story by Aric Mitchell
(images courtesy of Steve Wilhelm)
In St. Anne’s glorious run through the ranks of Arkansas high school football, no year may have been as pivotal to the program as 1957. Until that time, the school had trouble keeping a man in the head coaching position for longer than a couple of years. But with the arrival of George Loss, that would change.
Loss’s teams would not dominate right away, but it took very little time to move St. Anne’s from a competitive Class B school to a state powerhouse.
By the end of the 1957 season, his Buffaloes would have taken out a larger football powerhouse and secured the young coach his first unbeaten season. (It would not be his last.) They would also leave the Class 4-B Football Conference as champions with nine of the squad’s seniors taking all-district honors.
Little Rock Hall vs. St. Anne's
The 1957-1958 season consisted of 11 games. There were no playoffs in those days, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Buffs to find worthy opponents. While Paris and Charleston had been up for the challenge earlier in the season — St. Anne’s won both games by no more than a touchdown — increasingly easy competitions, such as those against Havana (33-0), Alma (19-0), Dardanelle (45-7), and Mansfield (14-0), were showing Buffalo faithful that their boys could play at the next level. With a 7-0 record, this belief was tested to the max against Hall High in Little Rock on the night of Oct. 25, 1957.
Coach Loss, battling a cold, led a weakened St. Anne 11 into battle against the Little Rock Hall Warriors at Hunt’s Park in Fort Smith. Ten of Loss’s players were out with influenza, and right guard George Haaser would be starting in his normal position in spite of nursing a separated shoulder. Add to the mix an unseasonably cool night at 37 degrees, and Buffalo fans had plenty to worry about.
But Loss believed his men would be up for the challenge.
“We’ve worked hard on pass defense all week,” he told the Southwest American on the day of the game. “The Warriors like to throw, especially to halfback Jim Holley. If we can stop him, we’ll be okay.”
For the most part, the Buffaloes were able to do just that. However, in the second period quarterback Jim Rowland found Holley for a 23-yard touchdown reception. Tom McKnelly’s extra point was wide leaving Hall with a 6-0 lead that would be good until the fourth quarter. That’s when a Warrior fumble on the St. Anne 32-yard line would set up the Buffs with one last chance at the end zone.
Using Billy Framel heavily, St. Anne’s took 15 plays to march 66 yards, chipping away at the clock in the process. With just 30 seconds remaining, fullback Joey Herring would burst through the Hall defense for the tie. Framel’s extra point narrowly fell between the goalposts to give St. Anne a 7-6 lead.
But Hall wasn’t finished. After a poor kickoff set the Warriors up on the Buffalo 43-yard line, Rowland completed a 21-yard throw and then handed off to Alex Deitz, who chugged ahead for another 13. With only seconds left in the game, it all rode on Rowland’s next snap. Unfortunately for the young quarterback, a burst from a determined Buffalo defense placed the ball on the ground. Defensive end Joey Plunkett covered for St. Anne, securing the victory.
Loss Wins Out
Following the battle with Hall High, there were only three more contests to go for Loss and his Buffaloes. The boys steamrolled Hartford 40-6 the following week, defeated Waldron 24-14 in Week 10, and closed with a devastation of Muldrow 46-7. With the 4-B Championship in tow, the St. Anne faithful knew it took a winner to lead the Buffs into battle.
To honor Loss’s first unbeaten season, the 1958 Grottonian yearbook noted the following: “His (Loss) main purpose is to form a man of character, not just another player. There is not a young man who has been under his guidance who has not profited by his example. In practice and on the field of play, Coach Loss is a man of sterling principles.”
Those principles would allow Loss to take St. Anne’s through the 1958, 1959, and 1960, football seasons without experiencing a single loss. The closest his squad came was a 13-13 tie against Paris in 1958. During the four-year span from 1957 to 1960, George Loss defenses allowed only 198 points in 43 games (roughly five points per game). That meant if you were lucky enough to score a single touchdown, you were beating the average. Meanwhile, his offenses racked up 1,380 points, or 32 points per game.
Billy Framel (All-District, All-State, Honorable Mention All-American)
Dick Bercher (All-District, Honorable Mention All-State)
Dick Howell (All-District, All-State)
David von der Heide