1944 National High School Football Champions
A retroactive look at the top 50 teams from the 1944 season.
Sometime in the late 1950s, Art Johlfs decided to start ranking high school football teams on a national level. As part of this project, he also decided to retroactively select national high school football championship teams from previous years.
No one knows for sure when Johlfs completed this project as there were no announcements in national newspapers. However Barry Sollenberger, who took over the National Sports News Service from Johlfs in the mid-1970s, published a list of retroactively selected national champions in an NSNS newsletter in 1981.
Doug Huff also published a list of national champions dating back to 1910 in his record book in 2001. Johlfs had a hand in picking the teams back to 1927 while Sollenberger added to the list back to 1910. Additional entries have been added to the national high school football championship page on Wikipedia based on information from other historians, including Tim Hudak and Simon Lyons of Ohio.
One thing that is evident is that the retroactive list of national champions is an evolving process. Some national champions have even been changed since chosen in realtime by Johlfs (but that’s a topic for another blog).
But three seasons have never been filled in on the mythical national championship list. Those are the war years of 1917, 1944 and 1945. Perhaps there was not a lot of information for Johlfs and Sollenberger to make a definitive choice. However our research for 1944 shows that it wasn’t the case that there wasn’t enough good choices, but perhaps too many.
What follows is our own retroactive selections for the top 50 teams for 1944. One thing that should be mentioned is that there were a number of outstanding athletes who did not participate during the 1944 season because they were fighting in the war. Newspaper accounts in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Detroit all mention that their all-city teams were the youngest in memory without a single 18-year old on the list.
We also tried to rank teams based on how it might have been done if someone were selecting teams during the 1944 season. Thus what a team did prior to 1944 is obviously much more important than what happened after 1944. If a team went on to championship seasons in 1945 and 1946, etc., that is good to give context to the strength of the 1944 team, however prior success in 1942 and 1943 would be more indicative of a team that would have been ranked high at the start of the season.
And that’s why we have Baylor as our No. 1 team for 1944. Baylor had tremendous success from 1939 to 1943 and would have likely been ranked near the top of the preseason national rankings in 1944. Baylor also finished the season undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state by the Litkenhous rankings ahead of two national powerhouses, Knoxville and Knoxville Central.
Baylor comes in ahead of Donora (Pa.), which won a WPIAL championship in 1944 and 1945 and Cleveland Cathedral Latin, which went 27-0-2 from 1944 to 1946. Both Donora and Cathedral Latin had their greatest success in the seasons after 1944 while Baylor had its greatest success leading into 1944.
That being said, here’s our Top 50 for 1944.
1. Tennessee - Baylor, 10-0
Between 1939 and 1944, Baylor posted a record of 56-2-4 with the 1944 team likely the best of the bunch. Baylor finished the season with a ranking of 99.1 in the Litkenhous ratings, easily edging out Knoxville for the overall state crown. Wins include: Soddy Daisy, 33-6; Chattanooga City, 33-6; Stevenson (Ala.), 27-0; Chattanooga Central, 19-6; Red Bank, 35-0; Columbia Military Academy, 58-7; Castle Heights, 32-0; Columbus, 40-13; Darlington, 26-6; and Georgia Military Academy, 38-0. Top players included Paul Bancroft, who earned All-Southern honors, and All-City picks Maurice Acree, Boyd Jacoway, Gordon Pettus, Edgar Mallary and Don Ferguson.
2. Pennsylvania WPIAL - Donora, 9-0
The Donora teams from 1944 and 1945 are regarded as two of the greatest teams in state history. The 1944 team opened with a 47-0 win over Perry before rattling off a 31-12 win over Monessen, a 45-6 win over LaTrobe, a 50-7 win against Charleroi, a 37-13 win over Brownsville, a 47-0 pounding of Monongahela, a 20-0 victory over Altoona and a 34-6 win over Washington. In the WPIAL AA championship, Donora beat Ellwood City, 13-0. The 1944 squad actually outscored the 1945 team, 324-297, but the 1945 team had the better defense, giving up just 13 points to the 44 given up by 1944. Donora did not have any players make the all-state first team, but guard Tom Balahan and left halfback Roscoe Ross both made second team. Dan Towler, a junior on the team, eventually went on to a pro career with the Rams.
3. Ohio - Cleveland Cathedral Latin, 9-0
Cathedral Latin was recognized as the state champion in 1944, winning the first of three straight state championships while compiling a 27-0-2 record. Among the wins was a 6-0 victory over Massillon (Washington), marking just the second loss in 65 games for the Tigers. Latin outscored its opponents 385-13. Scores included: St. Ignatius, 6-0; Massillon, 6-0; John Adams, 60-0, Glenville, 63-0; Holy Names, 19-0; East High, 26-0; Collinwood, 45-0; Central, 104-6; East Tech, 19-7; and Lincoln, 33-0 for the city championship. Latin landed only two all-state players in linemen Bill McKeon on the first team and Bob Lally on the second team.
