Red Carpet Bowl|First bowl in 1962 was a thriller

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

Looking at a photo taken nearly 47 years ago, Wayne Roberts said he couldn’t remember how many yards he gained or why he was chosen as the first-ever Red Carpet Bowl’s Most Outstanding Back. He just remembers the face of Judge Ben Guider and the smiles of his fellow Vicksburg Cooper High Greenies.

If you go

The 47th Red Carpet Bowl begins at 6 Friday night at Viking Stadium with the Vicksburg High School Gators matched up with the Ocean Springs Greyhounds. That game will be followed by a showdown between the Warren Central Vikings and the Gulfport Admirals. Admission to both games is $10, and tickets are available at either of the Vicksburg highs or junior highs, Michel’s Music or Just Duett Sports or at the gate.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Click here for RCB records

Click here for football schedules, stats and team pages


Scroll down to view a prep football slideshow

Roberts was picked because he scored the bowl game’s first-ever touchdown on a 33-yard double reverse, halfback pass, and then kicked the extra point. The TD led the Greenies to a 13-6 win over the Columbus Lee Generals, coached by Billy Brewer who later led the Ole Miss Rebels.

Friday night, Roberts, now retired after a career with the City of Vicksburg, will again be honored for his feats on the night of Dec. 7, 1962. The recognition will come at halftime of the 47th annual Red Carpet Bowl opening game between Vicksburg High and Ocean Springs at Warren Central’s Viking Stadium.

Roberts said he is humbled by the honor, just as he was 47 years ago when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Judge Guider, who served on city, county and circuit court benches.

“I miss Judge Guider. He was a fine human being,” Roberts, now 63, said while glancing at the photo. “And I remember my teammates behind me. Those guys provided me that opportunity, so that I could do the best I could do.”

Former Cooper coach Gene Allen remembers the moment fondly as well.

“That was one of the happiest times of my life,” the 78-year-old Allen said. “That was a great group of kids back then. They loved the game and they would just eat out of the coach’s hand.”

Red Carpet Bowl chairman Winky Freeman said it was fitting that Roberts be honored at this year’s RCB.

“We’re going to have Coach Allen present Wayne with a No. 21 jersey and talk about being the first player to score a touchdown in a Red Carpet Bowl,” Freeman said.

The very first Red Carpet Bowl was not on anyone’s schedule in 1962. Allen remembers why.

“The game didn’t even come about until three weeks before we played it. Back then, the state allowed you to play up to 11 games, but we had only nine scheduled that season. Well, after our first nine, we won the North Division of the Big 8 Conference and they talked us into playing in the Shrimp Bowl against Biloxi High for the overall Big 8 championship,” Allen said.

The Greenies went down to Biloxi and lost 26-13.

“I thought we were playing a junior college team. Jackie Sherrill played guard for Biloxi in that game,” Roberts said in reference to Sherrill, who would go on to coach Hall of Famer Dan Marino at Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and finally, Mississippi State.  

“Even though we lost, we knew we were going to play an 11th game because a committee of Ray Roberts, (Wayne’s dad), Harold Baldwin, Travis Vance Sr., Billy Ray, who was the Vicksburg Evening Post sports editor at the time, and myself, wanted the game. Probably the best thing about playing Biloxi and going to the Shrimp Bowl was we got to talk with Yankie Barhanovich about how to start a bowl game. He told us the ins and outs and the key thing was the treatment of the team and coaches,” Allen said.

Allen called around to find a team and found a willing taker in Billy Brewer.

“Billy wanted the game and was pretty outspoken about wanting to play Vicksburg. We had never played Columbus,” Allen said, smiling.

Columbus came in with an 8-1-1 record and had won the Cream Bowl the week before. Cooper was 7-1-2, with the lone loss coming to Biloxi. Both teams were ranked in the top six in the state by both The Associated Press and United Press International.

Roberts remembered the Generals as being stout.

“They had a quarterback in (Bill) Eastman, who was really good. They also had an outstanding lineman,” Roberts said.

The Greenies had talent as well with Mississippi State signee Leslie Newton and standout halfback Joe Versen. Roberts was a junior halfback for the Greenies.

“We ran the old T-formation. Three backs with two being halfbacks. We were also one of the smaller teams in the conference back then,” Allen said. “We only averaged 175 pounds while Columbus averaged 183. But we were still a good representative team of that time. We were well-conditioned and well-drilled.”

“That was they way it was, back then,” Roberts injected.

“We also had some great kids,” added Allen, who could also lay claim in coaching a future National Football League Hall of Famer in Billy Shaw in 1956. Shaw later starred at Georgia Tech before going to play for the Buffalo Bills. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Early in the game, Allen thought the Generals could be set up for some trickery. He put his second quarterback, Harvill Weller, in the game. George Lee was the Greenies’ regular quarterback.

“We actually put Harvill in at the other halfback and had Wayne split out. I had seen where Columbus’ defensive backs were cheating up in order to stop the sweep by Joe Versen. We usually like to run to the wide side of the field. I wasn’t known for throwing the ball much,” Allen recalled.

“I think Columbus was thinking with me being split wide, we were going to try and run through that gap on my side,” Roberts said.

Lee took the handoff, pitched the ball to Versen who then flipped it to Weller, who was moving in the opposite direction from Versen. Roberts took off. Weller stopped and threw the ball downfield, hitting Roberts standing in the end zone with the 33-yard touchdown pass.

“I got to show my blazing speed,” Roberts quipped.

“I tell ya, Travis Vance, threw a pretty nice block on that play,” Allen said. Vance is currently one of the longest tenured members of the Red Carpet Bowl committee.

“It was the first time we had run the play like that,” Roberts said.

Allen said Brewer was pretty amused by the Greenies’ trick play.

“Billy told me afterward that he saw it coming. He had told his team to watch out for something like that because Coach Allen can get pretty crafty,” Allen said, smiling.

Later in the game Roberts also returned a punt 23 yards to give the Greenies another scoring chance but an interception stopped the drive.

It was still 7-0 in the fourth quarter when the Generals scored on a 98-yard touchdown pass from Eastman. The Greenies came right back using a 15-yard personal foul penalty to set up a 42-yard scoring drive  capped by a 1-yard sneak by George Lee. Roberts missed the extra point, but it didn’t matter.

From there, the Red Carpet Bowl has gone on, becoming a season-starting event as opposed to a season-ender when the Mississippi High School Activities Association created a formal playoff system. The Red Carpet Bowl, planned, organized and administered by a volunteer committee, is the only game of its kind left in Mississippi. Proceeds go to charitable causes.

“Without people like a Travis Vance Jr., who played in the first game and is still actively involved every year, this game would’ve folded,” Allen said. “His drive has kept this Red Carpet Bowl going.”


Contact Jeff Byrd at