SI Vault
James Poling
November 22, 1954
The children's home run by the Loyal Order of Moose fields a pint-sized football team that has licked big foes for years
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 22, 1954

The Mighty Orphans

The children's home run by the Loyal Order of Moose fields a pint-sized football team that has licked big foes for years

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

Coming up to their Homecoming game, October 9th, the Ramblers had lost two out of three. Their opponent for the big game was Schlarman High School of Danville, Ill. According to the scouting reports, Schlarman could move both on the ground and in the air and outweighed the Ramblers 19 pounds per man in the line and 15 a man in the backfield.

Johnny is used to being under pressure?the Loyal Order of Moose is not unaware of the publicity and promotional value of a winning team?but each year, because of his deep emotional involvement in Mooseheart, he builds up a personal, nerve-racking head of steam of his own just before the Homecoming game. It's the one game he feels he has to win.

Johnny knew he didn't have a chance unless he could get the team "up." At Thursday evening's practice session he suddenly exploded in anger and, after a brilliant display of verbal pyrotechnics, stalked off the field, shouting, "O.K., you guys know it all. You don't need me. I'm through. Figure it out for yourselves."


He didn't explode until 5:25, just five minutes before practice was scheduled to end. Close students of the Williams system say the blast generally doesn't occur before 5:27. They are also struck by the fact that Johnny never raises his voice more than once or twice a year, and then only in the months of October and November. His moments of wrath, too, seem to coincide with critical games on his schedule.

The little coach was back on Friday, but he didn't have much to say and let his assistant coaches handle the workout. On Saturday, the silence in the dressing room was almost oppressive. Not a word was spoken by anyone?players, coaches or managers?until the last shoelace was tied. Then Johnny, after briefly outlining the day's strategy, spoke quietly of the numbers some of the players were wearing and of the grads in the stands who had previously worn them. Finally, he read a telegram which said: GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND THE RED RAMBLERS, JOHNNY. ALL SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOOSEHEART GRADS HAVE GATHERED FOR A HOMECOMING PARTY AT GLENDALE. PLEASE WIRE RESULTS OF GAME IMMEDIATELY.

Then he said, "Well, it's that time now. How about it, you ready?" For the first time since they had entered the dressing room the players broke silence, shouting in unison. Johnny grinned, 'You're a good bunch?if you'll only remember brains make the difference between chumps and champs."


The final score was Mooseheart 21, Schlarman 7. Donnie Long, a 170-pound half, intercepted a lateral and went 65 yards for a touchdown. In the second period, his brother, Quarterback Ronnie Long, catching Schlarman in a 5-4-2 defensive pattern, went into a single wing, sent three men down on Schlarman's deep two and passed for 26. Before Schlarman could analyze the pass the Ramblers were lined up again. Same signal. Same play?and this time Long passed 26 yards for a touchdown to Art Cohrs, a 140-pound half wearing the same number that four of his brothers had previously worn.

Later, Ken Wuchte, a 130-pound guard and a member of the largest family of orphans ever to arrive at Mooseheart, 11 strong, broke through and so rushed Schlarman's kicker behind his own goal line that the kick only carried out to the Schlarman ten. At which point Johnny muttered, reverently, "The layin' on of the hands?that makes linemen, not pounds."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4