District 20-AA play would begin by the number one ranked Brahmas traveling to Columbus to take on the fourth ranked team in the state, according to the Associated Press Poll. Columbus was coming off two successful seasons that saw them win their second consecutive district championship in 1975, losing to the undefeated and second ranked Hamshire-Fannett in the second round of the playoffs, ending with 10 wins and two losses.
In the 1976 season, they entered as the eighth ranked team in state, and only lost one game. That game was to Bellville by the score of 13 - 7 in the district opener in a driving rain. The Brahmas scored two touchdowns in the first half, digging a hole the Cardinals could not crawl out of. They ended that season with nine wins and one loss, that loss keeping them out of the playoffs. Their head coach during that time was Carl Andress, who coached Columbus from 1964 until1980.
The Cardinals opened the 1977 season as the number two ranked team in the State, right behind Bellville. And once again, they would face the Brahmas in the opening district game. Both teams came into the game with perfect records, and both needed a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. Sealy has always been Bellville’s big rival, but Columbus also held a big grudge and was one of the Brahmas biggest and toughest opponents back then. As I mentioned last week, District 20-AA was considered to be one of the toughest in the state, and one loss would basically mean the playoff dream was over.
The Cardinals, who operated out of the “I” formation were led by quarterback Bill Bankston, who passed for 10 - 15 time a game. Other offensive leaders were Michael Coleman and Willie Toliver. They had scored 150 points in non-district, while giving up only 32. Defensively, they were anchored by LaRay Perkins, Roy Wilson and Sherman Green. They would go on to shut out their last four district opponents, holding Sealy’s Eric Dickerson to 54 yards on 17 carries.
What I remember about that game is the crowd that attended the game that night, which was estimated at 6,000 and the largest crowd to ever witness a game at Cardinal Stadium. The stands were full and people had already started circling the field when we arrived and started warmups. I don’t remember how deep they were, but we could only enter and leave the field single file, as that is all crowd would seperate to let us through.
In the first quarter, Bellville scored on a 50 yard run by Allen Ward, who had 175 yards rushing in the game, and the conversion by Steven Jackson was good. Late in the second period, Bankston hit a few passes, and the scoring drive was aided by two big penalties by Bellville. Bankston scored on a one yard run, and added the two point conversion to give Columbus an 8 - 7 lead at halftime.
Bellville didn’t have good field position during the game, and had to play it conservatively. In the third quarter, Rusty Parker had a pass picked off and returned 15 yards for a touchdown. The extra point kick was no good, and Columbus led 14 - 7. Then, the offense finally figured out the Columbus defensive scheme, and scored three more times to finish the contest.
The backbreaker came on a 79 yard run by Reese Burger as the third quarter ended. Allen Ward carried the ball for the two point conversion. The other two touchdowns runs were by Ward on a 45 yard burst and quarterback Rusty Parker on a 19 year keeper. Jackson added one of the two extra point kicks.
Columbus would have 28 wins and 4 losses over that three year period, with two of the losses to the Brahmas, only making the playoffs in 1975.