Compiled by Tom Dameron

AHS 1928 - 1929 Football Season


AHS Football Under Coach H. A. Yeager
November 18, 2008 - By: Tom Dameron

            I am offering this one last football article for this year.  Originally, I wanted to end this year with the concluding article about the great 1936 team under Coach "Abe" McLaughlin; however research has revealed some interesting facts about a predecessor, Coach H. A. Yeager.  I mentioned Coach Yeager in an earlier article (Editorial, September, 2008) but this story is so compelling that I wanted to share a very small portion (1928 and 1929 season) of his remarkable career in Alderson  and expand this column at a later time to include his entire tenure. In a later article we will review the entire career of Yeager as coach and principal and specifically the 1931 season that may have been the greatest season of football in Alderson up to that point. 

            Coach Yeager came to Alderson in 1926 and left in 1931.  As of this writing I do not have much on the background of this man, but hope to uncover some personal facts about him for later articles.  Yeager served as football coach and the first Principal of the "new" Alderson High School.  At that time the school had a Superintendent who was in overall charge of education in Alderson.  Carl G. Eades was the Superintendent and is credited for the timely completion of the then "state of the art" school building in 1928. 

            Before describing the '28 and '29 season I would like to set the stage, so to speak, in order to provide a glimpse of the role that many local citizens were playing in shaping the educational and cultural future of this institution.  It is important to remember that "sports" is only an ingredient in molding the youth of the community, and that there are many dedicated people who contribute in remarkable ways to the health, welfare and shaping the character of the students.  In 1929 the opening of school on Monday September 15 was presided over by District Superintendent H. R. McVey.  The opening song "America The Beautiful" was participated in by all.  Reverend B. W. John led the assembled in prayer.  A vocal solo by Miss Virginia Rigg followed by an address by Mrs. F. G. Lobban, Jr. on the P.T.A.  Reverenced Dupuy Holliday delivered a brief address, and then the principal of the graded school Mr. George Vass and Mr. H. A. Yeager, principal of the high schools exchanged greetings.  The 518 enrolled students were then dismissed for registration.  

            Now, to the business at hand.  For those of us interested in "sports trivia" 1929, as well as 1928, is full of real "doozies."   The '29 season began with lofty expectations from the fan base in Alderson.  The previous season (1928) had produced a record of six wins and two losses.  Alderson played only 3 home games versus five away games.  The home games, all victories, saw the Indians score 84 points and their opponents 0.  What is even more incredible about the season is that every game in the season was a shut-out!  Yes, that is correct.  In the six wins Alderson scored a total of 143 points to the opposition 0.  Sadly, Alderson's 2 losses came at the expense of loosing to East Bank 13 to 0 and Oak Hill 26 to 0.  It should be noted that in the East Bank game Alderson registered more first downs and gained more yardage than their opponent but could not convert their play into scores.

Record for the 1928 Alderson Indians Football Program

October 5 Home Alderson 20 Rainelle 0
  12 Away   27 Marlinton 0
  19 Away   0 East Bank 13
  26 Away   0 Oak Hill 26
November  3


  9 Away   12 Lewisburg 0
  17 Away   20 Mt. Hope 0
  24 Home   37 White Sulphur 0
  29 Home   27 Ronceverte 0
Total Points Scored Alderson 143 Opponents 39


            This team was led by the outstanding passing attack of Jim Russell to Elmer Nowlan.  Elmer Nowlan, who would go on to receive all-state honors in 1929, was a 6' 155 pound speedster with sure hands, and elusive running after the catch.  In the Mt. Hope game he snagged 15 of 16 passes for two scores.    Other outstanding players for the Indians were Andy Russell, Tackle, Jerry O'Brien, Kicker James McClung (McClung regularly drop kicked extra points), Center Hickman Massey, end Harold Black whose season was cut short after an attack of appendicitis hospitalized him causing him to miss the Lewisburg game and the rest of the season.  The Defensive outstanding players were Hickman Massey and Team Capt Frank Meredith. 

            Alderson suddenly found a consistent running attack in mid-season (1928) when Freshman, Elvin Keadle got his chance as a starter in the Lewisburg game.  Keadle had one 40 yard scamper into the end-zone called back because of an off-sides call, but later scored on another 40 yard run off- tackle.  Keadle and Dillon teamed up in the Mount Hope game as the chief ground gainers while the passing combo of Russell and Nowlan continued to impress the local fans.  Keadle started the remainder of the 1928 season and would go on to enjoy an outstanding career as an Alderson Indian. 