4. Arizona - Tucson, 10-0
Under coach Rollin Gridley, the Badgers posted 32 straight wins between 1942 and 1946, including a pair of 11-0 seasons. Gridley never had a losing season in his 13 years at Tucson. The Badgers would likely have been one of the top ranked team entering the 1944 season after going 9-0 in 1943. Tucson defeated powerhouse Phoenix Union twice, 28-6 and 41-7, and also knocked off Bisbee, 26-14 and 40-12; St. Mary 42-7 and 32-0; Mesa 35-6 and 25-7, North 34-13 and Douglas 32-0. In an article about the all-state team, sports editor Les Hegele noted that the Tucson team was “rated by many as the greatest to ever play in Arizona.” Sol Ahee earned all-state honors for Tucson while leading the state in scoring with 92 points. Other all-state players included tackle Bob Morrison and end Larry McQuade.
5. Florida - HIllsborough, 11-0
Under coach Crockett Farnell, the Terriers had the first undefeated season in school history and went on to add another undefeated season (10-0) in 1945. Hillsborough was the only large school team to go undefeated and untied in the state, which earned Farnell state coach of the year honors. Hillsborough outscored its opponents 327-13. The scores include: Sarasota, 55-0; Andrew Jackson, 13-0; St. Petersburg, 26-6; Plant City, 21-0. Jefferson, 40-0; Lakeland, 26-0; Orlando, 27-0; Lee, 12-7; Clearwater, 38-0; Jesuit 48-0; and Plant 21-0. Hillsborough was set to play Miami for an additional playoff game, but the game never occurred. Tackle Horace Stansel and running back Ray Jackson earned All-Southern honors.
6. Pennsylvania - Southern, 11-0
Southern captured the Interleague championship between the Catholic and Public Leagues with a 13-7 win over West Catholic, which ended a 19-game win streak by West Catholic. Wins include: Philadelphia Bartram, 36-0; Central, 40-6; Franklin, 40-0; Northeast, 18-6; Overbrook, 19-0; Roxborough, 12-0; West Philadelphia, 19-0; Goretti-Neumann, 44-12; West Catholic, 13-7. Bridgeton (NJ), 20-0; Vineland (NJ), 12-0. All-stars included center Milt Komarnicki, guard Joe Scarcella, tackle Stan Rifkin, end Tom Sabol, and backs Anthony “Reds” Coletta and Marvin Richman. Komarnicki made the All-Scholastics first team while Coletta made the second team.
7. California - SF Poly, 10-0
Polytechnic was a Northern California powerhouse before closing its doors in 1972. Led by Milt Axt, who was voted the top coach in the state of California during the first half century, the Parrotts posted a 36-game win streak at one time in the late 1940s and also went 10-0 in 1944.After opening with a 12-6 win over Vallejo, Poly beat Galileo 27-6, St. Ignatius 7-6, Lowell 26-0, Washington 27-14, Commerce 20-0, Lincoln 12-0, Mission 21-0 and 21-13 and Balboa 13-6. Harry Fromm and Merrill Peacock both made the All-City first team while end Bill Kang, backs Duke Marlowe and Jack Feyock made second team and tackle Bob Ansak made third team. Peacock, the team’s quarterback, was considered the city’s player of the year while Axt was the All-City Coach of the Year.
8. Georgia - Boys, 10-0-1
Boys High put together a dominant season in 1944 under coach Shorty Doyal. After going 11-1 in 1943, Boys High posted eight shutouts, including Miami 20-0 and Edison (Miami) 27-0. Only blemish was a 13-13 tie against Tech, a team that Miami defeated. Boys closed its doors in 1947, but not after going 10-1 in 1945. Scores from 1944 include: Commercial, 86-0; Marist, 47-0; North Fulton, 57-0; Columbus, 38-7; Benedictine, 58-0; Miami, 20-0; Savannah, 46-0; Robert E Lee, 12-0; Tech, 13-13; Lanier, 14-6; Edison (Miami), 27-0. Outscored opponents 418-26. George Broadnax and Tommy Pope earned All-Southern honors for Boys High.
9. Louisiana - Baton Rouge, 9-0-1
Heading into the season, Jesuit (New Orleans) and Holy Cross (Baton Rouge) were the favorites to win the state championship. Baton Rouge ended up beating both of them and had only a tie with Bogalusa to mar an otherwise perfect record. Baton Rouge began the season with a 19-9 win over McCombs, which went on to win the Mississippi mythical championship. Wins over Bolton, 21-0, and Jesuit, 27-13, followed, leading up to a 0-0 tie with Bogalusa. Baton Rouge then knocked off Vicksburg 37-12, Istrouma, 12-6, Lake Charles, 20-6 and Catholic, 38-0. Baton Rouge topped Holy Cross in the Class 2A semifinals, 26-19, and then edged Lake Charles again, 6-0. Lake Charles had defeated 10-0 Fair Park in the other semifinal. Rip Collins was named player of the year in the state, rushing for 1,332 yards and passing for 688 while scoring 108 points. Collins, not to be confused with Harry “Rip” Collins who played Major League Baseball, played three seasons in the NFL. The state title was the first for Baton Rouge.
