Carver

 

“1-2-3, look at our team. 3-4-5, greatest team alive!”

That was the song that opposing teams would hear as the George Washington Carver High School Hawks football team would roll up in the bus during the 1963 season - it was a song that signaled the other team was going to get beat.

The Hawks went undefeated that season, going 8-0, to win the Virginia Interscholastic Association state championship - the only state championship Carver would boast in its 20-year existence.

Standing now in the George Washington Carver School Museum, located on the school grounds more than 55 years later - members of that team recall what it was like.

“We’d start singing that, people would look at us and players from other teams were already scared,” Lawrence “Boom Boom” Hutcherson said. “We were some bad boys.”

James Bannister recalls that the players would be stomping their feet, singing at the top of their lungs, shaking the bus so much that it looked like it was going to turn over. 

“We’d intimidate them,” Bannister said. 

That state championship team was a force to be reckoned with. Coached by Simon Poole, the Hawks outscored their opponents 306-26 that season. They had five shutouts, including three in a row. Almost every school was from a bigger city - but Carver had country boys from Culpeper, Rapphannock, Madison and Orange counties - and they had a coach who made the team feel special. 

“Coach Poole said when we played Douglas, of Winchester, he knew we had a championship team,” Hutcherson said.

They played Douglas in the third game of the season, winning 88-13. It was the largest margin of victory they had all year and their closest game came against their most heated rival - the Burley Bears. They won that game 19-7 in the second to last game of the year. 

Recently, Hutcherson and Bannister gathered at the museum to look at artifacts of that season and along with classmate Charles Jameson, recalled what made that 1963 championship team so special.

 

‘An eye for talent’

Simon Poole was hired as head coach in 1961. Prior to that, he was assistant coach starting in 1957. According to research conducted by Terry Miller, museum curator at the George Washington Carver School Museum, Poole had no previous coaching experience.

It’s remarkable, then, that in the span of two years he turned a program that was struggling into a state title team.

The first year under Poole, the team was 4-4. In 1962, the Hawks finished 6-2 and were tri-champions of their conference. That set up the ‘63 season. 

“At Carver we never had an outstanding football team,” Bannister said. “We were always being beat up on. When Mr. Poole came in we set another standard. The coaching was little different. We believed in him and he believed in us. He treated us like his sons.”

Poole had an eye for talent.

He would stand in the window at Carver and watch coaches practice with teams from other sports - then he’d go recruit the athletes to play football. 

“He would walk around the school, if you had any size on you - if you looked like a football player - he’s say ‘boy, let me see you down on that football field,’” Bannister said.

‘That’ football field behind the school - where New Pathways Inc. now sits - is where Poole took a bunch of boys and turned them into football players. 

Practices were hard. Players quit. The ones that stayed learned to love their coach and would do anything for him. 

“His main thing was crabbin’,” Hutcherson said. “You’d have two offensive players and one defensive player and you’d have to beat the offensive player.”

He’d put the players through a drill called “bull in the ring” where two players would fight for a ball - with the exercise not ending until the defensive player tackled the ball carrier before he left the ring. 

“He was a coach that wanted to get the max out of you,” Hutcherson said. “Coach Poole wanted to know what he had. He wanted you to be tested. He wanted to be able to put you out on that field and have confidence in you. He found out right here - right at the practice field.”

Poole, 88, retired after teaching 35 years in the Culpeper County education system and now resides in Raleigh, N.C. 

He’s outlived several players on the squad. Hutcherson and Bannister looked at a team photo, ticking off the names of deceased players: Woodrow Scott, Angus Arrington, George Dade Clarence Humes, Peyton Barber, Robert Terrell, Albert Lacy, Charles Johnson, McPherson Frye. All gone, but their memory remains alive with that ‘63 team.

 

Stories to tell

Hutcherson, then 16, played center and defensive end. He started all four years at Carver and recalls with immense joy the time he spent on that football field.

Running the Notre Dame single wing offense, the Hawks dominated teams.

“James (Bannister) would play on the line sometimes, then he would drop back into the single wing - when he dropped back there it was a pass,” Jameson said. “I remember the first time over at Porterfield Park when they gave Doug Williams the ball - he was a big guy.”

“Mr. Poole wasn’t an offensive coach,” Bannister said. “He specialized in defense. He knew we had a good offense but most practices he worked with that defense. He had guys pulling from one slot to another.”

