Winning and more


The second quarter-century of Clinton’s 100 years of football included two of the most fertile periods in Dragon gridiron history.

The 1960 team shut out its first seven opponents by a 205-0 margin and ended up with eight shutouts and a 10-0 start before losing in a bowl game

The 1961 Dragons’ only blemish was a tie game en route to a 10-0-1 record and a bowl win. The ’62 Dragons posted four shutouts on their way to a 7-3 record.

After some lean years and several teams’ with around .500 records, the Dragons upgraded their schedule to face bigger schools and began a new decade with a 9-2 record in 1970 and 8-3 marks in 1971 and ’72. That also marked the dawn of the Larry Seivers era in Clinton,

Longtime Clinton attorney and former city judge Roger Ridenour well recalls the 1960 Dragons as he was a senior on that squad.

“I remember that football was so much different then, in that there didn’t seem to be as much pressure on the players as now,” he said. “There didn’t seem to be as much pressure from the parents then. The crowds were always big because there wasn’t as much to do then.”

The 1960 Dragons opened the season with a 27-0 win at Wartburg, an 18-0 home win over Oliver Springs, a 27-0 victory at Powell, a 44-0 home shutout of Harriman, a 32-0 win at Jellico, a 38-0 win at Jacksboro, and a 19-0 win at Sevier County.

“When you go unscored upon as much as we did, the crowds were always big at football games,” Ridenour said. “High school athletics, that was all we had—football, basketball and baseball. Today, kids have all kinds of things to do.

“The longer we went unscored on, we were having a lot of scouts there, newspapers were there, television was there. It began to grow where we weren’t worried about winning. We were worried about being scored on.”

Karns finally tallied a touchdown against the Dragons, although Clinton won the game 12-6 to improve to 8-0.

“I was playing defensive end,” Ridenour said. “The play went right around me. They knocked me sideways. He didn’t score. I was right on the goal line, but they called it a score.”

Coach Jody Fisher’s Dragons went on to outscore Lake City 19-0 and LaFollette 27-7 in a pair of home games before losing to Crossville 26-0 in the Jaycee Bowl at Rockwood.

“We always had good team in Clinton. Coach Fisher won the Bob Neyland Conference. Clinton would always win that,” Ridenour said. “I don’t think we ever had a team go unscored on as long as we did. Clinton was ranked 11th statewide out of all the schools in Tennessee—there were no divisions then. We were getting press from everywhere, scouts from everywhere.”

Ridenour bemoaned the bowl-game loss.

“We called it the Toilet Bowl because we didn’t want to go. We wanted to play Knoxville Central. Crossville kicked our butts,” he said.

The 1960 Dragons’ winning was one thing, but their classroom feats matched it.

“In spite of all that, I think our academic achievements were as impressive as our athletic achievements,” Ridenour said.

“Our left end, James Stuckey, graduated from Vanderbilt and flew fighter jets off aircraft carriers during Vietnam. Our left guard, Robert McGinley, became an orthopedic surgeon. Our center, Paul Setzer, got a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina and went there.”

Ridenour was the right end for the Dragons. He would open the Roger Ridenour law firm in Clinton and practice law for 42 years.

“I got a doctor of jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee and was Clinton city judge here,” he said. “Our quarterback was Dr. Mark Caldwell. He went to Duke on a football scholarship, then went to the University of Tennessee Dental School, and he practiced dentistry in Clinton for many, many years.

“The left halfback was Jimmy Ridenour, my first cousin. He became an anesthesiologist. He graduated from medical school. Our right halfback was Charles Price. He went to the Air Force Academy and got his bachelor’s from UCLA. He was with AT&T in the technical part, putting together new telephone systems and things of that nature. Charles had quite a bit of offers from different schools. I had offers from Wake Forest and Georgia and several other places.”

Ridenour is most proud of the academic achievements of the 1960 Dragons.

“I’ve just got to say that from a small high school like Clinton was, to have those academic accomplishment from that football team was very impressive to me,” he said. “That’s exactly what I’m most proud of, without hesitation.”

Dr. Caldwell still may hold a Dragon record.

“If I’m not mistaken, Mark Caldwell still has the record at Clinton for most touchdown passes in one season. It was in the 20s,” Ridenour said.

