For a Hendrix victory that was as sudden and as dramatic as the disbanding of the football program in 1960, I stopped myself in mid-sentence in describing Saturday’s football game encased in a basketball score.
I started to say the fans got their money’s worth in a last-second, 46-44, victory.
But the game had free admission.
So folks got a whole lot of entertainment bang for no bucks.
The football program, which had a stormy ending when finances to support the sport went kaput in 1960, was revived with nary a cloud in the sky.
Orange was the color of the day — orange tailgating tents, orange scarves and headovers, orange caps, orange pom pons, orange umbrellas, orange church fans, orange cushions.
Water was the beverage of choice as the torrid heat approached wasn’t far from triple digits.
Many fans sought shelter in the nearby and air-conditioned Wellness & Athletics Center until minutes before kickoff. Other fans, maybe trying to work on their fall tan, grabbed seats in griddle that was aluminum bleachers two hours before kickoff.
As one approached the new and first-class Young-Wise Stadium, the music from the SteelCats’ steel drum corps from Episcopal Collegiate gave the sense of approaching a Carribean Resort.
This was a party wrapped in a reunion wrapped around a celebration.
Students packed the roped-off area in one end zone within 10 minutes after that section opened. There hadn’t been football at Hendrix in 53 years, but the students knew the drill — some were shirtless or in sports bras with painted faces and “Hendrix” and “Warriors” spelled out when they lined up correctly.
And folks were ready for football — and cheering. They cheered the public address announcer, the cheerleaders, the dance team and broke out into an ovation every time the singer hit some impressive high notes on the Star-Spangled Banner. They cheered workers who hand-delivered cold water bottles for purchase in the stands.
Minutes before kickoff, the 1960 football team walked onto the field after the new Warriors took it, those former players went down the line high-fiving and slapping hands with the 2013 Warriors. Several on the field and in the stands were in tears, some of the Ole Warriors had reportedly been in tears most of the weekend.
Charles Tadlock and Jerry Carter, the captains of the 1960 team, gave the ball used during the final game in 1960 to the captains of the current team (Casey Caton and Hunter Lawler) in a ceremonial handout to commemorate the new era.
“I felt the same butterflies that I felt when I would go to midfield 53 years ago,” said Carter. “But they always disappeared when I heard the sound of the kickoff. It’s just a dream to come back and celebrate with my old teammates. I never thought it could happen.”
At halftime, all former Hendrix players — about 30 strong and one in a wheelchair and another displaying his letter sweater — were introduced individually and saluted with a standing ovation.
More memories. More tears.
There were photo opportunities everywhere in the new stadium, featured a beautifully landscaped courtyard that was a pile of dirt just three days before workers went into overdrive.
Former cheerleaders and former members of Hendrix’s homecoming court were special in what was believed to be a record campus gathering of women wearing tiaras.
T-shirts and Hendrix jerseys with “60” on them were fast sellers at the concession stand.
With all the hoopla and all the celebration, Hendrix and Westminster engaged in a back-and-forth highly entertaining game, capped by a last-second winning field goal by Hendrix’s Steve Crenshaw.
The Warriors’ 46 points in that game were only 30 short of the points scored the entire season by the 1960 team.
As time ran out, the Warrior players sprinted to the Hendrix student section, many of whom were already jumping in glee. The jiving and hugging and dancing were reflective of a team that just won the national championship.
This was an NCAA Division III football game. But if it were between two Division I FBS teams like Alabama and Oregon, this would have been deemed an instant classic for its back-and-forth dramatics and excitement.
“Well, it was a classic for us,” said Hendrix coach Buck Buchanan with a smile.
After all, the Warriors have not been beaten since November of 1960. Other events during November of 1960 were John F. Kennedy being elected president, the U.S. Senate passing the Civil Rights Bill and Ray Charles “Georgia On My Mind” reaching No. 1 on the charts.
Another earlier scene put the hoopla into perspective, A young child ran to his mother jumping up and down with excitement in his voice, “Mom, they have nachos at the concession stand.”
Sept. 7, 2013 at Hendrix College: Something for everyone.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd)