by Chuck Ferris
Capitan’s 7-6 Victory over Tularosa in 1952
I think I’m qualified to tell this story, since I was a member of the Capitan football team at the time, and I later moved to Tularosa to finish high school. They were still talking about “the game” in Tularosa when I graduated in 1956. Even today, at reunions at Capitan or Tularosa, “the game” seems to always come up. As a freshman, I didn’t play in this game, but I kept the bench nice and warm!
In October, 1952, both Capitan and Tularosa were undefeated. They both went through the conference without trouble, and “the game” was on Friday. I remember Coach Duane Darling of the Tigers working hard with us to get our timing just right. We rarely scrimmaged, because we didn’t have enough players. We worked on timing and precision.
Coach Jim O’Toole worked his Wildcats equally as hard in Tularosa. Yes, this was “the game” of the century as far as we were concerned. Pregame stories came out in the El Paso Times, and Governor Edwin L. Mecham would be in attendance. We rarely received any stories in the Times, much less before the game! We’d never played in front of the Governor!
We traveled to Tularosa Friday afternoon, dressed and went onto the field for our pre game warmup. Governor Mecham was indeed the VIP as the game started. He was given a choice seat in the press box beside his political ally, announcer Dan King. The game was close all the way. We got very few first downs, none where it helped a lot. Tularosa got one drive going but didn’t score. Tularosa recovered their own punt in Tiger territory but didn’t advance. Capitan started a drive and Wally Ferguson and Johnny Werner made good runs to get into Wildcat territory. But Larry Marrujo stepped in front of a Tiger pass and intercepted, stopping the Capitan drive. The Tigers regained the ball on a fumble and drove to the 19 yard line. Tularosa’s Preston Fambrough intercepted a pass at the goal line and returned to the five. Tularosa punted and Dick Cox returned it to the Tularosa 23. The Tigers drove to the 15 yard line, but lost the ball on downs as the first half ended.
Capitan took the 2nd half kickoff but couldn’t advance, so we punted. Tularosa marched the ball to the 9, where Capitan held and took over on downs. When we didn’t advance the ball, we prepared to punt. But the punt was blocked and Tularosa had another scoring opportunity. Wildcat Larry Marrujo hit his cousin Johnny Marrujo on a pass that took them to the one foot line. Preston Fambrough crashed over for the first touchdown of the game. The extra point was blocked when Tiger Garth Hyde crashed through the middle of the line and sent the ball back the way it came! Tulie led 6-0.
The final quarter started with both teams making a potential run, but both teams were stopped. As the fourth quarter faded, Capitan made a last effort. Ferguson hit Noah Montoya with a pass, and Noah took it to the 10, first and goal. Capitan tried four times but couldn’t get it across, and turned the ball over on downs with 20 seconds left. Tularosa ran one play and Capitan called time out with only one second remaining. (Some say there was five seconds left; the clock was the old type with hands and the hands were very close to zero!)
One second left, behind 6-0, and Tulie had the ball! In 1952, no one watched football on TV. This was a new situation. The kneel-down was unheard of! No one really knew if the game ended after one second, or if the play had to be completed.
After the game, the Tiger players recalled that Johnny Werner in his “Pa Kettle” role said in a drawl “Boys, we’ve gotta do something!” Well it was something! Whatever happened is different depending if you hear it from the people in Tularosa or the folks at Capitan. From the bench I started walking off toward the dressing room. I was sure we had lost! But as I walked away, Kandy Reyes started jumping up and down and hitting me. I looked back and saw Garth Hyde with the ball in the end zone and the referee holding his hands up for a touchdown. WOW! After Bill George had snapped the ball to Preston Fambrough, Garth grabbed the ball out of Fambrough’s arms and went in for the score. Tularosa stories say that Fambrough heard the gun and gave the ball to Garth, thinking the game was over. In any case, Capitan had tied the score 6-6, and the extra point was coming up.
Garth Hyde, a semi-retired minister now living in Roswell, recalls that he did just what Coach Darling said to do, “Punch the ball and grab it!” It was in his hands when he thought about running the last five yards to the end zone.
The extra point was certainly an adventure. Wally Ferguson, who kicked the PATs was the QB. I said “I’m too excited to kick. I can’t make it! We are going to run the fake where I pass to Kenny (Morris). “
Melvin Romero, the center argued. “I am going to center it to Charlie (Francis). He is going to put it down for you to kick. But the pass was the play called. Kenny Morris ran out his pattern, But Melvin Romero, like he said he was going to do, centered the ball to Charlie Francis. The ball was on the ground for a long time (Tularosa was too deflated and didn’t charge) before Wally finally decided he had to kick! He hit the ball and it barely floated across the bar. Capitan had won 7-6.