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A Team for the Rebels




A Team for the Rebels

  High School football season is an exciting time for many football fans throughout the Etowah County area. Football fans from every corner of the county travel throughout the state on any given Friday to support their local high school. Teams from Etowah County have taken several championships over the years and local teams make the state playoffs on a regular basis.

  Excitement was at a fever pitch on September 10, 1930 when plans were being made for the first football team ever to be fielded by Alabama City’s new Emma Sansom High School. Enthusiasm ran high at the organization of the Emma Sansom High School Athletic Association at Alabama City the night before. Many leading businessmen had pledged their hearty support to all of the athletic endeavors of the school.

  The association would particularly sponsor the football team which was then being assembled and trained for the first season of Sansom High which was then in its first year of existence.

  Caral Hicks was elected president of the new athletic association with E. S. Smith as vice president and James Little, secretary-treasurer. It was decided to get behind the football team and to aid in every way possible. This was said to mean that the small town of Alabama City would be behind the school in all of its gridiron efforts.

  Ernest Kneipp, who for two years was the center for the varsity team of the Birmingham Southern College, was employed as the school’s first football coach. From 20 to 35, boys had been reporting for practice daily and Coach Kneipp was rapidly whipping them into the resemblance of a football team. On Friday, September 12, Coach Kneipp would take his team to Centre for their first game with a very strong Cherokee County High School squad. It would be the first athletic contest of any kind for Emma Sansom High and the first school football team ever put forward by Alabama City.

  The Emma Sansom Athletic Association had also applied for membership in the state high school athletic body and acceptance was an almost sure thing. It was the association’s responsibility to make Emma Sansom High known throughout the breadth and length of Alabama. It was also understood by the promoters of the athletics at the school that it would not set the woods on fire during its first three years, but it was determined to rapidly and surely build up a football tradition that would be worthwhile.

  The Rebels played their first football game ever on Friday afternoon, September 12, 1930. This would not, however, be a pleasant trip for the boys from Alabama City to Centre to meet the Cherokee County team. The hometown Warriors romped to a 35-0 win over the visitors.

  This was the first game ever played by any member of the Alabama City team and they had been practicing less than two weeks. Coach Kneipp was highly pleased with his team despite the score. He was quick to point out three players who showed great promise. These included Norris Norton, a tackle and two running backs, Roy Pruett and Ferrell Clayton.

  The following week, the Emma Sansom Rebels would travel to Boaz to meet a great Snead Seminary team. This game would end with Snead holding a 36-0 lead. The Sansom team, however, showed much improvement against Snead which was a much stronger team than Cherokee County.

  The third game of the 1930 season saw the Rebels traveling once again as the Alabama City lads ventured to Walnut Grove to meet a very good Walnut Grove eleven. This game once again saw the Rebels showing great improvements although the final score stood at 19-0 in the favor of Walnut Grove. Coach Kneipp would single out Tim Turner, the Rebel center as the outstanding player for his team on this date.

  The following week the Emma Sansom Rebels would play their first home game ever at Dwight Park. This game, played on Saturday, October 11th, was against Altoona High School. This game was played before a large crowd of hungry football fans who were anxious to see their team record their first win. Although the game ended in a 0-0 tie, this game was full of excitement. On two occasions, Sansom drove inside the Altoona five-yard line only to turn the ball over. Altoona threatened the Rebel goal only once driving to the one-yard line only to be held on four straight downs.

  Coach Ernest Kneipp had brought the game of football to Alabama City and Emma Sansom High. This would be the beginning of a great football tradition.

Mike Goodson
Gadsden Author and Historian





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