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THIS DAY IN HISTORY


El Paso High School
Class Of 1964

Welcome to the El Paso High Class Of 1964 web site. "El Paso High will shine no more without the class of '64"

ANNOUNCEMENTS

To upload your reunion photos, click the Reunion Photos link and follow the instructions.

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Plan to attend the EPHS Centennial Celebration

& 70th Birthday Party of the Class of 1964

Weekend of September 16-18th, 2016

**See 100 Year Celebration Link on the Left

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EPHS at Morehead School

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Elena and her tile at the Centennial Wall at EPHS

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20th Reunion Football Game-Austin vs. EPHS-July 1984

 

Trophy Case at EPHS

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1984: 20-year issue settled

07/15/1984

By Ruben Villegas
Times staff writer

After 20 years, the El Paso High and Austin classes of 1964 bridged a historic rivalry gap, when the El Paso Tigers won the 1963 battle for the claws 36-28 at El Paso High.

Saturday’s football game was a make-up of the original 1963 contest that was canceled after the assassination of President John Kennedy.

The 20th-year reunion flag football game lived up to its billing as an exciting rivalry, complete with posters, cheerleaders, pep band and of course, a tied football game with 6:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The 28-all deadlock threw the more than 2,400 Jones Stadium fans into a frenzy while players on the sidelines asked each other the obvious. “What happens if we tie?”

The teams remained scoreless past the two-minute mark, when only eight plays remained, regardless of the clock and the rules laid out before the contest.

On the fourth play – also the fourth down just 10 yards short of the goal line – El Paso quarterback Eddie Ortegon fired a quick aerial to wide receiver Eddie Fisher for six points. On the two-point conversion, Ortegon again passed to Fisher to secure the final 36-28 score.

Austin had four plays left but one pass was dropped, another pass earned 2 yards, and a receiver fell after catching a lateral. On the final play, an Austin pass fell incomplete.

“We needed a bomb on that last play,” Austin ex quarterback Tony Harper said, “but the old arm won’t go that far.”

The players ages - most were in their late 30s – proved to be a factor of sorts.

For instance:

-Before the game Austin Coach Jerry Wilson told his players to stretch out to avoid hamstring injuries. However, as the team exited from its lower floor locker room someone yelled, “And don’t get hurt climbing those steps.”

-An observer who read the “64/84” poster embedded on a 14-foot wooden “A” frame remarked that one couldn’t be sure if the numbers referred to the class or the differences in belt sizes.

-El Paso ex George Look said his team “got real tired at the end of the first half but a lot of it had to do with the excitement. We went to the locker rooms at halftime and did a lot of stretching.”

Look set the pace on the first play of the game when he intercepted Harper’s aerial and barged in for the touchdown. With the two-point conversion El Paso owned an 8-0 lead.

Austin marched back in nine plays, Bob Arnold connecting with Harper for a touchdown. The two-point conversion run failed and the first quarter ended with El Paso on top 8-6.

Defenses kept the two teams busy in the second quarter until the two-minute mark, when each team received eight final plays.

On El Paso’s sixth play Ortegon fired a pass but it was deflected before Look snatched the football for a score. The two-point conversion failed.

Austin regrouped, and on it’s second play Harper connected with Keith Alexander for six points. The two-point conversion was good and the teams were tied at 14.

El Paso had two plays left and needed but one to score on a bomb from Ortegon to Fisher.

The conversion was good and El Paso led 22-14 at the half.

Austin then took only four plays to score when Harper connected with Robert Reyes. The conversion pass failed.

El Paso failed to retain possession and Austin needed only three plays before Harper connected with Richard Melendez for another touchdown. The two-point pass failed and the score was tied at 28.

“We were getting a little tired and we ran out of gas in the third quarter.” El Paso Coach Jackie Meeks said. “Plus they had some god players, too.”

After the game, the players and fans gathered at midfield for handshakes. A little girl, wandering aimlessly, looked up at the grown men and asked no one in particular. “Who won?”

Ask the Tigers.

 

Austin vs. El Paso High: Storied football rivalry takes field for 80th time

by Evan Mohl / El Paso Times

Posted: 09/23/2011 04:12:39 PM MDT

Pat Wieland knows and accepts the numbers. The former Tiger linebacker understands that when the Austin and El Paso high school football teams meet tonight, the record books will indicate the 80th anniversary of a bitter rivalry.

Wieland, 65 years old and semi-retired from the real estate business, also realizes that statistics, figures or any other kind of quantitative data can never encapsulate the annual Battle of the Claw.

