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The 1958 Longhorns worth remembering 57 years later

By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
[email protected]

The year was 1958. It was the year that Tom Dooley was made famous by the Kingston Trio. While Dooley’s head was hanging down things were looking up for the Johnson County football team.
Head coach Harold Arnold was in his sixth season as head football coach. Jay Nidiffer, who would later become assistant basketball coach at ETSU and Auburn, was hired as his assistant coach.
The team returned 13 lettermen from the ‘57 squad that lost only one conference game. Returning were Billy Warden, Dean Maxwell, Jessie Eller, John Paul Phillips, Jerry Cretsinger, Ford Plummer, Jim McCulloch, Ralph Blevins, Kenneth Brookshire, Frazier Cretsinger, Jerry Nave, Gail Willis and Frank Jewett.
Their only loss that year was to Unaka 28-7 but they also had two ties, Happy Valley 0-0 and Boones Creek 6-6. They had spanked Jonesboro, Hampton and Cloudland by a combined score of 60-0. So there was reason for Arnold to be optimistic.
His 1953 squad was involved in a three-way tie for the league title with Unaka and Jonesboro. They knocked of the Rangers 19-14 but fell to the Tigers 14-7.
The ‘58 team wanted no part in sharing the title. And they proved that in their first game.
They begin the year with a 26-6 win over Happy Valley. The game was played on a Thursday night at Hampton High School.
Maxwell had a pair of touchdown runs as did Warden. Arnold recalled both of them.
“Billy Warden was a great football player, student and individual,” said Arnold. “He could flat out run. But I had several on the team that were that good and sometimes better. We had a lot of guys who could play.”
One of those was his quarterback Maxwell.
“Dean Maxwell was the best quarterback in the conference,” said Arnold. “He was outstanding in anything he attempted. He was a quiet boy but he ran the team better than I did. Dean was one of the best to ever play up here.”
They followed that up with a 21-0 victory over Jonesboro.
Ford Plummer had a big game on defense as did Jerry Nave. The 88-year-old legendary coach recalled their contributions.
“Ford was a scrappy small boy but tough as a pine knot,” said Arnold. “He was full of energy and played wide open. Jerry (Nave) was just a super athlete. He signed a scholarship down at South Carolina. It was hard to do anything against those guys.”
The test would come the following week against “Goliath.” The Stoney Creek giant had dominated the conference for years. Would the Longhorns prevail like David?
Unaka had won six titles under Lynn Goddard who went on to become head coach at Elizabethton High School. And the Rangers hadn’t lost in a coon’s age.

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