The first 25 years: 1923 -1948
Finding a history of the first 25 years of Clinton High School football is … well, complicated.
There are sources for the information, but it’s 75 to 100 years old and it’s scattered, and just when you think you’ve found a lead to something, the lead goes nowhere.
“It’s in here,” Joey Smith, Clinton Realtor, Clinton historian, CHS alumnus, and Dragon For Life, said while scrolling through microfilm at the Clinton Public Library. “You need a lot of time, a lot of time, to track it down.”
Smith was tracking down the histories of buildings in Clinton when I ran into him and started grilling him on his knowledge of those early teams.
News and coverage of the first CHS teams, the Tornadoes, was sporadic.
It’s not until about 1928 that “The Dragons” became the team name. “About the same time the new school was built (where Clinton Middle School is now),” Smith said. “That’s also the first yearbook in the Clinton High School library.”
Smith has spent his fair share of time researching the history of the Clinton High School football team.
In the Pellissippi Genealogical and Historical Society’s “Tennessee 200 Bicentennial History of Anderson County,” there are two team photos of the “Clinton High School football team.” One is from 1927 and shows 18 players, a coach, and a manager.
No names are listed.
The other is from a later team and features 22 players, with names.
Searching through the bound books at The Courier News there are stories starting at about 1938. One article laments the homecoming loss on Oct. 27, 1938 and talks of the play of Big Tom Butler and Little Ed Diggs. It was written by Billy D. Hicks.
In 1939, the play of Carroll Reece Miller was highlighted in an article in The Clinton Courier. Miller was touted for a hit he made vs. Chilhowee Institute, a 19-0 win.
“Miller hit him with such force it shook the Clinch River Bridge,” it said. The hit was recorded for posterity with words in the Sept. 28, 1939, edition.
But it wasn’t until 1946 the Clinton High School Dragons started a winning reputation.
Johnny Martin was the coach in 1946 and it was the first year Clinton High School played a 10-game schedule.
The 1946 team was led by Jiggs Seivers (team captain) and Bill Driskell (alternate captain) and stalwarts Earl Wilson and Leon L. Miller.
The 1946 team was unscored on for eight games before Tennessee School for the Deaf put up 13 points in a Clinton 26-13 win.
The following week, Erwin ended the Dragons’ perfect season.
Another great source when looking at the history of Clinton High School football is Dan McWilliams.
McWilliams, a former sport editor with The Courier News who still keeps weekly stats of the CHS games and contributes to the newspaper, has season-by-season records of CHS.
In 1923 the Clinton Tornadoes went 6-2; 1924 they were 5-2-2 (yes, there used to be ties); 1925 CHS was 3-2-1; etc.
In 1929 there was no CHS team, nor was there a team in 1930 — or at least no record of a team in 1930.
In 1931 the Dragons were 0-2 with losses to Oliver Springs and Knox County Industrial.
In 1932 the Dragons were a perfect 7-0, but also added a win against an alumni team.
“Clinton beat its alumni team 6-0 between the Oneida and Powell games, but I don’t think this should coun,” McWilliams said. “Are other teams counting alumni games? All eight of these 1932 games (counting the alumni game) were played at home, according to my notes.”
The Dragons beat Oneida 13-0, then following an alumni game, beat Powell 13-0.
There was no team in 1934, nor 1942.
Before a bowl loss in the mid-1940s, Clinton Civitans held a party for the Dragons.
“Clinton Dragons to be feted by Civitans,” read the headline in the Nov. 21, 1946, Clinton Courier.
The Dragons, “who completed one of the finest seasons for any football team in the history of the school,” were to be honored.
It was the start of an Orange and Black winning reputation.
In 1948, with George Margraves at quarterback, the Dragons went 9-3.
It was, apparently, an odd year to be a Dragon. After going 8-1, the Dragons suffered injuries to stars Herman Edwards and Erwin Brock in a 6-0 beating of the LaFollette Owls.
The Dragons committed to play in the Lion Bowl in Athens following that game, but then dropped a 6-0 game to Lenoir City, followed by a 14-6 loss to Everett, and Coach Johnny Martin withdrew the Dragons from the Lions Bowl.
Afraid his squad would not give a good showing due to injuries and lack of interest (“only 27 tickets sold in Clinton,” The Clinton Courier reported), the Dragons were relieved of their contractual obligations.
But they wound up playing. The nuts and bolts about what happened are as clear as mud, but the Dragons beat Jefferson City 12-0 to finish the season at 9-3.
The first 15 years of Clinton High School football produced a 92-53-9 record.
Nominate a former CHS player for the All-Century Team via e-mail to email@example.com.