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1955 football team: Left wondering 'what if?'

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 2nd, 2013

The 1955 Lions, coached by Mel Fox, was the first Cottage Grove football team to win eight games in a season.

The first Cottage Grove High School football team to win eight games in a season was the 1955 squad. That deserving team will be honored by being inducted into the CGHS Athletic Hall of Fame next month on Saturday, May 4.

Winning eight games was such a milestone because the Lions were competing against schools such as Eugene High School, whose student population was four times that of Cottage Grove. For the most part, the Lions competed in the Midwestern League against such powerhouses as Marshfield, Roseburg and Eugene, along with other larger schools like Springfield and Lebanon.

In 1953, Mel Fox (no relation to Vic Fox) became the Lion head coach, and after two seasons of 0-8 and 2-7, he was tired of taking a beating each week against what was known then as A-1 competition. He and the school district decided to leave the league and become an independent. As it turned out, ironically, that decision basically backfired and ended up preventing the Lions from possibly having a rare shot at a state title.

The senior-laden Grovers began the season by easily beating Central, 27-6. Central went on to reach the state A-2 playoffs. They also beat A-1 Roseburg in ’55. The big plays of the game for the Lions were a 60-yard touchdown run by 6’3”, 233-lb. Dean Castle and a 50-yard run by Dean Cranmer.

The next week the team traveled up the highway to upset Springfield, 12-7. Jim Nichols’ 37-yard run to paydirt, along with more heroics by Castle, paved the way to the Lions’ second win.

It had been 42 years since the Lions had beaten Eugene, but two second-quarter Cottage Grove touchdowns put the Axemen on their heels. Yet another talented Lion halfback, Byron Angell, raced 72 yards for six points for the game-clincher in the 20-13 win. Leon Hayes’ 36-yard touchdown pass to Greg Stewart, a Castle-to-Stewart 11-yard scoring play and Cranmer’s 67-yard punt return sparked the Lions to their thrilling victory.

“Beating Eugene at Currin Field was a big highlight,” said Hayes. “Both sides were jammed full and all the way around the track was full of fans three to four rows deep. It was the big game.”

For the complete article see the 04-03-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-03-2013 paper.

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