story by Aric Mitchell
Since the later part of the 19th Century, its first official year as Subiaco Academy, the academy for boys was a hallmark of education and training for the humanities. In the early part of the 20th Century, it was also known as a football powerhouse.
This reality is hard to believe for many today, considering the school’s only two playoff appearances came in 2009 and 2010, and winning records have been somewhat hard to come by for current Head Coach Mike Berry, who as of the 2011 season has gone 28-44.
But for close to the first 70 years of the school’s inception, its gridiron teams were indomitable. The last outright conference championship came in 1966 with four titles overall. But the Trojans weren’t always in a conference.
Given the unique nature of the private school in relation to the public schools surrounding it, Subiaco was able to recruit, and there was a lot less competition to worry about in those days as recruiting was concerned. With the sport of American football not even 50 years old, it gave Subiaco Academy a great advantage.
In 1942, the program turned out what many believe was its very best team ever. Under the direction of Head Coach R.P. Maus, who had been an integral part to many of the school’s best teams prior to this historic season, the Trojans racked up five unbeaten records from 1927-1941.
With the first football season following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they would face their toughest challenges yet. With many of the smaller schools afraid to play them, and some schools considering a moratorium on football until after World War II, Subiaco sought competition from bigger schools.
Their 1942 team would have to do battle with Stuttgart, Searcy, Bauxite and Little Rock Catholic, hitting the road for each game. In the Fort Smith region and Northwest Arkansas, they would schedule the much larger schools of Fayetteville, Russellville and Van Buren. Clarksville was the closest team on the schedule in both proximity and enrollment.
Adding to the difficult roster of opponents was the fact the Trojans would have only one home game all year, against Russellville. And they’d be doing it all with offensive and defensive lines that averaged 156 pounds. The backfield came in just under this at 150.
But what the Trojans lacked in size, they made up for in lightning quickness and speed, which helped them to victories against Stuttgart (31-6) and Searcy (34-6) to start the year. Coach Maus had been unable to fill the Oct. 9 date, so his boys would get a rest before the contest with Clarksville, and they would need it.
The Panthers held Subiaco’s bothersome offense at bay through three quarters before, finally, Phil Herlein found end Ed Herlein twice through the air for quick last-minute scores that gave Subiaco the 14-0 victory.
For their fourth consecutive road game, the Trojans escaped Bulldog Country with a 12-8 victory against Fayetteville. The day before Halloween, the boys of Subiaco would strike again, besting the Cyclones of Russellville with a 7-6 win.
Three of the five victories Coach Maus’ team racked up had been hard fought contests with a six-point average margin of victory. If anyone on East Arkansas 22 thought this was an ominous sign of things to come, they were in for a pleasant surprise.
The Trojans destroyed their next three opponents by an overall score of 141-13, taking out fellow Catholic school Little Rock Catholic the following week and then returning from their second open date to blow the doors off Bauxite and Van Buren.
The Van Buren game, in particular, was a scoring clinic for Maus’ under-sized, blazing-fast offense. At Blakemore Field in Van Buren, Subiaco took a respectable 13-0 lead to halftime before opening up the offense and producing 22 third quarter points and another 12 in the fourth.
The Pointers’ one score would also come in the third period on a 60-yard pass from Junior Dean to Paul Kerce. Ed Herlein would punish Van Buren, and Kerce, for the score on the Pointers’ following series, bringing Kerce down in the end zone for a safety.
A few days after the Nov. 26 game in the pages of the “Southwest American.” it was announced Subiaco had been awarded its first and only state championship. While Nashville had also finished unbeaten and untied, their schedule hadn’t consisted of seven out of eight away games and three large schools.
Just in case anyone in Nashville wanted to argue the decision, Coach Maus laid out a challenge. His boys would be more than happy to play the Scrappers in a game for charity to settle the score once and for all.
They never heard back.