             The Lewisburg game was the closest game among the six wins for Alderson.  The game was not without drama from the Lewisburg Coach Summers.  Summers challenged the legibility of three Alderson players claiming that the three men were already twenty-one years of age (rules did not allow any person who had reached his twenty-first birthday to participate in a high school game).  Summers was taken to the Court House in Lewisburg where the matter was settled that the men were not yet twenty-one.  In addition two outstanding Alderson players were not allowed to play due to academic ineligibility.  

            1929 brought high expectations and a lot of fan support to the local team.  Frank Meredith, Andrew Russell and Carlisle Dillon completed their education in May and left a distinct void in the ranks of this team.  Some would call the loss of these stalwarts time for a season of rebuilding.  Coach Yeager and his Indians had other ideas.   

            1929 was a time for reorganization in local football circles.  At a meeting of coaches and athletic directors from the schools at Marlinton, Lewisburg, Ronceverte, Alderson, Rainelle, White Sulphur, Renick, Hillsboro, Frankford, and Greenbank, held on December 14, 1929 at Renick The Greenbrier Valley Athletic Association was organized.  Alderson was represented by Coaches H. A. Yeager and Raleigh Stahl (basketball coach).  Ralph Buckley of Ronceverte was elected President of the Association while Yeager of Alderson was named vice-president and William Johnson of Lewisburg was elected secretary/treasurer.  It was at this meeting that rules for the submission by a committee of a list of prospective officials for any athletic contest within the association was initiated.  Plans were made to select a trophy which would be awarded to the winning grid team each season.  The rules of the Association roughly corresponded to those promulgated by the West Virginia High School Athletic Association. Alderson Advertiser, Friday, December 20, 1929 No. 50.       

            The 1929 season produced an amazing points scored by Alderson - 203 while points scored by their opponents - 6.  Every game played again in 1929 produced a shut-out.  Two years in a row!  Sadly, the same outcome.  Alderson lost the first game of the season on September 27, 1929 to archrival Hinton 6 - 0 while racking up their 203 points in the remaining 7 games with one tie on November 16 against Ansted 0 to 0.  Alderson won the Welch game 2 - 0.  These statistics are unheard of in modern day football; however with the formation of the aforesaid Greenbrier Athletic Conference the future was set for Alderson.  Teams would begin to play schools of like size in a Conference where they would be judged against their peers.  Although it would take several years Alderson phased out playing larger schools like Hinton, Oak Hill, Welch and others while dropping smaller programs such as Hillsboro, and Talcott.  It should be noted that whenever Alderson played the larger schools in the early quarter of the twentieth century or even when smaller schools played the Indians the outcome was never a sure bet.  There was monumental "pride" in each and every school regardless of size or ability, and the watchword of the day was never to quit.  The issue of opponents to play was most likely a very spirited argument of the day, as was the closing of local schools almost a half century later in favor of regional or consolidated schools, a move seen by many as the demise of autonomy in so many local communities who lost one of their most prized possessions - their school. 

            One Hundred Sixty Students were enrolled in the high school in 1929 with a total of Five Hundred Eighteen in all grades.  A quick note of the teachers indicates that Miss Marjorie Smith was teaching Social Science, History and Bible while Mr. J. E. Craig, taught Science and Vocational Agriculture.  As many of you will remember these two folks were married and continued to live in Alderson for the remainder of their lives.  In the community at the time notice was published of the transfer of the Mick- Or- Mack store from Mr. E. S. McNeer to Mr. H. W. Karnes of Logan.  Mr. and Mrs. Karnes were also life long residents of our town having raised two children who were products of the Alderson Schools. 

