Exeter huddles up history for new mural proposed at the high school

Exeter Unified discusses a new mural at the high school to commemorate an early 1920s semi-pro football team in Exeter

EXETER – Exeter Union High School’s (EUHS) Hall of Fame has only been around since 1960, but an entire 50 years of atheltic accomplishments happened before that. As a way to pay homage to a by-gone era of championship level football, Exeter Unified School District (EUSD) could add a new mural at the high school to commemorate Exeter’s championship semi-professional team from the early 1920s.

In a game against Reedley, Exeter’ “Pat” Lucas carries the ball toward the end zone while a host of teammates clear a path. Exeter Unified plans to use photos from the team’s state championship era to help formulate a mural proposed to Holaday Gym.Submitted photo

The school board was approached by community members in support of a new mural, which was then discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting. The mural would be added to the Holaday Gym wall facing Rocky Hill Drive. The board was receptive to the idea and will bring the item back at their February meeting, to discuss if they will move forward. If so, Colleen Mitchell-Veyna will likely serve as the mural’s artist. She’s designed six of the murals in downtown Exeter and refurbished several others.

The 1920 football team was an important part of Exeter’s history. They won a state championship in the American Legion semi-pro league. The team was led by star player Al Griggs who etched his name in The Guinness Book of Records. In 1916 Griggs set a national high school record for most points-after-touchdown (PATs) in a single game. He kicked 15 PATs in Exeter’s 120-0 rout over Hanford. Griggs would go on to be a captain and quarterback for the football team at St. Mary’s College of California before eventually coming home to play for Exeter’s semi-pro team.

The team was managed by Jim Pogue, who’s family founded Rocky Hill, Inc. He graduated from Exeter High School in 1916 and played an important role in forming Exeter’s football team. He recruited several all-American college football players to come play for the small town team. One of most notable players he helped recruit was Paul Dobson who played in one game for the team. Dobson had played for the Olympic Club in San Francisco and decided to stay in Exeter after playing for the squad. He’d go on to become one of the town’s most popular citizens and has Dobson Field named after him.

Known by the local town as “The Invincibles,” the Exeter football team went on to have a 13-0-1 record over two seasons, and outscored opponents 334-23. In what was considered the state championship game, they defeated San Bernardino 14-0 on January 24, 1922. The team would draw crowds of thousands of people from various cities, to a small Exeter town that had a population of less than 2,000.

The history of the Exeter football team is being researched by local resident Dwight Miller who graduated from EUHS in 1971. He approached the school board with the idea of the mural along with David Nielsen of Nielsen & Associates Insurance. The company has decided to sponsor the cost and maintenance of the mural in honor of Nielsen’s late father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Nielsen’s great-grandfather, Bill Springer, owned a coffee shop in downtown Exeter and played semi-professional football in New Jersey. In 1915 he became the first ever football coach at Exeter High School.

Miller is now working to compile a book detailing the history of football in Exeter, and telling the stories of the players on these teams. However, he needs a lot of help. He is looking to connect with people that are descendants of any players that played on these teams between 1919-1921, and may have any information on any of the players listed below. He can be reached at [email protected].

Former players on the teams include: J. Melvin Awbrey, Clyde Balaam, Leo Bodine, Tex Bodine, Ted Brandon, Chet Brown, Ray Buckman, Errol Chrisman, Tuffy Conn, Paul Dobson, Lou Doffelmayer, Lee Gaddis, Bill Goodwin, Al Griggs, Jack Griggs, Ross Griggs, Ken Hanson, Elmer Holmes, Bill Ingram, R.P. (Pet) Lucas, Tuffy Maul, Arch Medlin, Miles (Darkhorse) Newman, James Alden Price, Bill Randell, Fat Rhodes, Roland Ross, Sandy Sanderson, Hank Smith, Ted Smith, Ben Snyder, Ernie Sparks, Crip Toomey, J. Melvin (Skinny) Tucker, Charles Wilkie, Henry Wirht.

First names couldn’t be found for some players including E. Chalmers, H. Davis, H. Owens, A. Pape, and C. Pape.

Other people believed to have helped with the team include Jimmy Blackman, Watt Clausen, Buck Duran, Jim Pogue, and Charles Pruner.

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