They say a picture tells a thousand words.
This one certainly does. It looks like just another football game in just another small town newspaper, doesn’t it? But man is there so much more to this photo.
The newspaper is the Panola County Watchman, the paper of choice for the citizens of Carthage, TX. You might be familiar with the Carthage Bulldogs as one of the top football programs in the state of Texas. Carthage has won six state championships since 2008.
This December 1, 1985 edition of the Panola County Watchman reported a playoff loss for Carthage. The Bulldogs advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, but fell to the Austin Westlake Chaparrals at Kyle Field on Friday, November 29th. As a College Station kid, it’s a game I could have easily attended. But I did not. I’m still kicking myself.
In fact, I WAS at Kyle Field the day before. On Thursday, November 28th, the Aggies beat the Longhorns to earn their first trip to the Cotton Bowl since 1968. That Thursday game was a big one in my 15 years of life at the time, but the Friday game the next day would eventually loom larger.
See that #30 making the tackle? That’s my fraternity Pledge Captain. That’s Carthage Bulldog Chris Medlin. After the loss to Westlake, Medlin’s next football game would be in Kangaroo Crimson & Gold. He was a linebacker, a member of the redshirt defense. He was also a big influence on me and all of my pledge brothers in the year 1989. Well, ok, two guys were a big influence actually. Medlin, and our fraternity President Bill Didlake.
Bill Didlake was also a member of the Kangaroo redshirt defense during my time at AC, and was a pledge brother of Medlin. Before AC, Didlake was a safety for the Austin Westlake Chaparrals. His last high school win was the game in the Panola Watchman photo: a 17-0 victory over his future pledge brother and future Roo teammate at Kyle Field, where Austin College faced Texas A&M way back in 1909. See? I told you I’m still kicking myself for not making the short trip from my house to Kyle.
The success of Roo football during the late 1980s was due to many factors, including the recruiting efforts of Vance Morris in East Texas and West Louisiana. The number of Roos from Carthage specifically were impressive. Otis Amy was the most famous, but there were others. A Longview newspaper reported on the “Carthage Pipeline” to AC in 1988, mentioning Amy, Byron Roberts, Kenneth Tatum, Scott Brown, and Medlin. I know there were others like Carthage native Billy Kuykendall who came both before and since.
Amazing, you’re probably thinking. And that’s likely the end of the tale, right? I mean, the Carthage-Westlake game at Kyle is the only article on this Panola County Watchman front page, so that’s it. No additional Roo ties.
Nope. A picture tells a thousand words. There’s more.
The Panola County Watchman was purchased in 1951 by a man named U.O. “Clemo” Clements. After college, Clements decided to get into the newspaper business. He was originally from Dallas, but eventually made Carthage, TX his home. For decades, Clements presided over the sale, production, & distribution of his beloved Panola County Watchman newspaper. Year after year, the Watchman would report on Carthage football. Clements was retired but still in the business in 1985, when Medlin & Carthage fell to Didlake and Westlake.
U.O. “Clemo” Clements was an Austin College Kangaroo. He played Roo football in 1933 and 1934, winning the Pete Cawthon Award for outstanding athlete. His AC coach in 1933 was Ray Morehart, a Roo who had played with Ruth & Gehrig on the 1927 New York Yankees. Clemo Clements helped to engineer a turnaround of Roo football that was similar to the country itself. 1932, the year before his arrival, was the trough of the Great Depression and one of the worst AC football seasons in history. 1935, the year after his departure, brought a U.S. economic recovery and an AC conference championship.
In 1983, just two years before that Kyle Field meeting between Chris Medlin and Bill Didlake, Clemo Clements was inducted into the Austin College Hall of Honor. Clements went into the Hall alongside Coach Don Newsom.
On Friday December 20th, Chris Medlin’s Carthage Bulldogs will play for a 4A D1 state title at Cowboys Stadium. On Saturday December 21st, Bill Didlake’s Austin Westlake Chaparrals will play for a 6A D2 state title at Cowboys Stadium. I can never go back in time to that Carthage-Westlake game in 1985 at Kyle, but I’ll certainly be trying to make up for that by rooting for the Chaps and Bulldogs this weekend.
And if Carthage wins state title #7, I’ll be headed to the Panola Watchman of Roo “Clemo” Clements to read the good news.
Chris Medlin, Scot Martin, Kevin Pittman, Bill Didlake (h/t Elizabeth Davis Didlake), Amy Richardson Razzino, Sonja Kullak Jordan, Sridhar Yaratha, Wayne Whitmire, Carlos Longoria, Frank Tooley, Todd Liles