File photo / R. MARSH STARKS / LAS VEGAS SUN
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 8:19 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
The achievements of this high school football team seem almost unreal.
The Las Vegas High 1944 state championship squad surrendered no points — not a touchdown, field goal or safety — and didn’t allow an opponent to record consecutive first downs, going undefeated in eight games. Offensively, they never threw a forward pass — a rarity, even then.
The team is still being honored for its dominance.
The players were announced Tuesday as the newest members of the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame, joining St. Louis Rams running back and former Eldorado High star Steven Jackson, Las Vegas 51s Executive Director Don Logan, Olympic gymnastics medalist Tasha Schwikert and Christina M. Hixson, the sole trustee of the Lied Foundation, as the five inductees for the class of 2011. An induction ceremony is planned for June 10 at the Orleans Arena.
“A lot of folks have been lobbying for this team (to get selected) for years and years,” said Steve Stallworth, a member of the hall’s board and its former chairman. “I’m a little embarrassed it took so long to honor these guys.”
Coach Harvey Stanford had high standards for his squad, making them sign a code of ethics that enforced a curfew and prohibited smoking, drinking and eating candy.
Of the 34 players on the roster, 10 became attorneys, while others found work as high-ranking officers in the military and in dentistry, engineering and medicine.
“This group was one of the most impressive teams in Las Vegas on and off the field,” Stallworth said. “They certainly embody the mission that we talk about in being leaders and (being) great examples for our youth on and off the field.”
The team was undersized at almost every position but overcame its lack of size partially because of the special bond the players had. Several had been teammates in multiple sports since childhood.
Bill “Wildcat” Morris, who was instrumental in building Thomas & Mack Center and was one of UNLV’s top boosters, played linebacker and center, weighing just 166 pounds. Other leaders of the team included Rheen Call, Tom Bell and captain John Mendoza.
Hall board members, who used old yearbooks and newspaper clippings to verify the team’s feats, are working to contact all living members for the induction ceremony.
The other honorees include:
• St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson: Jackson rushed for 6,396 yards and 81 touchdowns during his high school career at Eldorado, leading the Sundevils to the Sunrise Regional crown in 2000 and a state runner-up finish. He went on to spend three years at Oregon State, rushing for 3.625 yards and 39 touchdowns in 36 games, while adding six rushing touchdowns and seven on returns. His 4,545 all-purpose yards are second-best in Oregon State history. He capped his career with a five-touchdown performance in the Las Vegas Bowl, then announced he was turning professional in the media interview room at Sam Boyd Stadium. He’s been in the NFL seven season with the St. Louis Rams, being named to three Pro Bowl teams and becoming the Rams’ all-time leading rusher last year.
• Las Vegas 51s Executive Director Don Logan: Arguably the most important baseball figure in Southern Nevada, Logan began his career with the Las Vegas Triple-A baseball franchise in 1984 as an account executive. He was promoted to the team’s general manager in 1991, then President in 2000. The franchise is the longest tenured and most successful professional team in Southern Nevada, with Logan devoting more than 25 years of his life to help the franchise flourish. Additionally, he’s credited with bringing Big League Weekend to the valley, when major league teams come to town for a series of exhibition games. “It is not just me,” a humble Logan said. “I’m just the guy that decides where we are going to go to dinner and what golf course we are playing.” Logan’s popularity in Las Vegas is partially attributed to his work outside the game. He’s active in several community projects, serving on the Muscular Dystrophy Association Board of Directors, ALS Advisory Board, Boys & Girls Club Advisory Board and the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas executive committee.
• Olympic medalist Tasha Schwikert: A Las Vegas native, Schwikert is one of the most accomplished American gymnasts of this generation. She was a member of the 2000 Olympic squad that ultimately was awarded the bronze medal (in 2010, the International Olympic Committee stripped China of the bronze for using an ineligible player and awarded it to the Americans). Additionally, she was the captain of the 2003 World Championship gold medal team, a performance that landed the squad in the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She also competed four years at UCLA, winning two individual all-around NCAA titles. Schwikert plans to attend law school in the fall.
• Lied Foundation trustee Christina M. Hixson: Hixon is the sole trustee to the Lied Foundation Trust, which has provided funding for numerous athletic programs and academic buildings at UNLV.