10. New Jersey - St. Cecilia, 10-0-1
Prior to the start of the season, The Saints coach wasn’t too optimistic about his team’s chances in 1944 after losing many of the top players from an 11-0 team in 1943. But St. Cecilia proved to be much better than young coach Vince Lombardi had predicted. A coach at St. Cecilia for eight seasons, five as head coach, Lombardi led the Saints to a 25-game win streak before suffering a tie in the final game of the 1944 season. The Saints defeated St. Agnes, 52-0; Memorial, 20-6; St. Mary’s, 6-0; Pope Pius, 39-0; St. Johns, 13-0; St. Francis X, 31-0; Brooklyn Prep, 20-13; Emerson, 34-0; St. Michael’s 32-6; Englewood, 20-6; The win over Brooklyn Prep, which was led by all-city running back Joe Paterno, handed the Brooklyn club its only loss of the season en route to winning the Catholic championship in New York. The last win over Englewood set a new state record for consecutive wins at 25 in a row. However the unbeaten streak ended the following week with a 0-0 tie against Union Hill. Larry Higgins and Charles Cerutti earned first team All-City honors with Higgins leading the city in scoring with 104 points.
11. Texas - Port Arthur, 13-1
Port Arthur defeated a Highland Park team led by future Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker, 20-7, in the state championship game. The Yellowjackets limited the Scots to negative 16 yards rushing including negative 11 by Walker. However Walker did throw for 154 yards. Port Arthur lost just once during the regular season, falling to Lufkin, 20-6. However Port Arthur avenged the loss in the semifinals with a 27-19 victory. Other wins include: Longview, 41-0; Lamar, 10-0; Conroe, 44-0; South Park, 52-0; Orange, 20-0; Galveston, 42-0; Beaumont, 45-0; Port Neches, 89-0; Goose Creek, 13-0; Lamar, 21-0; Austin, 13-7 (playoffs). Port Arthur outscored opponents 443-53. The Yellow Jackets’ strong line was rewarded on the all-state team with tackle Dan Rogas, guard AJ Dugas and end Charles Davidson earning first team selection. Port Arthur was ranked No. 3 in the state prior to the state semifinals, coming in behind San Angelo and Lufkin.
12. Arkansas - Little Rock Central, 10-1
The Tigers of Little Rock Central might have been ranked No. 1 throughout the season if weekly rankings were kept in 1944. Winners of 11 state championships prior to 1944, Central got off to a strong start with six straight wins in which they did not allow a point. Central outscored its opponents 205-0 during that stretch with a 49-0 win over Fordyce, a 39-0 win over Jonesboro, a 48-0 blasting of Blytheville, a 40-0 shutout of Hot Springs, a 22-0 win over a Fort Smith team that had defeated Central the year before, and a 7-0 win over Memphis Central. The unscored upon streak ended in a 20-7 win over El Dorado, but Central topped Russellville 35-13, defending state champion Pine Bluff 40-7 and Greenville (Miss.) 32-0. With one game left to pay, Central had already laid claim to the mythical state championship by virtue of its overwhelming advantage in conference play. All that was left was a win over North Little Rock for an undefeated season. However it didn’t quite happen that way. North Little Rock overcame a 7-0 halftime lead to win 13-7 and end Central’s undefeated season. The Tigers still finished the year as the recognized state champions, but any chance of being named national champion (if one had actually been chosen) would have gone out the window. The Tigers had one of the nation’s top fullbacks in John Hoffman, who scored 188 points on the season.
13. Massachusetts - Salem, 10-0-1
With only three starters back from the previous season, Salem likely wouldn’t have started near the top of any preseason national rankings in 1944. However the Witches rattled off six straight shutouts, beating Lowell, 2-0; Newburyport, 13-0; Lynn English, 8-0; Marblehead, 33-0; Everett, 12-0; and Manchester Central, 6-0. Salem blasted Lynn Classical, but allowed the first points of the season in a 51-13 win. The Witches then blanked Gloucester, 19-0; and held off Beverly, 19-13. That set up a matchup against likewise undefeated Peabody (9-0). The state rankings actually had Peabody ranked ahead of Salem based on a tougher schedule, but the two teams battled to a 0-0 tie. Salem finished the season with a game in Miami against the Stingarees, who are retroactively recognized as the national No. 1 team for 1943. Already with one loss on the season, Miami lost to Salem, 7-6, to finish 7-2 while the Witches ended the year 10-0-1.
14. Massachusetts - Peabody, 9-0-1
Peabody actually won the Class A championship in Massachusetts over Salem due to a win over a Class A and a Class B team during the non-league portion of the schedule. Salem played a Class A and Class C opponent. The two teams tied in their battle for the state championship, but the title went to Peabody based on strength of schedule. Running back Dick Keon earned first team All-Scholastics by the Boston Globe while tackle Henry Pelletier also made first team. Scores include: Marblehead, 21-0; Revere, 21-0; Lawrence, 19-0; Lowell, 33-7; Lynn Classical, 22-0; Beverly, 27-0; Lynn English, 13-7; Gloucester, 32-0; Manchester Central, 25-0; Salem, 0-0.
15. California - Keppel, 8-0
Led by Southern California CIF player of the year Bill Martin, Keppel went undefeated and captured the Group 4 and 5 championship. The CIF Southern Section did not play off for a true section champion, so Keppel shared the overall title with Redondo. Joe Riccobono joined Martin on the All-CIF squad as a member of the second team. Wins include: South Pasadena, 19-6; Glendale, 19-7; Montebello, 40-0; Whittier, 18-0; Monrovia, 24-13; Alhambra, 14-13; El Monte, 20-7; Pasadena, 19-13.
