BY RENE TORRES
Early in the 1930 high school Valley football season the idea was floating around gridiron fans about selecting an All-Star Valley football team. Ben Epstein, from Harlingen was the brainchild behind the idea that had a lot of skeptics.
Some coaches and fans alike said it couldn’t be done — there was just too much jealousy between the cities in the Valley to make it happen. Some went to the extent to say that it was too much work for this land of mañana.
Ben would not take no for an answer as he kept on hammering away until the Coaches Association supported the idea of a Valley team playing an up-state eleven.
The dream was realized when the Valley Chamber of Commerce Secretaries agreed to finance the “Battle of the Grapefruit.” With this, one reporter wrote, “the difficulties of putting the game together melted away like butter on a stove lid.”
The largest city in the Valley, Brownsville, provided the best atmosphere for such a game. So Tucker Field on the grounds of Brownsville High was a unanimous choice to host the first Annual Grapefruit Bowl.
The Valley eleven were predicted as underdogs — individually they demonstrated a lot of talent, but because of limited practice, some thought they lacked the teamwork to beat the potent Cisco Lobos of the Oil Belt.
On game day, Brownsville was swarming with thousands of well dressed fans from throughout the Valley — traffic jams were common around Tucker Field. It was estimated that about 5,000 orderly fans found a place in the grandstands and bleachers.
A newspaper report stated, “The gathering throng was one of the most representatives of the Valley ever drawn together. Large delegations from all cities in this section were present.”
Adding color and encouragement at the game came from the 100-piece All-Valley band along with the yell squad that cheered the Valley Clan on to battle.
Leading the Grapefruiters on the sidelines were Coach Dutch Rektorik and L.E. Martin and this is how the starting Valley Clan lined-up: Murry-End, Harlingen, Dixon- Tackle, La Feria, Cox-Guard, McAllen, Ross-Center, Mission, Waters-Guard, Harlingen, Woods-Tackle, Mission, Washam-End, Harlingen, Adamson-Quarterback, San Benito, Walsh-Halfback, McAllen, Jamison-Halfback, Weslaco, Landry-Fullback, Mission. There were also 20 substitutes that suited up for the game.
There was no bus ride to Brownsville for the upper Valley group. Thanks to Mr. Briggs, the boys were brought here in cars furnished by the Harlingen Buick Company.
Game day weather was reported as such… “A warm sun occasionally flashed through fleecy patches of swiftly moving clouds and there was no indication of rain. A high wind, however, was sweeping across Tucker Field in gushes.”
Valley Clan starts
with a bang…
It was obvious from the first set of downs that the visitors were bigger and stronger up front. Their defensive line stopped the Valley’s running game cold. From the first quarter on, the home squad was a one-dimensional team — their only hope rested on the arm of San Benito’s Adamson.
But the favorite Lobos were surprised in the first quarter when Mike Waters of Harlingen recovered a fumble and Adamson soon followed with a 30 yard pass to Washam for the opening score.
Cisco came back strong four plays later with a score of their own when they threw the oval 42 yards to pay dirt. The Lobos surprised the home team by using the “hidden end” play to perfection. This is when the offensive end plays possum near the sidelines while his team is in the huddle, when the ball is snapped, he runs down the field undetected.
In the second quarter it was a defensive battle with the Valley boys holding back their opponents twice in the red zone. The Lobos marched the ball to the five and twenty yard lines, but both times were denied the end zone.
By the third stanza, the visitors were moving the ball with greater ease. They recovered a fumble and again took to the air to record their second touchdown. In the same quarter the Valley boys prevented another touchdown as the defense flexed their muscles again, stopping the Lobos at the five yard line.
The Citrus Clan demonstrated their air supremacy in the fourth quarter, but fell short of scoring twice. Captain Adamson displayed why he was All-Star, confusing the opponents with his precise passing attack.
In the last offensive drive, the home team moved the ball to the Lobos 10 yard line as Adamson shot passes to Walsh, Barnum and Murray, but the Cisco wall was impenetrable and the game ended soon thereafter.
The Valley had several opportunities to make it a closer game, but the Cisco boys were just too strong at the defensive line. The general consensus was that in spite of the 19-6 loss, the Citrus boys put on a great show against a very strong foe.
There was no lack of individual talent on the Valley side — they were just as good as the Lobos, but they lacked the smoothness which comes from playing together all year.
The “Depression Era” crowd witnessed a solid game of football and a half time show made for Broadway. The All-Valley Band and the local American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps played a succession of lively marches that echoed beyond Tucker Field and on to the streets and alley ways of the city.
Half time entertainment continued at mid-field as a pageant was staged with all of its glory. A larger than life grapefruit was carried on to the field as the band played on. When the grapefruit was opened — hundreds of balloons flew skyward leaving behind a seed, a young girl sitting on a pedestal.
Although local fans and coaches supported the event — they were disappointed that no Brownsville boy was selected to the All-Star team, not even as a substitute.
Which didn’t make any sense, since Eagle standouts — Samano, running back, Cabler, running back, Bennett, tackle, and Summers, guard, received votes on the official All-State team selected by the Associated Press. None of them, however, placed on the first string aggregation. No other Valley player made the All-State list.
One of the rumors why Brownsville grid players were left out was because the Eagles, according to some coaches and fans, had hogged the limelight during the regular season.