The Lone Star State has witnessed many epic football games. In recent times, many rank the 1994 Plano East and Tyler John Tyler contest as the best.
But 2016 Texas High School Football HOF inductee Linus Baer contends the greatest high school game in Texas took place one week following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That bi-district matchup pitted defending 4A champion San Antonio Brackenridge against San Antonio Robert E. Lee.
The nation had been numbed by Kennedy’s untimely death in Dallas. For days, Americans existed in a trance-like state, and a few lucky thousand in the Alamo City found their way back to reality through football.
Over 25,000 fans packed into Alamo Stadium for the contest. Interest ran so high WOAI telecast the game, and numerous television stations across Texas aired the event.
“The Lee-Brack game served as a release, an outlet for people to go to the game or watch it on TV and enjoy it,” Baer told the Waco Tribune Herald. “Get their mind off the Kennedy assassination; give them something else to think about. I think that’s one reason people remember it so well.”
Brackenridge, a team composed primarily of African-Americans and a few Hispanics, captured the 1962 state title with a 30-26 win over Borger. The Eagles began the playoffs the following year with an 8-2 mark, but their talent-laden roster made them an extremely dangerous team.
Both coaches made significant adjustments prior to kickoff. Brackenridge’s Weldon Forren moved star running back Warren McVea to quarterback to maximize his touches. Lee elected to onside kick at every opportunity and not to punt on fourth down to keep the ball away from McVea, a dangerous kick returner.
“It was a great call for Coach Forren to do that,” Baer remarked to the Trib. “To get (McVea’s) hands on the ball every play was genius because he could do things with the football that I’d never seen anybody do before.”
Baer and McVea furnished virtually all the offense in Lee’s 55-48 victory. Baer scored five touchdowns, running for 195 yards on 19 carries and catching three passes for 94 yards. He also scored on a 95-yard kickoff return, one of only two deep kicks in the entire game.
McVea, a future star with the University of Houston and Kansas City Chiefs, finished with 21 carries for 215 yards and completed one pass for 18 yards. He edged Baer in the scoring department with six touchdowns.
As the game progressed, players on both sides reveled in the high scoring affair. Differences in race and social status disappeared, and gloom lifted from the nation’s national tragedy.
“After the game got going, what’s so amazing about the football game is all the guys on both teams started having fun,” McVea commented in the Trib. “While we out there playing, me and Linus were just laughing and saying this is like a track meet.”
The Eagles trailed the entire game but rallied to go ahead 48-47 when McVea scored his sixth touchdown and kicked the extra point with six minutes remaining. But the Volunteers plodded forward, milking the clock, and fullback Larry Townsend plunged into the end zone from a yard away. Lee successfully attempted the two-point conversion and led 55-48 with 30 seconds left to play.
McVea handled the ball twice more. But the Volunteers corralled the elusive runner on the kickoff and tackled him at the 40 on the game’s final play.
The following week, Lee lost to Corpus Christi Miller which eventually fell to Garland in the state title game. But the shootout in San Antonio has withstood the test of time.
“Everybody you talked to was at the game or knew somebody who was at the game and always wanted to talk about it,” he remarked in the Trib. “And it was always called ‘The Game.’”
McVea and Baer, who had become close friends at track meets prior to the game, continued their relationship into adulthood. They roomed together at the Texas High School Coaches Association All-Star football game the following summer.
Baer injured his knee in that encounter missed his freshman year at the University of Texas. But he recovered and lettered three times for the Longhorns, serving as team captain in his senior season.