16. Virginia - St. Christopher, 8-0
Winners of 19 in a row over two years, St. Christopher won the Prep School state championship in Virginia in 1944. Among the wins was a 20-6 victory over Petersburg, which was otherwise undefeated against VHSL competition and was declared a tri-champion with Granby and George Washington Danville. St. Christopher also defeated Hopewell, 20-6; John Marshall, 33-0; Episcopal, 33-7; Benedictine, 31-0; Thomas Jefferson, 34-6; Woodberry Forest, 28-6; and Virginia Episcopal, 48-0. St. Christopher had two players make the All-Southern team in Lynn Chewing and Bill Hawkins.
17. Pennsylvania - Catholic - West Catholic, 9-1
After going 10-0 in 1943, West Catholic won nine straight games in 1944 before falling to Philadelphia Southern in the interleague playoff game between the Catholic and Public Leagues. Scores include: LaSalle, 19-7; Northeast Catholic, 24-0; Roman Catholic, 26-0; St. James, 25-0; St. John Neumann, 25-6; St. John’s Manayunk, 37-6; St. Joseph’s Prep, 7-0; St. Thomas More, 38-0; West Philadelphia, 20-6; Philadelphia Southern, 7-13. All-Catholic League players included center Jim Burke, guard George McAndrews, end Mike Bogan, and backs Bob Connor and Joe Dougherty. McAndrews and Bogan made the All-Scholastics first team while Connor made the second team.
18. Florida - Miami, 7-2
The Stingarees were retroactively selected as the mythical national champion in 1942 and 1943 with identical 9-0 seasons. Miami likely would have started out the 1944 season at No. 1, thanks in part to the return of running back Pete Williams, who is considered one of the school’s all-time greats. After big wins over Miami Jackson, 58-0; and Leon (Tallahassee), 34-6; Miami fell to Boys High, 20-0. The Stingarees rebounded to beat Lee (Jacksonville) 20-0, three-time defending Alabama state champion Woodlawn, 39-6; Anderson (S.C.), 44-7; Tech, which had tied Boys High, 40-20; and Edison, 20-12. In its traditional late December matchup against a team from the Northeast, Miami lost to Salem, 7-6, despite outgaining the Witches 283-114 in total yardage. Williams was named to the All-Southern team.
19. Georgia - Americus, 10-1
After losing to Valdosta in conference play, Americus came back to defeat Valdosta 20-6 in the conference playoff game. Scores include: Eufaula, 13-0; Cordele, 46-14; Valdosta, 7-19; Cordele, 28-6; Albany, 27-0; Thomasville, 16-12; R.E. Lee, 32-0; Fitzgerald, 19-0; Tifton, 33-0; LaGrange, 25-18; Valdosta, 20-6. Richard Lee earned All-Southern honors.
20. Virginia - Granby, 11-0
Under coach William Story, Granby began a three-year run of dominance that included 32 straight wins. The 1944 team went 11-0, including a 25-13 win over Wilson, the North Carolina state champion. Wins included: Crewe, 66-13; Cradock, 45-0; Staunton Military Academy, 31-6; Jefferson Senior, 27-14, Thomas Jefferson, 40-14; Coon (Wilson, N.C.), 32-6; John Marshall,50-0; Hampton, 13-0; Newport News, 14-0; Woodrow Wilson, 25-13; and Maury, 39-7. Granby had five players on the all-state team, including End Dick Ivanhoe, Tackle Carl Eborn, Center Dick Buchanan, and Back Pat Lyons and Bill Harrison.
21. Indiana - Muncie Central, 9-0
The champions of the Northern Conference for four years straight, Muncie Central was a favorite heading into the 1944 season after going undefeated in the regular season in 1943, although losing a playoff game. The Bearcats had little competition during the 1944 season, winning games by an average of 43.6 to 6. Wins included New Castle, 33-6; Fort Wayne Central, 59-0; Anderson, 46-7; Elwood, 70-0; Indy Tech, 33-0; Marion, 39-12; Bloomington, 53-19; Kokomo, 32-6; and New Castle, 27-7. The Bearcats were deemed state champions by AP writer Jim Mitchell, who selected Muncie Central over undefeated Evansville Central and once tied South Bend Washington due to the Bearcats' more impressive margin of victory and total points scored. Quarterback Jackie Adams was the only Muncie Central to make the all-state team, but he was also chosen as the state’s top player.
22. Michigan - Saginaw, 9-0
Michigan had several undefeated teams in 1944, including Grand Rapids South and Makinzie of Detroit, but Saginaw got the nod as the state’s best team due to its 9-game schedule and its strength of schedule. Led by all-state fullback Jim Blenkhorn and offensive lineman Bill Grell, Saginaw posted the following scores: Lansing Sexton, 6-0; Mt. Pleasant, 13-0; Flint Central, 25-0; Pontiac, 19-6; Flint Northern, 13-7; Bay City, 18-2; Owosso, 25-6; Arthur Hill, 13-6.
23. Minnesota - Henry, 9-0
Henry captured its first championship by steamrolling opponents and winning the Twin City Game over Mechanic Arts, 33-6. Henry outscored opponents 293-32 to set a state record for points scored. Scores include: Marshall, 51-0; Central, 24-7; North 40-13; Vocational, 35-0; South, 34-12; West, 43-0; Edison, 35-10; Roosevelt, 31-0; Mechanic Arts, 33-6. Ironically Henry did not have any players on the all-state first team.
