Shepherd Homecoming: the 1932 tackle by automobile
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Like nearly everything else on this earth, change is inevitable concerning Homecoming college football games.
But what happened when Shepherd faced conference rival Fairmont way back in 1932 has few rivals as to the adage “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
Little Fairfax Field where the Rams played their games was tucked away behind Miller Hall on the west campus. The seats in the covered wooden grandstand where both students and non-students plopped down weren’t many. The field was thinly covered in not-long-for-this-world grass. Stone walls and unkempt brambles guarded the ends of the gridiron. And the playing field was actually only 95 yards in length.
Even with the scarcity of automobiles on the smallish campus, there was little parking space at Fairfax Field. But on the side away from the roofed grandstand, there was some parking behind the benches of one of the teams. Autos could be left there while the game was being staged.
In 1932, Shepherd faced Fairmont State, a team that had made the trek east from Marion County via the narrow and winding roads of the state of West Virginia.
The game was close — nearly tied as the fourth quarter melted away. Fairmont’s Fighting Falcons held a scant 19-18 lead when Shepherd running back Hunter Maddex broke loose near the sideline. Maddex appeared to have a real chance to go all the way. But he would not score.
One of the autos parked near the sidelines was moving with a still-unidentified fan behind the wheel who was going to leave a little early.
The vehicle pulled on to the football field, to make a turn toward the one exit on his side of the area. And it was then that Maddex came free along that same sideline. The future Shepherd Hall of Famer had given the slip to the Fairmont tacklers, but he could not elude the automobile, which forced him out-of-bounds at the seven-yard line.
Shepherd could still win if it could negotiate the last few yards.
But alas, the Rams couldn’t manage to score. Fairmont posted a 19-18 win that spoiled the afternoon for Shepherd people . . . at least until the Homecoming activities of that long ago Saturday night washed away some of the sting of the “tackle” by the Stutz Bearcat on the prowl away from Fairfax Field.