story by Aric Mitchell
In the school’s long history, they are considered the best to ever field a team. The offense averaged a dominant 29 points per game while allowing less than two. On the entire 11-game schedule only three teams would score a touchdown, always a single, and in two cases, the opponents couldn’t even kick the extra point.
Six Eagle starters would earn All-District Honors in the 4A. Two of these men would also achieve the All-State distinction. But as dominant as Paris was in the 1956 season, the year wouldn’t exactly end the way they wanted it to, and the spoiler was from an unlikely source.
Paris rolled out two respectable wins against Russellville (21-0) and Greenwood (19-6) to start the year, but their most jaw-dropping performance would come against Head Coach George Loss and his St. Anne Buffaloes of Fort Smith.
Under the direction of Head Coach Ralph Holland, Paris would score seven touchdowns and boot six of seven PATs en route to a 48-0 domination. Eventual All-Stater Hursel Henson scored twice and racked up another 67 yards on one play to set up the final TD of the game. Fullback Jimmy Nicholas punched in two more six-pointers in aiding the Eagles’ offense to a victory. The Paris second stringers played for most of the second half.
In the next four weeks, the Eagles would hold Atkins, Alma, Waldron, and Ozark, scoreless. Atkins gave a good accounting of themselves defensively, but were unable to move the ball, falling 14-0, while Paris blew the doors off Alma 39-0 and Waldron 27-0. Their performance against Ozark was like a repeat of the St. Anne’s contest with the Eagles taking another 48-0 victory.
Before the end of the season, they would also down Clarksville 34-0 and hold Dardanelle to seven in a 33-7 win. Raking in a 10th consecutive win, they would also embarrass Mansfield 40-6.
For the last game of the season, Paris would continue its bitter rivalry with the neighboring Booneville Bearcats. The Bearcats were 2-7-1 going into the showdown, and to that point, Paris led the series 15-13-4.
The rivalry, known as the Logan County Feud, began in 1922 with a 12-12 tie. While Paris bested the Bearcats through the 1940’s, the next decade would see Booneville’s gridiron reputation start to improve.
The Bearcats were 11-0 in 1953, making a 21-0 example of the Eagles in the last game of the season. Coincidentally, the media predicted Paris to take a three-touchdown victory in 1956, perhaps to make up for what had been done to them three years prior.
It would be fitting that two programs so closely matched would allow less than two points per game and log perfect seasons within such a short timespan of one another. But if the Eagles were going to have a repeat of their purple-and-gold nemesis’ perfect record, they weren’t going to get it easy.
The Booneville defense showed up ready to play shutting down the efforts of Nicholas and Henson to put the ball in the end zone. The Eagles’ All-State center Jerry Jenkins also had fits controlling the rush of Booneville’s Paul Phillips, who aided the Cats’ defense in keeping Paris’ offense outside the Booneville 20-yard line all night.
The one time Paris was able to break through, they turned the ball over on downs at the Bearcat 4-yard line with just three yards to go for a first down.
In contrast, Booneville broke deep into Eagle territory four times, but each time met with a stiffening Paris defense that shut them down on the Eagles’ 9-, 14-, and 15-yard lines.
The Bearcats’ last chance to knock off Paris came with seconds left in the game. Booneville converted a first down to the Eagles’ 16-yard line and made a frantic push to get off another play before time expired. They were unable to do so.
The 0-0 tie may have ruined planned victory celebrations for the night in Paris, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Eagles from winning the 4A Championship outright.
The Eagles’ Henson and Jenkins were later named to the All-State Team for the 1956 Season. Jimmy Brown, Robert Blackwell, Chester Koprovic, and Larry McNeil, joined them for All-District Honors.