24. Tennessee - Knoxville, 8-0-2
Knoxville was ranked second in the state for most of the season, due to a pair of ties, however an 8-7 win over Knoxville Central gave Knoxville the state championship (not including the Mid-South division). Scores include: Stair Tech, 39-0; Elizabethton, 14-13; Johnson City, 0-0; Tennessee Military Institute, 32-6; Rule, 14-7; Young, 18-0; Dobyns Bennett, 28-12; Asheville, 6-6; Morristown, 37-0; Knoxville Central, 8-7. Knoxville also played in the Empty Stocking Game in which it played four different Knoxville city teams, a different one each quarter, and won 20-6. Bobby Lund earned All-Southern honors.
25. Ohio - Canton McKinley, 9-1
Although McKinley had a loss on its schedule, it claimed a state championship in 1944, due in part to a convincing win over powerhouse Massillon, 27-0. Behind the play of all-state players Joe Pujazon, Jack Belding, Hem Lombardi, Hank Smith and Bob Parks, McKinley suffered only a one point loss to Warren Harding. Scores included: Akron South, 59-0; Youngstown Wilson, 59-0; Canton Timken, 39-6; Warren Harding, 26-27; Canton Lincoln, 21-0; Niles McKinley, 19-0; Steubenville, 57-0; Alliance, 54-0; Lakewood, 24-14, Massillon Washington, 27-0.
26. Illinois - Rock Island, 9-0
The Islanders posted the first undefeated, untied season in school history behind the play of the WHAM backfield - Don Whan, Howie Hankins, Miles Anderson and Mel Montz. The quartet combined for 2,107 yards with Montz gaining 832 yards and scoring 109 points. Rock Island scored a school record 272 points in nine game while giving up just 45. Montz, who entered the army shortly after the season ended, and Hankins both landed on the all-state team while Whan and Anderson were honorable mention. Guard Vern Staelens and center Jerry Evans also earned honorable mention status.
27. Tennessee - Knoxville Central, 7-1
Ranked No. 1 in the state (not including the Mid-South) for most of the season, Knoxville Central solidified its ranking with a 30-0 win over highly favored Male (Louisville, Ky.). Male went on to earn the No. 1 ranking in Kentucky after tying DuPont Manual in their annual rivalry. Knoxville Central was not as successful in its rivalry game, losing to Knoxville 8-7. The loss dropped Central into the No. 2 spot in the Litkenhous ratings. Other wins include: Castle Heights, 34-0; Rule, 8-0; Stair Technical, 45-0; Young, 12-0; Sweetwater, 66-0; Alcoa, 14-6.
28. Kentucky - Male, 7-1-1
Male was the favored team in Kentucky in 1944 after going undefeated in 1943. However a tie with DuPont Manual and a loss to Knoxville Central (which ended a 17-game win streak) reduced Male to a 7-1-1 season. Scores include: Bowling Green, 40-6; Danville 28-6; Paintsville, 67-6; St. Xavier 25-6; Erie (Pa.) East, 18-6; Mayfield, 61-0; Knoxville Central, 0-20; Columbus West, 27-7. Male edged Manual 100 to 97.3 in the Litkenhous rankings at season’s end. Tackle Bert Aton and center Dick Vonnahme both earned All-Southern honors while running back Mutt McDermott joined them on the Louisville Courier Journal all-state team.
29. Illinois - Chicago Public - Tilden, 8-0-2
Tilden won the city championship in Chicago by defeating Weber 13-7 in the Kelly Bowl in front of 65,000 fans. Scores include: St. Leo, 25-0; Morgan Park, 6-0; Lindblom, 14-14; Dusable, 28-7; Kelly, 27-0; Phillips, 20-13; Englewood, 34-0; Gage Park, 43-0; Austin, 7-7; Fenger, 16-14; Weber, 13-7.
30. Illinois - East St. Louis, 10-1
Winners of 27 games in a row and 49 of their last 50, the East St. Louis Flyers were aiming for an undefeated season in 1944 heading into a Thanksgiving Day matchup with Belleville. The Flyers had previously defeated Alton, 21-14, a team that defeated Belleville, 14-12, on Oct. 27. The Flyers likely would have been ranked near the top of any national weekly rankings in 1944 due to their long win streak and their dominance in Southern Illinois that included six straight conference championships. But four fumbles by the Flyers and four goal-line stands by Belleville ended the Flyers’ win streak and gave Belleville the 7-0 win.
31. Kentucky - DuPont Manual, 8-1-1
The Crimson had a strong season, defeating teams from four different states and tying longtime rival Male, 7-7, on Thanksgiving Day. DuPont Manual defeated Alabama mythical state champion Gadsden 26-6, handing the Alabama team its only loss of the season. The Crimson also beat a traditionally strong Scott team from Toledo, 33-0. Other wins include: Middleboro, 39-13; Southport (Indiana), 40-0; Paducah, 19-12; Kentucky Military Institute 32-0; New Albany (Indiana), 32-7; and St. Xavier, 13-6. The loss was to Ashland, 13-6.
