D&E football players to reunite

Baseball may be the national pastime, but football has long since held a special place in the American lexicon.

There are few other spectator sports where men battle like gladiators to gain the favor of the masses. From Notre Dame’s Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger to Green Bay’s Vince Lombardi, underdog and successful grid programs hold a special place in this nation’s football conscious.

Long before Ruettiger and Lombardi, though, there were the Scarlet Hurricanes of Davis & Elkins College.

Although the school’s football program ceased in the late 1950s, its impact still can be felt today – not only in the legendary stories passed through generations but in the influence it had on building the college’s athletic and academic programs.

On Saturday, former Scarlet Hurricane team members will reunite as part of D&E’s All-Alumni Summer Reunion.

Former players will meet at 3 p.m. Friday for a gathering at the American Legion on Railroad Avenue and again at 6 p.m.?Saturday at the 1863 Tavern on Harrison Avenue.

Local attorney and former D&E standout George R. Triplett will be one of the many former players in attendance.

“We were a ragtag bunch,” Triplett said. “We were the first generation to go to college and were a bunch of loggers, coal miners, laborers and farmers.

“We (the football team) really put D&E on the map,” Triplett added. “They came out of high school and it was at the end of the Great Depression. Some were World War II veterans. Back then, we didn’t have weight lifting. We were just country boys playing football.”

Those country boys, though, made a name for themselves quickly, especially in the early years.

Kent Kessler, in his history of athletics in West Virginia, wrote: “In this year of 1923, an athletic hurricane was born up in (the) Randolph County hills which swept through the country, playing havoc with many great institutions. It was called the Scarlet Hurricane of Davis & Elkins College and the force was generated by Cam Henderson and his famous football and basketball teams.”

Henderson, the famed football and basketball coach at Marshall University, put D&E on the athletic map during his 12 years at the Randolph County institution.

Henderson not only coached the first undefeated – 22-0 – West Virginia collegiate basketball team at D&E, but coached the Hurricanes to the first state collegiate football championship in 1928.

Five years later, Henderson coached D&E to a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football title.

Before leaving D&E for Marshall, he compiled a 220-40 basketball record and an 83-33-6 football mark. What’s even more impressive is that Henderson led the Scarlet Hurricanes to football wins over schools like Navy, George Washington, Army, West Virginia University, Fordham and Villanova.

“Football was different back then,” Triplett said. “We wore leather helmets and played on both sides (of the ball). It also was a lot more physical. A lot of guys were really injured back then.”

Aside from Henderson, D&E lays claim to several other notable players and coaches, including Petar “Press” Maravich, son of Peter “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Other famed alumni include Carl Tacy, who had a successful basketball coaching career at Wake Forest. Tacy, who is in the Wake Forest Hall of Fame, also coached a year at Marshall University. He was the manager of the 1955 D&E football team.

Elkins High School three-sport letterman Robert “Red” Brown also called D&E home for several years – both as a player and a coach – prior to finishing his career as the WVU head basketball coach and WVU athletics director.

From military officers to doctors, lawyers, government workers and politicians, many former D&E players and coaches made significant contributions to not only the state, but the entire nation.

“D&E has been a foundation for a lot of great people,” Triplett said. “The school has produced a lot of people that have made great contributions.”

Despite the football program’s success, the players and coaches always kept the game in perspective.

“We left our friendship in the dressing room,” Triplett said. “We just went out and played hard. We had respect for one another and we truly feel like we are the most blessed men that ever lived.