Sometimes a special group of individuals comes along where the sum of their parts is so much greater than any single person that they defy overwhelming odds.
The 1939 Lubbock High football team was just such a group.
"We didn't have any stars," recalled co-captain Leete Jackson, who still lives in Lubbock. "But we had a team. We played as a team. It didn't make any difference who scored or who made the tackles, as long as you scored and made tackles. There wasn't anybody that was a great athlete; everybody kind of just did their own job."
This collection of Depression-era schoolboys didn't just go through a normal football season en route to winning the 1939 state championship in a 20-14 win over Waco. They went through more adversity and challenges to their character than any other team before and likely any state title team since.
Which only makes the legend grow.
"(Lubbock High) had a good team in 1938 and perhaps half of the same guys were back plus some new ones," quarterback Pete "Dutchy" Cawthon said. "Our non-conference games weren't promising, so it was a bit of a mystery how we finally came together and put it together."
In fact, the way the Westerners started the 1939 season, a state championship might have been the farthest thing from anybody's mind. LHS lost three of its first four games and went into district play that year without much momentum or fanfare.
But what the Westerners had was confidence and camaraderie. Several players had been together since their days in junior high under coach Mule Davis and had been under coach Weldon Chapman's wing for several years. Still, a 1-3 start didn't inspire much favoritism outside the program.
|The state championship trophy and a letterman’s jacket from 1939 are on display in a trophy case at Lubbock High School.
"We were the underdog in every game we played; we really were," Jackson said. "I don't remember a game that we were favored in."
After beating Pampa and Borger by a combined score of 46-0 to open district play, however, things seemed to be turning back in the right direction for the Westerners. That is, until another blow almost leveled the team.
Coach Chapman died suddenly after the Borger game, leaving the team stunned. Instead of letting Chapman's death define the team, the Westerners used it as motivation and inspiration.
A win over Plainview and a non-district victory over Hobbs, N.M., set up a showdown for the district championship at Amarillo's Butler Field. Amarillo was considered the class of West Texas at that time.
"I those days there was such a rivalry with Amarillo, and they usually dominated," Cawthon said. "But it was such a rivalry that winning that game was almost like winning state."
As it turned out, it would only be a stepping stone to the state title, but a huge one it was.
LHS would earn playoff wins over Electra, Sweetwater and Dallas Woodrow Wilson by a combined score of 40-0, setting up the state title game against Waco on a cold, blustery winter day at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
|A ticket from the title game against Waco High School.
Waco was led by legendary coach Paul Tyson and considered a huge favorite to claim another state championship.
But the Westerners at that point were a team of destiny, and destiny couldn't be stopped.
"It was something we felt like we could do that would bring some pride to Lubbock, and it did," Jackson said. "It also brought pride to us as individuals, although I don't think that was any motivating factor.
"The legend grows ... and feeds on itself, really."
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