32. Alabama - Gadsden, 8-1
The mythical state champion in Alabama, Gadsden dominated instate and beat one team from Tennessee. Only loss was to mythical Kentucky state champion DuPont Manual. Scores include: Cherokee County, 39-0; DuPont Manual, 6-26; Etowah, 48-0; Central Chattanooga, 21-0; Bessemer, 14-6; Pell City, 51-6; Jackson County, 44-7; Anniston, 13-12; Emma Sansom, 21-18. Woodlawn had been the team to beat in Alabama, winning three straight mythical state championships; however, it went only 5-3 in 1944 including a loss to Miami (Fla.). Gadsden went undefeated in 1942 (7-0-2) and had posted several strong seasons dating back to 1937. Guard Hayes McKinney landed a spot on the All-Southern Team while running back Billy Jordan joined McKinney on the all-state first team.
33. Nevada - Las Vegas, 8-0
Known as “The Dream Team”, the 1944 Wildcat squad is considered one of the best ever at Las Vegas High. In posting an 8-0 record, Las Vegas played teams in three states, did not allow a point all season and defeated Sparks 19-0 for the state championship. Las Vegas had a win over Kingman (Ariz.) and a 14-0 victory over San Bernardino. In league play, Las Vegas topped Needles 19-0 and 25-0, Lincoln County 48-0, Basic 37-0, and Boulder City 21-0. Bill “Wildcat” Morris was the team MVP, playing bothe linebacker and offensive guard.
34. New Jersey - Haddon Heights, 7-0-1
Haddon Heights finished as the Group 3 champion after tying unbeaten Haddonfield, 0-0, on Thanksgiving Day. According to New Jersey historian Chuck Langerman, not a single penalty was called in that game. Haddon Heights distinction, however, is that it did not allow a point all season. It remains the last New Jersey school to finish unscored upon in a full season. Scores included: Paulsboro, 14-0; Palmyra, 26-0; Merchantville, 33-0; Woodbury, 7-0; Gloucester, 26-0; Audobono, 44-0; Regional, 40-0; Haddonfield, 0-0. Tony Cervino was the top scorer for Haddon Heights, earning All-South Jersey honors and finishing as the leading scorer in South Jersey.
35. North Carolina - Coon (Wilson, NC), 11-1
Coon (Wilson, N.C.) captured the North Carolina large school championship with a 26-0 win over Greensboro. Jack Gillette, an All-Southern running back, scored 156 points on the season to lead the team. Bennett Flowers, a tackle, also earned All-Southern honors. Coon’s only loss was to Virginia state champion Granby. Scores include: Kinston, 52-0; Maury (Norfolk, Va.), 6-0; Goldsboro, 45-0; Raleigh, 14-6; Durham, 26-6; Granby 6-32; Fayetteville, 62-12; Wilmington, 44-0; Rocky Mount, 13-12; Oxford Orphanage, 27-7; Sanford, 53-0; and Greensboro, 26-0.
36. Virginia - George Washington Danville, 11-0
George Washington posted an 11-0 record the same time that Granby was going undefeated. The two teams had a pair of common opponents with similar scores. GW Danville beat Newport News 20-6 and Hampton 6-0 while Granby defeated the two teams 14-0 and 13-0 respectively. Newspaper accounts have GW Danville, Granby and Petersburg (which was 9-1 with a loss to VISAA member St. Christopher) all sharing the Virginia A state championship due to being undefeated in conference play. Other wins for GW Danville include: Reidsville, 18-13; EC Glass, 14-6; John Marshall Richmond, 31-0; Burlington (NC), 27-7; RJ Reynolds (NC), 20-0; EC Glass, 19-6; Andrew Lewis, 14-0; Lane, 39-7; and Hargrave Military School, 46-0. All-state players included End Charles Flora, Guard Lindy Wells and Back Numa Bradner.
37. Wisconsin - Wausau, 8-0
Wausau was in the midst of a dynastic run under coach Win Brockmeyer. After losing the last game of the 1939 season, Wausau did not lose again until the second game of the 1946 season. In between included an undefeated, untied, unscored upon season in 1942 and an 8-0 season in 1944. The 1944 teams gave up just seven points all season in outscoring teams 203-7. Scores included Wisconsin Rapids, 18-0; Antigo, 31-7; Marshfield, 36-; Eau Claire, 40-0; Stevens Point, 38-0; Rhineland, 13-0; Merrill, 6-0 and La Crosse Central, 21-0. Sammy Morrison was the top player for Wausau, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry.
38. Alabama - Central Phenix City, 9-0
The Red Devils defeated three teams from Georgia and averaged 35 points per game in posting the first undefeated, untied season in school history. Scores include: Baker (Ga.), 71-0; Valley, 38-0; Columbus (Ga.), 33-7; Starke University Academy, 31-7; Lanett, 34-7; Sidney Lanier, 21-7; Jordan (Ga.), 13-12; Alexander City, 44-15; Eufaula, 34-7. Running back Leroy Propst made the All-Southern Team.
39. Pennsylvania Inter-AC - Haverford, 9-0
Haverford won its seventh Inter-AC championship under coach Doc Wallace while posting the best record in school history. Wins include Episcopal, 14-0; Friends Central, 14-6; Germantown Academy, 6-0; Cheltenham, 14-6; HIll School, 32-0; Penn Charter, 45-9; Philadelphia Frankford 6-0; Philadelphia Northeast, 7-6; Swarthmore JV 48-0. Running Back Victor Mauk, tackle John Russell and end Robert McIlwain made the All-Inter-Academic Team. Russell made the All-Scholastics first team while Mauck made the second team.