Bannister said teams would see him come into the game and think they would pass. Instead, they’d direct snap the ball to the halfback or fullback and Williams would get a step on them.

That’s all they would need, as speed was one of their assets.

“I was probably the slowest one on there,” Bannister said with a laugh. 

Bannister said that at the end of the season, Marcellus Bumbrey told him that he caught 26 touchdowns from Bannister that year. That was mostly because Bumbrey had a secret - he didn’t want to get hit. 

“When he would catch one, he was gone because he was scared,” Bannister said laughing. 

Williams was tough, Hutcherson said. He played an entire second half on a broken leg.

Hutcherson, who went on to play two seasons for the Washington Redskins practice squad and professional softball, is full of stories.

He jumps back and forth from his high school career to his professional escapades, laughing all the way. 

One of his favorite stories is the first game of the 1963 season against Luther Jackson in Winchester.

“The first year I played, coach didn’t have enough uniforms to go around,” Hutcherson said, a smile across his face. “So we played Luther Jackson, he gave me one of the old orange and black uniforms. Everyone up in Luther Jackson go ‘you all must have stopped by the prison and got them guys.’”

Hutcherson pauses, his gaze distracted by an ad for 10Pro Corporations “Boombat.” There’s Hutcherson, then in his 30s, holding the bat named for him.

“They made an offer to me to put my name on that bat,” Hutcherson said. “They called it the bombat. I was the first man to put his name on a bat - that’s fact, brother.” 

His story is fascinating. He earned a scholarship to play at Savannah State in Georgia, but didn’t stay but a few months. He returned home and went into the service in 1967. He served four years and returned to play on the Redskins practice squad in ‘72 as a 27-year-old. He then signed with the Baltimore Monuments of the professional softball league in 1978, and then moved on to play for Philadelphia until the 1982 season before going back into amateur softball. An imposing figure at more than 6-foot-3-inches, he still plays softball - holding up a ring he won just two years prior.

But to really make his eyes light up, mention that ‘63 championship team and its rivalry with the Burley Bears.

“That was always the big matchup,” Hutcherson said.

Jameson yells across the table - “we believed in them having older players and they believed we had older players.”

“I got involved with the VIA and the first thing they asked me about was Red Terrell,” he said with a laugh. “They asked if he was too old, I said ‘that was like the story we would hear about you all, that the coach would go down to a pool room and ask who would want to play ball today?’

Hutcherson grimaced. ‘I’m going to straighten that out right now.

“In conference, you could play up to 18,” he explained. “If you were 19, you could play non-conference games. Burley was non-conference. That’s why they were saying players were too old, but they weren’t - they just turned 19 that year.”

Luther Jackson, Parker - Gray, Hoffman - Boston, W.C. Taylor and Douglas and Walker - Grant were all conference games. The only two non-conference games were against Burley and Jennie Dean - the final two games of the season.

Famously, they defeated Burley 19-7 and then shut out Jennie Dean 44-0. 

 

‘Made football players’

In 1963, schools in Virginia were still segregated - hence George Washington Carver’s need for existence. Despite going undefeated and only allowing 26 points, it wasn’t a well-known fact in the local communities that the team was so dominant. 

“The team still didn’t get the exposure,” Hutcherson said. “A lot of these guys could have gone on to these historical black colleges. A lot of these players could have got scholarships, the team was that good.”

“We didn’t get enough backing, if we would have had support system out here...” Bannister said, trailing off - thinking of what could have been.

The team played its day games at Carver, but the night games were held at Porterfield Park in Orange. They got some coverage in the Orange paper, as a high school writer by the name of Tommie Bowles would cover them - but for the players it wasn’t as much as they would have liked. 

“To get out to see these guys get out there and perform the way they did, it was magnificent,” Jameson said. 

Hutcherson and Bannister stand side-by-side, looking down at the exhibit that Miller has put together for the fall at the Carver Museum. The exhibit will open to the public Sept. 28, with a special opening on Sept. 27. It will feature the football team and all the other athletic programs at Carver. 

It’s an exhibit the players are excited to see. To them, it wasn’t just a team - it was family. 

“We all got along well together, we supported each other,” Hutcherson said. “You find out you didn’t appreciate then as much as you do now, we didn’t realize history was taking place.” 

That team, that championship is something they’ll never forget. 

“I think about it at least every day,” Bannister said. “There was a lot of guys on there, and I think about some of them that’s gone. 

“Mr. Poole took a bunch of kids and made football players out of them.”

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