The game never happened in 1963 because of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. But Wieland and his fellow '64 classmates at both El Paso and Austin found a way to play it - even if it was 20 years late and will never show up in the record book.

The Battle of the Claw means that much, as the make-up game still resonates in Wieland's sharp memory.

Historic cancellation

The sounds and sights of Nov. 22, 1963, remain vivid in Wieland's and his teammates' memories.

The day started like all previous Battles of the Claw with the simultaneous pep rallies. El Paso High students and staff packed their auditorium, while a few miles up the road and around the base of the Franklin Mountains, the student body

at Austin High assembled in its gym.

At around 11 a.m., the cheering started, broadcast live on KTSM radio for all of El Paso to hear. Each side received three allotted time slots for a deafening battle of cheers that would go back-and-forth for a half-hour.

"We are the Panthers, couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!," roared the Panther faithful.

El Paso answered emphatically.

"We are the Tigers, couldn't be prouder, if you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!," replied the Tiger crowd.

The adrenaline flowed that Friday morning, the atmosphere electric for the 33rd meeting between the two teams.

But the game never happened.

A few hours after the pep rally news quickly spread throughout the school that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

"Someone in the hallway came up running to me and told me the president was shot," El Paso linebacker George Look said. "I thought he was talking about the Austin school president. I didn't think in a million years the president of the United States."

Coaches then delivered a second shocker to the players: The Battle of the Claw was canceled.

It would not be rescheduled.

 

About the rivalry

As players dealt with Kennedy's assassination, they also tried to come to terms with the canceled football game. Both depressed students. But it was the game, the highlight of the fall for the Class of 1964, that stung.

"Not to take anything away from the president's assassination," Wieland said, "but we were devastated about the game."

The rivalry, which began in 1930, matched two schools separated by 3.9 miles.

Austin player Stafford Werner and Wieland lived across the street from each other.

Austin and El Paso, particularly in the early years, were also the city's powerhouse teams. Their contest usually determined which team from El Paso would advance to the state playoffs.

Everything was on the line - from bragging rights to the season. The game and days leading up to it came to envelop the magnitude, including the broadcast.

Werner remembers an "E" burned into Austin's grass field. Another time, the Panther mascot was covered in black paint. The El Paso "E" on the Franklin Mountains went through a few disassembles as well.

In 1960, a trophy, called "The Claw" in honor of the mascots, was created for the winner of the game to claim for a whole year. "The Claw," now a replica because the original went missing in 2003, is on display as part of a Texas high school football exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

The trophy represents one of the five longest, continuous rivalries across the state.

Missed opportunity

Wieland calls the 1963 game a chance at redemption. The Tigers had lost seven straight years to the Panthers, including the 1962 heartbreaker, when the Tigers rallied from a 22-0 halftime deficit only to lose 28-22 in front of a record 15,000 fans at Kidd Field.

El Paso, for the first time in years, was the favorite. Austin suffered injuries and had fallen to 2-7. El Paso entered the game 7-1-1, just one game behind Bel Air for the district championship.

"We were ready to end all those years of misery," said Willie Sanchez, El Paso's quarterback. "I don't think there was any doubt we were going to win."

The cancellation left doubt. It also meant El Paso would not go to the playoffs. Bel Air was awarded the district title in nine games.

For most, that was the end of football. No college scholarship existed. No more Friday night lights. No more packed stadiums. No pep rallies.

And several of the players, who had spent years sweating and laboring on junior varsity squads, missed their one opportunity to play for "The Claw."

Redemption: 20 years later

The players, coaches, students and Wieland moved on, but he never quite forgot about the game. The what-ifs stuck like a thorn in his side.

Wieland attended Texas Western, soon to become UTEP, and eventually settled down in El Paso. One of his frat brothers and business partners was Werner.

One night in 1984 as the two dined and drank together, they began reminiscing. The details remain unclear, but Wieland, or so he says, threw out an absurd idea: What if, at the 20th reunion, the two schools ended all the doubt once and for all and played for The Claw.

Werner loved the idea. He went back to his reunion steering committee and pitched it.

A few weeks later, Wieland, who never thought the game would gain much traction, ran into Austin player James Luckett in Downtown. Luckett told Wieland the Panthers would win.

The game was on.

Back on the field

The idea began as a friendly pick-up flag football game between 38-year-olds. It quickly turned serious.

Both teams practiced well before the showdown - El Paso three times a week for two hours a couple of months before the game; and Austin a few weeks as well. They worked out and got back in shape.