40. South Carolina - Camden, 11-0
Behind the running of All-Southern running back Carol Cox, Camden captured the Class A state championship. Scores include: Sumter, 25-14; Charleston, 20-6; Orangeburg, 33-6; Brookland-Cayce, Chester, 32-6; Lancaster, 33-6; Hartsville, 27-6; Harding (NC), 32-13; Florence, 35-14, Monroe (NC), 37-21, Glenn Military Academy (Ga.), 21-12. A game was scheduled with Mullins, which was the Class B champion with a 9-0 record and had outscored opponents 406-19, however the game was never played. Tackle Ted Marshall joined Cox on the All-Southern team.
41. Texas - Highland Park, 11-2-1
Led by future Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker, the Scots advanced to the state finals by avenging a loss to 1943 state champion San Angelo in the 1943 state semifinals. The 39-6 win put Highland Park into the finals where it lost to Port Arthur, 20-7. Highland Park was rated behind Port Arthur during the regular season, but was favored heading into the finals due to the win over No. 1 ranked San Angelo (11-2). Wins/losses include: Gainesville, 39-0; Masonic Home, 40-0; Waco, 12-21; Sherman, 25-0; Wichita Falls, 34-0; Marshall, 32-19; Denton, 20-7, Arlington, 38-0; McKinney, 73-0; Sulphur Springs, 31-0; Greenville, 0-0; Sunset (playoff), 20-0; San Angelo, 39-6.
42. Indiana - South Bend Washington, 9-0-1
After going 10-0 in 1943, South Bend Washington made a claim for a state championship in 1944 with a 9-0-1 mark. Clark (Hammond) tied Washington 13-13 in the season opener, but Washington defeated Clark in the conference championship game 19-7. Scores included: Clark (Hammond), 13-13; Central, 27-13; Mishawaka, 20-6; John Adams, 24-0; Riley, 33-13; LaPorte, 25-12; Whiting, 41-20; West Lafayette, 33-0; Clark (Hammond), 19-7. Ernie Zalejski was named the player of the year in the South Bend area after scoring 23 touchdowns on the season.
43. Texas - Lufkin, 11-2
Lufkin lost to Tyler 33-20 in the first game of the season, but won 11 in a row before falling to eventual champion Port Arthur in the state semifinals. Wins included: Byrd, 33-0; Milby, 53-0; Port Arthur, 20-6; Lamar, 20-15; St. Thomas, 41-6; Huntsville, 32-6; Nacogdoches, 65-0; Livingston, 33-0; Henderson, 55-0; Marshall, 19-13; Waco, 33-6, Port Arthur, 19-27. Lufkin was ranked No. 2 most of the season before falling to Port Arthur.
44. Texas - San Angelo, 11-2
The 1943 state champions, San Angelo was rated No. 1 in the state most of the season before falling to Highland Park in the semifinals, 39-6. Scores included: Ballinger, 34-0; Lubbock, 0-7; Dennison, 27-0; Amarillo, 13-7; Lamesa, 83-0; Odessa, 47-0; Midland, 49-6; Big Spring, 53-0; Abilene, 46-0; Sweetwater, 41-0; Austin (El Paso), 43-0; Amarillo, 20-13.
45. Colorado - Pueblo Central, 11-1-1
Pueblo Central overcame an early season loss to win the state championship over a powerful Fort Collins team, which had scored over 400 points in 10 games. Pueblo Central scores include: North Denver, 6-19; Manzanola, 45-6; Englewood, 20-0; Salida, 26-6; Trindad, 12-12; Centennial, 40-0; Florence, 33-0; Colorado Springs, 14-7; Canon City, 60-13; Walsenburg, 55-0; Gunnison, 39-6; Los Animas, 33-0, and Fort Collins, 12-7.
46. Louisiana - Holy Cross, 8-1-3
Holy Cross won the New Orleans city championship with a 46-0 win over previously unbeaten Nicholls, just two weeks after tying Nicholls 0-0. Holy Cross also defeated Mississippi mythical state champion McComb, 28-2, in the Toy Bowl. The only loss for Holy Cross came against mythical state champion Baton Rouge. Scores include: Notre Dame, 81-6; Istrouma, 13-13; Bogalusa, 18-18; Peters, 39-6; Fortier, 73-0; Warren Easton, 39-0; St. Aloysius, 46-13; Jesuit, 21-6; Nicholls, 0-0; Baton Rouge, 19-26; McComb, 28-2; Nicholls, 46-0. Al Brinker and Rudy Daly both earned All-Southern honors for Holy Cross.
47. Mississippi - McComb, 10-2
McComb lost its first and last games of the season to a pair of Louisiana powerhouses. McComb opened the season with a 19-9 loss to eventual Louisiana state champion Baton Rouge and lost in the Toy Bowl in New Orleans to Holy Cross, 28-2. In between, McComb won 10 straight to claim the Big 8 conference and the Mississippi state championship. Among the wins was a 19-12 victory over Bogalusa, a team that tied both Baton Rouge and Holy Cross. Other wins include: Wesson, 74-0; Laurel, 38-0; Hattiesburg, 62-0; Greenwood, 45-20; Brookhaven, 21-0; Meridian, 26-6; Clarksdale, 20-13; Greenville, 39-14; Brookhaven, 33-0.
