A new book recounts The Streak, a magnificent winning run for the hometown Eagles
By Robert M. Moore
In the early to mid-1960s, Clarke County High School football was synonymous with winning. Games against the Eagles were dreaded by opponents — and with good reason.
Clarke County High School had success with its football program in the late 1950s after Coach Don Maphis came to Clarke County. His 1958 team had a record of 8-1-1. The 1959 team had a record of 5-3-1. 1960, however, was different. The Eagles won the first District championship in the history of the high school. The team had a record of 7 wins and 3 losses while scoring 213 points and allowing only 94 points throughout the season. The Eagle defense had four shutouts in the 10-game season.
It appeared that the 1960 season might be an outlier. Nineteen players were lost to graduation from that 1960 team. The entire offensive backfield was lost. When you consider the fact that only 26 players appeared for the first practices of the 1961 season, the 19 players lost to graduation was a great concern. It was generally thought that 1961 would be a rebuilding year.
As it turned out, that was not the case. The Eagles, led by three dominant running backs (James “Pickles” McCarty, Gene Strother and a 15-year old sophomore named Dickie Longerbeam) and a 15-year old quarterback named Dave Childs, went undefeated and won the second District championship in the history of the High School.
Success did not end with that 1961 season. The 1962 and 1963 teams also went undefeated. The teams in those three seasons not only won every game, but they won in a dominant fashion. The 1961 team won its games by an average margin of 30.6 points per game. The 1962 team beat its opponents by an average of 29.9 points per game. The 1963 team was the most dominant of all — winning its games by an average margin of 31.6 points per game.
By the end of the 1963 season, the Eagles were chasing a record in the state of Virginia. Norview High School had set a state record by going undefeated for 37 games. By the end of the 1963 season, Clarke County was ranked as the Number 1 team in the state in its size grouping. More importantly, the Eagles had won 29 games in a row and the record was in sight.
The 1964 Clarke County High School Eagles would have the opportunity to break the unbeaten streak record in the state. During that 1964 season, after 32 wins in a row, the winning streak ended with a 0-0 tie against the Elkton Elks. While the winning streak had ended, the unbeaten streak continued.
On October 30, 1964, the Clarke County High School Eagles set a new Virginia high school record of 38 games without a defeat. For almost four years, the Eagles had not lost a football game. When the Eagles set the record with its 38th game in a row without a defeat, Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. The last time the Eagles lost a football game, Dwight Eisenhower had been President. In other words, the Clarke County did not lose a football game during the entire Kennedy administration.
The unbeaten streak came to an end in the last game of the 1964 season. The streak ended with a 7-6 loss to James Wood High School. To this day, the referee’s call that the James Wood extra point was good is disputed throughout the County. Even more frustrating, the Eagles’ last drive of the game ended at the James Wood four-yard line on a fourth-down play that was one foot short of a first down.
The streak ended with that loss to James Wood on November 6, 1964. The unbeaten streak set by this small team from a small county was an outstanding achievement. However, the response by the Clarke County Eagles to that heartbreaking loss epitomized the character of the high school, the team, the coaches, and the fans. The 1965 Clarke County Eagles went undefeated. The 1965 team ended its perfect 10-0 season with a dominant win over James Wood and, in doing so, ended James Wood’s 19 game winning streak — which was the longest winning streak in the state at that time.
When the 1965 perfect season ended, the record of the Clarke County High School football team from 1960 through 1965 was an unbelievable 54-4-1. On average, the teams in that span of six seasons won their games by a margin of 22.4 points per game. In other words, for six years, the Eagles won their games by more than three touchdowns per game. Legends were made during these Glory Days of Clark County football — names that should never be forgotten like Ramsburg, Longerbeam, Buckner, Childs, McCarty, Denney, Fuller, Potts, Stoneberger, Tumblin, Combs. Winning may not have been everything during that six-year period, but it was the only thing.
GLORY DAYS, Clarke County High School Football and “The Streak” was recently published by the author. It is available for purchase at the Bank of Clarke County in Berryville and Boyce, Virginia. All proceeds from the sale are donated to the Moore Family Scholarship administered by the Clarke County Education Foundation.