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Duke alumnus remembers ‘Bronco Power’

by Patrick Parker

First of all, let me make it perfectly clear, I did not go to Franklin High School. I went to Windsor High School. Every year we played against the Broncos, and I can’t ever remember beating them. I had — and still have — a lot of friends who played on the two teams I am about to write about. The years of 1965 and 1966 the Broncos went undefeated, so I’m going to call this little story “Bronco Power.” I can’t think of any other fitting title for a team that had it all, and did it all. I am writing this out of respect for the team and the guys who played on those two teams.

I’d like to begin my story by backing up to the year 1964. The Broncos in that year were not a great team, in fact, they were a lousy team. In the year 1964, the Broncos record was a terrible six losses, one win and two ties. I’m only telling about the year 1964 to set the stage for the next two coming years. Somehow, somewhere, magic happened during the summer of 1965, or just maybe those boys had matured another year, and changed their mental attitudes from losers to winners. I think their desire to win, their attitudes and their talents, created the two greatest football seasons that Franklin High School has ever seen, or will ever see.

The year was 1965 and the Broncos started off with a win over Suffolk. Now this was a big thing because they had never beaten Suffolk before. Suffolk was not even in the same conference as the Broncos and was a much larger school. Well, I think this gave the guys on the team a little bit more confidence in themselves. They went on to finish the season under coach Buster Ledford, 10-0. That’s a big deal when the year before they only won one game. The team was loaded with talent and it showed on the field. In the year 1965 the Broncos only allowed three touchdowns. One came from Suffolk, one came from Windsor (from yours truly) and one came from Southampton scored by Ben Usery, who happened to be the leading scorer in the district or state.

There were so many great stars on that team and I can’t begin to name them all. After all, it was over 50-plus years ago. However, just to give you some idea, here are a few facts to brag about and be proud of. Big Billy Atkinson led the team in rushing with 1,173 yards and scored 114 points that year. The defense was ranked second in the whole state of Virginia. Billy Atkinson, Bobby Eubanks, Frank Whitehead, Danny Morgan, Tony and Dickie Surace were ALL DISTRICT. To add to all these crowning glories, Big Billy Atkinson made first team ALL STATE that year. He was the first player from Franklin to ever do that. There were so many great players on that team, Frankie Rabil, Oma Underwood and a host of others I can’t even remember. Too many years have gone by, and like the rest of me, my memory isn’t what it used to be.

The year 1966 rolled around and coach Ledford left Franklin and was replaced by coach Clinton Richards. Now, this fact alone could have had disaster written all over it, but the mighty Broncos were not about to return to their losing ways. They simply went out and performed miracles on the football field and had another 9-0 season. That’s 19 wins and 0 losses over two seasons, now that is simply amazing. That’s what I like to call “Bronco Power.”

The senior year of these boys started in 1966 and they all graduated in 1967. The team was just as awesome as the year before. Even though they had 38 points scored against them in 1966, that is only because they were so good, the coach was pulling his first team off the field by the third and fourth quarters to protect them from some senseless injury to his star players.

The 1966 team had several players who made all district — eight on offense: Allan Morris, Frankie Whitehead, Carter Whitley, Ricky Clark, Oma Underwood, Wayne Barker, Dickie Surace, Tony Surace. That fact alone was a very high standard, but for the mighty Broncos, they also place five players all district on defense. Allan Morris, Frankie Whitehead, Welton DeShields, Dickie Surace and Tony Surace. Tony Surace was selected to the All State team as a linebacker. I must add, I played against Tony Surace, and I can honestly say he was the most feared linebacker I’ve ever been up against.

Five of these Bronco team members got football scholarships and went on to play college football. Ome Underwood played for the University of Richmond, Dickie Surace played for the University of Southern Mississippi, Tony Surace played for the University of Mars Hill, Allan Morris got a scholarship to The Citadel, and Big Billy Atkinson got a scholarship to Elon.

I’d like to say once again, I personally knew a lot of those boys on those two football teams. I know they had a lot of talent, but I also know they had guts and desires to win ballgames, which I will always believe was just as important as their talent. There is always a human factor in every story, and I must say those young men on those two football teams grew up into adults to become some of the finest people you would ever want to meet on this earth.

I’d like to think to some of them I was their friend, to all of them I was their competitor. I recognize those two great teams as being the best of the best. Let the story be passed down in generations and always be known as “Bronco Power.”

I’d like to thank Tony Surace and Bobby Eubanks for feeding me some information to use in my story. I could not have come up with some of these facts and numbers without their help.

PATRICK PARKER, who lives in Southern Shores, North Carolina, is an alumnus of Windsor High School. He can be contacted at patrick258@hotmail.com.