-raising occurred on Mt. Suribachi February 23, 1945. Ledford returned to Cleveland after the war and raised a family, serving as a firefighter. His youngest son played for Bradley County against Central in 1967 in a game won by Central in Cleveland 26-7, but was marred by the collapse and eventual death of Central’s star end Mike Perkins.
[Just another hidden story in the annals of Central football; thought some of you would enjoy it.]