Gridiron talk: 1950s Ferriday 54-game streak

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

You might have noticed that I’m weak for high school and college football lore. That’s why the other day when Tommy Purvis (Dr. Thomas L. Purvis Jr.) and I were talking old Ferriday High football we were both plumb excited.

There’s no way, of course, old FHS football can be discussed without talking a ton about the Bulldogs of the mid-1950s that dominated Louisiana prep football in their class so profoundly that there’ll never be a sports subject so readily discussed over coffee, or where buffet buffs meet and eat. And in doctor’s offices.

Tommy Purvis was there when the Bulldogs of head coach Johnny &uot;Red&uot; Robertson and assistant James Otto Lancaster Jr., started their school’s famous 54-game winning streak. He was a scatback without peer, a cut-and-go artist that kept opponents on their heels. But not just because of Purvis; Ferriday just had it overall!

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&uot;The streak&uot; lasted from 1953s second game until the opening game of 1957. Class A Westlake beat Class B Ferriday High 20-19 in the ’53 game, and Block High of Jonesville beat the Bulldogs 7-0 if I remember correctly. FHS very well could have won both of those game. But that’s just football – there were some close ones along the way they could have lost, I’m sure.

But getting back to Tommy Purvis, the now splendid Natchez area physician was in the FHS backfield the whole unbeaten way, and was so quick and good that he earned the nickname &uot;Mighty Mouse&uot; for coach Robertson’s truly remarkable Bulldogs.

If memory serves me correctly, fiery Manson Nelson played somewhere along the line with Purvis and that bunch. Manson would wipe you out in a hurry from his quick lineman’s post. All of us used to marvel at his quickness.

And yet another longtime Natchez-Ferriday area physician, Dr. Eugene E. Taylor, played in the line (tackle) a few years back then for the Dawgs.

At any rate, Tommy Purvis played four years in the University of Southern Mississippi’s backfield after FHS. He was an outstanding back there, but &uot;threw the game over&uot; for medicine, attending LSU Med School.

Manson Nelson played for the Bayou Bengals. Quick as lightning and a real &uot;buster,&uot; Manson would nail an opponent. Opposing coaches used to complain to officials that he was offsides. But he wasn’t, he just had that &uot;feel.&uot;

And finally, sadly, Mrs. Ben Green Sr., a big part of that Ferriday High School dynasty, died last week. So many people loved Mrs. Green because she loved so many people. Mrs. Green was born in 1903 and was one of Ferriday football’s biggest fans. She used to oversee FHS football banquets, and called the players &uot;my boys.&uot;

AND GOLF: Beau Pr\u00E9 golf course is scenic, interesting and tough to negotiate. It winds with winding Second Creek much of the way and amiable club manager Mark Powell and conscientious course superintendent Ricky Maier are proud that members and guests are taken by the course. It’s Farm Bureau Invitational time this week, and the Gulf South PGA&160;tourney just ended.

And pretty 18-hole Duncan Park’s course rates there with some of the state’s best. Like Beau Pr\u00E9, DP has big groups and regular tournaments. That suits friendly DP Golf Manager Marvin Gray just fine. Yep, Natchez is well fixed for golf.