            The 1929 season began with the reporting of eight regulars and four subs from the previous season, along with thirteen "scrappy" newcomers or prospects.  Advertiser, September 6.    The probable starters for Alderson were projected as Jim Russell "forward passer," and signal caller at the quarterback position, a holdover from the outstanding '28 season.  McClung was slotted as the full back switching from half-back in the previous season.  He was described in the September 6 edition of the Advertiser as "big rangy, fast on his feet, can run, kick and pass with the best.  A good line plunger and a bear on the defense.  This boy bears the distinction of being the only triple threat man on the squad."  Elvin Keadle, the Sophomore who was a late starter in the 1928 season was called "a real find of last season, a brilliant runner and off tackle hitter" was slotted as half back while Brown, last year's substitute is at the other half-back spot.  The left end is Elmer Nowlan who would certainly earn the reputation as the best end in Southern West Virginia.  Elmer was named to the first team all-state by the legendary Standsbury selection in 1929.  Others were O'Brien at left tackle, Farley and Boyd at guards, center Massey, Stover at right tackle and Black at the right end position.  Black was featured as one of the best defensive ends in this section.  He is also a hard tackler and fine pass receiver. Advertiser, September 6. 

            The opening game vs. Hinton saw one of the largest crowds to ever witness an opening game in Hinton.  The locals were favored by two touchdowns.  Hinton was on a streak of five years in having one of the strongest teams in Southern West Virginia.  The Bobcats outweighed the Indians by almost ten pounds per man.  In the first half Alderson was inside the Hinton five yard line but could not score.  The entire first half belonged to the visitors when they shoved and pushed Hinton all over the field.  Alderson held Hinton in the second half and denied the Bobcats several sure scoring opportunities.  Finally, a bad break came for the Indians when an Alderson player was accused of slugging, and the Indians were penalized fifteen yards by Umpire Knapp placing the ball on the two yard line.  From that point it took two downs for Hinton to get the ball into the end stripe for the score.  The point after attempt failed. The game ended with Hinton out numbering first downs eight to six, but Alderson out gained Hinton in total yards for the contest. Advertiser September 27. 

            The September 27th edition further relates the outstanding players for the Indians although admittedly it was difficult to do in that everyone played an outstanding game.  "McClung, J. Russell, and Nowlan completed six forward passes for large gains.  McClung's long pass to Nowlan in the second quarter was the prize play of the game.  Black's defensive work at right end was of the first caliber.  His roaming all over the field, stopping enemy ball carriers and his recovery of a punt were all neat pieces of work.  Massey, at center, the same old "Hick:" always in the thick of the fight stopped several while in their infancy.  Finley Russell took Brown's place in the second half at half back, giving a good account of himself, playing a bang up game on the defense, seldom stopping without gain." 

            Time and space will not permit a more thorough analysis of the season; however I will elaborate more on this remarkable season in later prose.  It is sufficed to say that the 2 -0 Welch win and the Oak Hill 0 - 0 tie demand coverage while the rest of the season was summed up on Friday October 11, 1929 Vol. 32 Alderson Advertiser article describing the Ansted game as follows:  

            "Last Saturday, in the first home game of the season which was played on the local high school field, the Alderson Indians ran rough shod over a much heavier Ansted team by the one sided score of 46 - 0.  The game was featured by the passing attack of the Indians, who completed not less than eleven passes that were good for gains of ten to sixty yards.  They also skirted the ends at will and McClung featured when he broke loose for a mere ninety fife yard run for a touchdown.  Though the Ansted crew fought bravely they were no match for the locals." 

            "Coach Yeager's classy artist gave one of the greatest exhibitions of their method of play ever seen on a West Virginia high school gridiron and the heavier Ansted team was consequently bewildered by Alderson's attack.  J. Russell, McClung, Keadle and Bailey clearly showed to the spectators that they can run, kick and pass and are going to be a hard combination to stop by any opponent this season.  Massey, the veteran center, continued to play a bang up game, thereby not forfeiting his bid for state-wide recognition, neither did Nowlan, that will-o-the-wisp barred field, who can pick passes out of the air with uncanny regularity.


Record for the Alderson Indian's 1929 Football Program

September 27 Alderson 0 Hinton 6
October 5   46 Ansted  0
12   31 Lewisburg 0
November 28   26 Richwood 0
11   34  Athens 0
17   0 Oak Hill 0
22   2 Welch 0
28   64 Ronceverte 0

Total Points for   203

Against   6

 Won 6   Lost 1   Tied 1 

     The H. A. Stansbury All State selection saw Elmer Nowlan selected as first team end making this the first Alderson boy to ever make this first team selection.  McClung, Bailey and Massey were given honorable mention for their efforts in the season.  Finally Alderson was given a high ranking and picked as one of the four best teams in the State of West Virginia.