48. Oklahoma - Classen, 9-1-1
Classen claimed the Oklahoma state championship despite a loss and a tie during the season. Classen knocked off Tulsa, 26-6, in a playoff to determine the state champion. Scores include: Lawton, 37-6; Capitol Hill, 13-0; Northeast, 41-0; Central, 6-6; Tulsa, 46-0, Enid, 12-6; Hentretta, 39-13; Shawnee 7-13; Ardmore 18-0; Altus 13-6; Tulsa, 26-6. End Jim Owens, and guard Charles Shaw earned all-state honors for Classen.
49. Michigan - Muskegon, 8-0
Muskegon finished one game behind Saginaw at 8-0, but still laid claim to the state championship in Michigan. Behind the play of all-state running back Nick Yonker, Big Red won games by the following scores: Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 13-0; Flint Central, 9-6; Grand Haven, 13-7; Benton Harbor, 6-0; South Bend Holland, 39-0; Jackson, 19-0; Kalamazoo, 25-0; Muskegon Heights, 12-0.
50. Maryland - Loyola Blakefield, 8-0-2
Loyola Blakefield was the top team in Maryland after finishing undefeated. Led by all-Maryland Scholastic Association selection James Geri at running back, Loyola tied Pennsylvania powerhouse 18-18 and previously undefeated Gilman, 6-6. The A Conference championship was the second in a row for Loyola. Scores included: St. Joseph’s Prep, 18-18; Delone Catholic (Pa.), 25-0; McDonogh, 26-21; Georgetown Prep, 25-0; Polytechnic, 19-18; Gilman, 6-6; Patterson Park, 27-6; Mount St. Joseph, 14-12; St. Paul’s, 19-0; Calvert Hall, 14-7.
Connecticut - Bulkeley, 9-0
After finishing undefeated to win the 1941 Waskowitz Trophy (awarded to the state’s mythical champion), Bulkeley made another run at the Cup in 1944. It opened with a 24-6 win over the 1943 Waskowitz Trophy winner Hillhouse and then beat Stonington, 14-0; Amherst, 34-6; Hartford, 12-6; New Britain, 18-6; Windham, 51-0; Fitch, 38-0; and Chapman Tech, 7-6. That set up the rivalry game against Norwich Academy, which Bulkeley won easily, 52-12.
Iowa - Clinton, 8-0
Clinton posted its first undefeated season in 10 years and claimed the mythical state championship. Scores include: Iowa City, 26-0; Kewanee (Ill.), 19-7; Franklin (Cedar Rapids), 20-6; St. Ambrose, 40-7; Roosevelt (Cedar Rapids), 26-0; Davenport, 25-6; Wilson (Cedar Rapids), 33-0; Dubuque, 21-6. Dean Burridge made first team all-state while Theodore Stoik was second team.
New York - Erasmus, 7-1
After winning just one game in 1943, Erasmus captured the P.S.A.L. championship with a 19-0 win over Abraham Lincoln in the title game. Lincoln had defeated Erasmus 7-6 early in the season for Erasmus’s only loss. Scores included: Tilden, 19-0; Brooklyn Tech, 20-6; James Madison, 18-0; Lafayette, 33-7; Lincoln, 6-7; Manual Training, 24-7; Boys, 14-6; Lincoln, 19-0. All-City players included tackle Sam Heyman and running backs Gene Rossides and Charley Nelson.
New York - Brooklyn Prep, 6-1-1
Power Memorial, 19-6; Cardinal Hayes, 39-0; Fordham, 19-7; Mt. St. Michael, 13-13; St. Xavier, 27-6; St. Cecilia, 13-20; Poly Prep, 46-0; St. John’s, 24-0; All-City players included running back Joe Paterno, center Joe Hurley and end Frank Mahoney.
Oregon - Medford, 10-0
The second undefeated season in school history, the Black Tornado outscored opponents 293-52 under first-year coach Al Simpson. Scores include: Weed, 42-6; Marshfield, 33-0; Eureka, 28-6; Klamath Union, 21-0; Grants Pass, 41-0; Bend, 34-13; Ashland, 42-13; Coquille, 32-14; Gresham, 6-0; LaGrande, 14-0.
South Dakota - Washington 8-0
The Warriors had already won 18 state championships in their state history prior to finishing the 1944 season undefeated. The Warriors gave up just 32 points and played only one game within a touchdown. Wins include: Madison, 38-0; Brookings, 12-6; Worthington, 45-6; Sioux City East, 19-7; Aberdeen, 21-7; Sioux City Central, 26-6; Mitchell 20-0; and Watertown, 26-0.
Since 1944 was before the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling requiring all schools to integrate, there were a number of black high schools that excelled in 1944. Unfortunately their complete records are lost to time due to poor coverage in newspapers during that era. However some schools that likely should be included on this list include: Knoxville Austin (Tenn.), which went undefeated and beat Lexington Dunbar (Ky.) for claim to the Southern championship. Bedford County Training (Shelbyville), which challenged Austin to a game (no mention if it was ever played) for state championship honors in Tennessee after finishing the season undefeated and unscored upon. Houston Wheatley (Texas), which defeated Terrell 7-6 for the Prairie View Interscholastic League championship in Texas. Euclid Avenue, an Orlando area school that finished the season undefeated.
Any others? Please let us know of any other schools that should have been considered among the greatest high school football teams from 1944.
Kevin Askeland, email@example.com