Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Where is the ball?

Legendary high school football coach Ed Reed won several championships in Mississippi and several more in Alabama. He won at small schools such as Rolling Fork and large ones such as Jackson Provine and Tuscaloosa Central.

Reed won in an eccentric river town (Natchez), in the Piney Woods of Lumberton and at Picayune. He won before integration and he won after it.

But there was one constant in Reed's 40 years of coaching and his nearly 300 victories, and that is this: His teams always ran out of the Notre Dame Box long after the formation largely had been retired to moth balls and history books. And that's one reason why Ed Reed would be a long chapter in any history book about Mississippi high school football. He is the answer to two of the most meaningful trivia questions about Magnolia State football:

• Who was the coach of the last team to win the championship of the old Big Eight Conference? (Reed at South Natchez in 1980. South Natchez 37, Greenville 7.)

• Who coached the first team to win an overall state championship in the largest classification of Mississippi high school football? (Reed's South Natchez team clipped Starkville 21-6 to win the Class AA title in 1981, capping a 14-0 season.)

Reed will be honored this weekend at an Ed Reed Tribute and Reunion in Natchez, 34 years after he left the town.

Says Reed, 87 years young and retired in Booneville where he was raised: “I was blessed to have some good athletes.”

Yes, but those athletes were blessed to have a coach who saw no reason to change from the formation and offensive style he learned as a high school player in Booneville back in the 1940s. The Notre Dame Box, a variation of the old single wing, goes back to football's earliest days. Knute Rockne made it famous after learning it from Jesse Harper, who learned it from Amos Alonzo Stagg. Curly Lambeau ran it with the Green Bay Packers. Long after all those legends had died, Reed still ran it. And ran it. And ran it. And in so doing, he drove other coaches crazy.

Mississippi High School Activities Association director Don Hinton was a young coach at Murrah in Jackson when Reed was running the Box in Natchez.

“It was a nightmare to prepare for,” Hinton says. “We knew what they were going to do, but we still couldn't stop it. Half the time, we couldn't figure out who had the ball.”

The Box was based on deception and precision. Watch Navy or Air Force play today and you will see some of the same concepts at work. Often, the defense tackles two or three guys, only to see another guy, the one with the football, running free in the secondary.

What follows is a part of Mississippi football legend: Reed's South Natchez team was about to play a bowl game and the coach of the opposing team called Moss Point's inimitable coach/philosopher Billy Wayne Miller to ask him for advice on how to prepare for Reed's offense. Billy Wayne said his: “Well, see, you tell your boys to get a good night's rest and then you feed them a good pre-game meal. And then, when it's game time and they tee that ball up at the 40-yard-line, you tell your boys to take a good, long, hard look at that football. You tell them to look at it good, because they aren't going to be able to find it the rest of the night.”

Reed chuckled Sunday when that story was recounted.

Reed says he ran the Box simply because it was what he knew. What he leaves unsaid is that few, if any, other coaches understood the intricacies of it. And even if they did, they had no way, in a couple days, to prepare a scout team to run it anywhere near the way Reed's teams did.

“You just didn't have time in one week to get ready for something Coach Reed's team practiced every day of every spring and every season,” Hinton said. “Your asking your scout team to learn in a couple days what their best players do all year long.”

The results were predictable. That's why Reed's teams won 277 games while losing only 86.

And why doesn't anybody still run it today?

“I really don't know,” Reed says. “If I was still coaching, I sure would.”

•••

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is a syndicated columnist and historian of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS
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