"Now, Coach, you don't have to politic us, we're not on your schedule. What about that Blair boy from last year?"
"Tommy Blair, your high-scoring all-state halfback!"
"Oh, that Blair."
"Our records show he made all-state and was the second leading scorer in Arkansas and we hear he runs a hundred in under 10 seconds."
"Yep, he can run pretty fair. But he just weighs a hundred and sixty pounds. He'd get killed up there."
I was always a little disappointed and just a little irritated at my dad for being so unenthusiastic about local prospects. But, looking back, I realize that, more often than not, he was right. He had been coaching since 1934 and had learned his football during the late '20s. He coached what they called schoolhouse football. Schoolhouse ball was small-town football. Playground ball in pads. Farm kids practiced only one school period a day and then rode the bus home to do chores. They had perhaps 10 or so plays. Players went both ways, offense and defense, and they wore high-top shoes (Tommy Blair wore high-top shoes in '58 and ran wild). And the defense had no idea what the opponent was going to run on Friday night because scouts were unheard of. Films? Only at the movie house on Saturday night. Defense was therefore simple. "Now, Tankersley, you line up about right here, son, and whatever you do, don't let anybody run by here carryin' a football, you hear?"
"Yes, sir, Coach."
And Tankersley didn't.
Simple though it was, it was also a highly entertaining brand of football. Reverses were frequent, as were fake reverses, cross-field laterals (pronounced ladruls) on the kickoff and my dad's classic "Line Play." On this one, the team would break out of the huddle single file, but instead of lining up on each side of the ball, every player except the center would trot off toward the sideline and go into his three-point stance. Then, depending on the reaction of the confused defense, the center would turn slightly and snap the ball to a distant member of the backfield who would head toward the least defended area of the field. The center, who in some formations could double as a pass receiver, had to be smart and was usually a player who had made it as high as the Bluebird reading group.