It has been 70 years since the 1940 Italy Gladiators were undefeated and unscored on. Bill Bryant was a graduate of Italy High School and the Sports Editor for the Italy News Herald. The following is his seventh article of the season.
The Gladiators were brilliant last Friday, throwing up stone wall defenses when the enemy threatened and falling in behind the twinkle-toed funning of Wild Bill Howell to bring back a 20-0 win over the supposedly strong Blooming Grove Lions. Just to show how superior the locals really were in this battle, they literally tore the Lion forward wall to shreds to roll up a total of 239 yards on the ground to their opponents’ 87, and although they completed only one of seven passes tried, that one was good for eighteen yards and a touchdown. Blooming Grove resorted to the air lanes eleven times, also completing one throw for a gain of fourteen yards. The first downs were in favor of the Gladiators, seven to four.
The Italy juggernaut, now the only undefeated schoolboy football team in Ellis County and seemingly gaining momentum with each stride, has amassed 165 points as against non for their opponents in four games played to date. They defeated Mansfield 75-0, Whitney 27-0, Frost 43-0 and Blooming Grove 20-0. The team has shown a marked improvement over the club that won four, lost four and tied two last season. As a matter of fact, they showed so much improvement that they scored more points in their season opener against Mansfield’s Tigers than could be managed all last fall. And who gets credit for the boys great showing this year? None other than their friendly likeable coach, Mr. Douglas Cook.
Cook, who learned his football at Greenville High under fiery Henry Fraka (who later accepted a coaching position at Vanderbilt) and at Trinity U., where he played all four years and was an all-Texas Conference man one of those, has instilled in the local gridders a desire and the determination to win. He has performed miracles with the Gladiators ever since he took over the coaching reins from E.E. Orrick in the fall of 1938.
Not only has he made his charges want to win, but he has also taught them to play hard, clean football and has labored diligently to teach them all he knows about the game.
The boys like their coach, too, that fact is very apparent. They work their heads off for him and patiently try to learn the plays he assigns them, obeying his every command with quick and eager willingness.
This is a rather distasteful subject to bring up at this point in our discussion, but the writer can remember back in other pigskin campaigns when certain members of the team would slip out and smoke or eat a piece of candy during football season, and thought it was smart. But not this 1940 bunch. No siree! They obey the strictest of training rules and like it. And why do they do all this, you inquire? That query can be answered in just five short words. BECAUSE THEY LIKE THEIR COACH.
Another change that has been noted in the present aggregation is the cooperation that is being exhibited among the players this year. The Warriors are working together better than ever before. When you see a tricky play being executed out there on the soft turf, you can think to yourself, “Well, it took proper timing to make that play pan out right and it took all eleven boys doing their parts right to make it possible. Yes we can try say that the Gladiators are working together like a wheel that has just recently been oiled – perfectly.”
Coach Cook is kinda on the quiet side. True enough. But did you ever stop to realize that a guy who’s got his tongue clacking all the time doesn’t ever learn very much. You know the old saying, “A still tongue makes a wise head.” Mr. Cook says very little but what he does say means something and isn’t this endless running-on-and-on type of chatter you hear from most people. He also stops to think before answering and that is another good habit to form. If a majority of people didn’t speak before they thought, they wouldn’t be in hot water all the time. So just between you and me don’t you think Mr. Cook’s a grand fellow? We do. (Whatever is said in this column is not meant to harm or endanger anyone’s reputation. We’re merely saying what we think.)