They even got coaches -Jackie Meeks, the old Tigers backfields coach for El Paso, and Jerry Wilson for Austin, who helped design playbooks full of reverses, post routes, and hook and ladders. They even set up audibles at the line of scrimmage.

At one point, the Tigers closed practice for fear of spies.

"It got dead serious," Wieland said. "It was like we were 17."

The scene on game day, besides a few gray hairs and some bigger guts, looked like what 1963 was supposed to.

It had all the hoopla - and more - of an intense football game between two archrivals.

The teams played at El Paso's Jones Stadium - where the 1963 contest was supposed to be held - in front of 2,400 fans on a hot July day. Referees were hired and the scoreboard was set. Both teams had color-coordinated jerseys and hats.

Cheerleaders worked the sidelines in full 1963 uniform - pom-poms, sweater, skirts and homecoming mums. They rattled off cheers, jumped and kicked as if they had hopped into a time machine. School songs blared over speakers from the Miller Lite truck while some band members, who had rummaged old instruments, played along.

The Tigers ran out onto the field through a hand-drawn banner that read, "Pulverize the Panthers."

"It was just like we were playing for real," Sanchez said. "And we weren't playing for funsies."

In the first quarter alone, El Paso committed two personal fouls. Sanchez remembers watching players persist through injury and do things 38-year-old bodies weren't supposed to, as Eddie Fisher ran through a pulled hamstring muscle just to score a touchdown.

The Tigers led the majority of the game, but as so often happened in this rivalry, Austin rallied to tie the game at 28 late in the fourth.

El Paso answered. On fourth-and-12, Tiger quarterback Eddie Ortegon threw a strike to Fisher for a 36-28 victory that set off pandemonium.

The Tigers carried Meeks off the field, celebrating like teens.

"I've been a part of some national championships (college) and some World Series," said Sanchez, who later was a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.

"But I'd have to put that game, that rivalry right up there."

After the game, El Paso held an awards ceremony.

It was emotional.

When Ortegon, a former fullback, came up to receive his award for Most Valuable Player, he limped to the podium with eyes welling up.

The lost game had been found. The void no longer there, Wieland's what-ifs answered.

Players, after 20 years, finally whistled closure on what should have been one of their most treasured teenage memories.

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THE GAME

On November 22, 1963, El Paso High Class of ’64 was scheduled to play arch rival Austin High in one of the most anticipated high school football games of the season.  But on that morning, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and all sporting events were cancelled.  No make-up games were scheduled.

Twenty years later, El Paso grad Pat Wieland and Austin alum Stafford Werner came up with an idea to finally play “The Game.”  After the idea was conceived, each reunion committee embraced it wholeheartedly and “The Game” took on a life of its own. It was such a serious endeavor for the Tiger football players that they practiced 5 nights a week, with their original coach Jackie Meeks, and they actually closed those practice sessions, due to suspected spies!

For EPHS Class of ’64 grads this would be much more than a game. The “Claw”, which was awarded each season to the victor of the EPHS vs. Austin game, had eluded the EPHS football team for seven long years. There was no question that EPHS would finally win back The Claw on game day. The victory would provide a fitting end to the high school football careers of all seniors. But the opportunity to win that “Claw” was denied, as was the opportunity to close the book on their high school football careers. Until…..

“The Game” took place at El Paso High’s Jones Stadium on a hot July day in 1984, complete with original coaches, original cheerleaders and more than 5000 fans.  There was tremendous community & alumni support led in part by TV Channel 7’s General Manager Richard Pearson, an El Paso High alum and Outstanding Ex.  Sportscaster Kevin Lovell was sent to take all the footage he could, much of which has now been preserved on DVD. On game day, there was even a mention of “The Game” on the network’s nationally televised morning show.

Excitement filled the air on Game Day. The setting was complete with fans cheering as the players ran through a paper barrier while the EPHS fight song blared loudly from a Miller beer truck parked on the sidelines. The Tigers prevailed by 36-28, scoring the winning touchdown with about a minute to play. The EPHS football team had won the coveted “Claw” and could finally fill the void left by the cancellation of their final football game.

EPHS Class of ’64 was able to complete the last chapter and close the book on their unforgettable high school years. A victory delayed is no less sweet. GO TIGERS!

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EPHS Tile Project for 100 Year Anniversary Order Form...Link on Left Side

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Picture of actual finished tiles

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Hector "El Pipo" Barragan

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http://tinyurl.com/ljgsv27

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