Ridenour, 79, said 1960 “was a season that very few people ever experienced. It was a great bunch of guys that played on that team. They were not only good athletes, they were a bunch of good guys, good friends, good people. We worked hard and had a season that I’ll never forget.”

Ridenour said “the most natural and best athlete on our team was Billy Minton. He was one of those guys, God just gives certain guys more than what anyone should expect, and Billy was one of them. He was a natural. Billy went into the Navy. The Vietnam war, everybody was getting drafted then. Some of the linemen had to go serve, too. At that time, if you didn’t go to college, you went to basic training.”

Coach Jody Fisher was “Coach Fisher to us,” Ridenour said. “Coach Fisher was the type of man that everyone would want to have as their football coach or their father. He just was someone that I’ll never, ever forget. He just was special to all of us.”

Fisher was not the only special instructor for the 1960 Dragons.

“I will say this, the team would not have been what it was without the line coach, Jerry Daniel,” Ridenour said. “Jerry went from Clinton to Tennessee Tech, and I think he was a Little All American there, and then signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Fisher could draw up some great plays because he played single wing at center for the University of Tennessee. Jerry made you mean. We ran a T formation, but he ran it just like a single wing. He had everybody blocking. He would always have four blockers going in front of the ball carrier. 24 Right was the name of the play.”

The 1961 Dragons opened the season with a 39-12 win over visiting Wartburg, a 6-0 victory at Oliver Springs, a 20-6 win at home over Powell a 33-0 win at Harriman, a 33-7 home win over Jellico, and a 40-0 home victory over Jacksboro before tying Sevier County 6-6. The team finished with three road wins, 33-0 at Karns, 20-12 at LaFollette, and 43-0 at Lake City. The Dragons capped the unbeaten year with a 20-7 win over Kingston in the Shrine Bowl at Harriman.

The 1962 Dragons won 6-0 at Wartburg and 19-0 at home over Oliver Springs before losing at Powell 12-0. They defeated Harriman 19-13 at home and Lenoir City 7-0 on the road. Kingston defeated Clinton 27-0, and Sevier County bested the Dragons 26-6 before Clinton finished with three straight home wins: 19-6 over Karns, 21-7 over LaFollette, and 12-0 over Lake City.

The 1970 Dragons opened with home wins over Cumberland County, 34-0, and Morristown West, 22-14. Clinton improved to 6-0 with wins at McMinn County 20-6, at Bearden 21-0, at home over Morristown East 21-20, and at Fulton 32-6. The Dragons lost to Knoxville Central 24-6, then won over visiting Oak Ridge 18-14 in the resumption of that rivalry after a long layoff. Clinton lost 13-7 at Everett, then posted the biggest win in school history, 69-0 over visiting Erwin.

The 1970 Dragons ended the season with a 48-12 win over Halls in the Jaycee Bowl at Clinton.

The 1971 Dragons won at Cumberland County 51-6 and at Morristown West 46-6. A home shutout of McMinn County, 23-0, was followed by a 24-7 home loss to Bearden. The Dragons won 28-6 at Morristown East and 21-7 over visiting Fulton. Clinton lost 26-20 at home to Central and 24-13 at Oak Ridge before finishing the season with three wins: 46-14 over visiting Everett, 22-6 at Erwin, and 28-7 over Hampton in the Clinton Jaycee Bowl.

The 1972 Dragons won their first two games at home over Cumberland County (28-6) and Morristown East (20-0). Two road losses followed, at McMinn County (20-12) and Bearden (32-8). The Dragons then reeled off four wins, over visiting Morristown West (8-6), at Fulton (7-0), over visiting Hixson (10-0), and over visiting Oak Ridge (9-0). Central defeated the Dragons 48-6 in Knoxville before Clinton won 12-7 at Everett and 24-0 over Knoxville West in the Clinton Jaycee Bowl.

The 1960 Dragons continue to be a pleasant memory for Ridenour.

“When I think about those years, it just brings a smile to my face. That was a special season that few people dream of,” he said. “Few people think you’ll go unscored on and score 260 points to your opponents’ 13.”

The 1960 Dragons and their classmates were the first to attend high school in Clinton after the 1958 bombing of the school.

“That was our first year back at Clinton High School. We had been going to Linden Elementary in Oak Ridge my freshman, sophomore, and junior season,” Ridenour said. “It was a meaningful season our first year back at our school. You can see why the crowds were there. They were lined up all around the field. It was kind of bringing the community back together again.”