With our own Hartsville Yellow Jackets taking the field, we will spend this month looking at a few of our former high school football athletes who were a notch above the average!
Any list of great gridiron players from Trousdale County has to start with the late Phil Dickens.
Phil Dickens played for the Yellow Jackets back in the 1930s and went on to play for the University of Tennessee, although Vanderbilt University tried to corral him with no success.
We have written about Phil before, but he had such an outstanding career that we haven’t run out of material. And we have recently uncovered even more!
The story often told about “the Hartsville Flash” is that he once scored 93 points in one football game!
Read that again.
He scored 93 points in one game. He did, not the team, he did!
That is a state record!
In 1931, Trousdale County High School played Westmoreland High School. The final score for the game was 126-0, and in that game Phil Dickens scored 93 of those 126 points.
We recently found this article, written in 1935, in the records of the Knoxville Journal, that town’s leading newspaper.
“When Dickens was a junior in high school (1931) he established a scoring record that still stands.
If you know Phil pretty well, you might get him to tell you about the time he scored 13 touchdowns in one game against Westmoreland High School.
They say he crossed the goal line so many times that day he wore off all the lines across the field. It finally came to the point where it counted a touchdown every time they handed Dickens the ball.
But that’s not all. Those frisky dogs weren’t satisfied with a mere 13 touchdowns, they craved action. So, while the other boys were resting, Phil kicked 15 extra points.”
The article is much longer than what we are quoting here, and later in the lengthy tribute to Dickens, the newspaper’s sportswriter said, “When pressed for details, Dickens said there were only 18 boys on the Hartsville squad in 1931 and they had to use the coach, manager, water boy and scorekeeper to have enough to scrimmage. “
The Hartsville team’s coach was a former Vanderbilt football star and later coach for Cumberland University, Gene McIlwaine.
To back up the story, we have a writeup from the Sumner County Historical Society that writes about the Westmoreland High School football program.
The writeup mentions that 1931 was Westmoreland’s first year to have a football team!
“Shortly after practice began, it was announced that Hartsville would be the Hilltopper’s first opponent. According to Harris Brown, a member of the first team and from whom much of this information was obtained, the boys eagerly anticipated their first victim. Never mind that even at that early date Hartsville already had a rich tradition of football. To make matters worse, Hartsville’s star player was Phil Dickens, later listed as an All-American, and the game was to be in Hartsville.
Come game day, the new team made its way to Trousdale County. With nervous excitement, the boys suited up, and the coaches went over last minute plans. The crowd began to build, the whistle sounded and the boys pitched head-long into the fray. From the beginning, the battle was fierce but one-sided with the Westmoreland boys attempting to figure out just what the game was all about.
Having his fill of being roughed up, one Westmoreland player knelt into his stance before the next play, looked across the line into the eyes of his Hartsville opponent and pleaded, “You don’t hit me and I won’t hit you!”
Mercifully, the final whistle blew, and the first game ended.
The final score — Hartsville 126 and Westmoreland 0 — told the story and is still the source of amusement for some old-timers.”