Telling stories about the “good old days” is a popular pastime for coaches, former players and sportswriters. It is, if nothing else, a great way to fill the void between one high school football season and the next.
Most of the stories shared are about teams, players and games played in the past 25 to 40 years. There was high school football before that, but our link to those eras is fading.
Former football coach Barrett Murphy is helping to fill the void with a new book about Louisiana’s six-man football era — “Barefoot, Bloodied and Bruised: The Story of Louisiana Six-Man Football.”
Six-man football? Yes, there was six-man football and also eight-man football played by small schools in Louisiana primarily in the 1940s and 1950s.
The book was a labor of love for Murphy, who was a head coach at Catholic High, Belaire and East Ascension. He also coached on the college level at Nicholls State and McNeese State.
A longtime advocate of high school sports, Murphy hosts a local postgame Friday radio show. He got interested in the six-man and eight-man football eras a few years ago and started compiling notes, video interviews and old photos.
The 180-page book features chapters on a number of six-man football schools. Dutchtown, Denham Springs, Brusly, St. Gabriel, Livonia, Rayne and Port Barre are among the schools featured in individual chapters.
How many of you knew there was a Dutchtown long before Eddie Lacy, Eric Reid or Landon Collins played there? Not many I suspect.
The current Dutchtown High opened about 15 years ago. The Dutchtown Murphy writes about won two state titles in six-man football in the 1940s. Former coaches, players and officials recall their memories.
These guys wore leather helmets. They rode on a bus that had a long bench for players to sit on, and they traveled for hours on country roads long before there were interstate highways.
There was no GPS and no cell phones. One team got lost while traveling in a storm and arrived late only to find that the game had been canceled.
In the book’s forward, Murphy explains the rules of six-man football and offers some other interesting facts. For example, you had four plays to gain 15 yards for a first down. A field goal was worth four points. All players were eligible receivers.
Murphy cited another source, Ray Duncan’s “Six Man Football,” to detail the costs to field a team. Uniforms for a 20-player team ran about $365, a cost that could barely outfit one player these days.
The Denham Springs High gymnasium is named for legendary basketball coach and administrator Grady Hornsby, who also coached the school’s six-man football coach in the 1940s.
Just as they are now, football games were social events. Former players recounted a 1946 Dutchtown-Denham Springs game that ended with a brawl among spectators. Players watched the fights unfold from the safety of the gymnasium.
One of Murphy’s sources was Baton Rouge Community College baseball coach L.J. Dupuy, a quarterback for Brusly in the late 1950s.
A book like this may not appeal to everyone. But it offers some insight into an era and a kind of football many of us never got the chance to see.
Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter @FambroughAdv and read the BR Preps blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/batonrougepreps