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At Lake High School in Scott County, the Un-Team will never be forgotten

They were the 1974 Lake High Hornets football team, 29 players strong. But in Scott County, right there just off Highway 80, they are forever known, for good reason, as The Un-Team.

Rick Cleveland
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Rick Cleveland

That’s “un” as in: undefeated, untied, un-scored upon, and virtually un-challenged. The Hornets, coached by Granville Freeman, a maniacally demanding 26-year-old in only his second year as a head coach, out-scored opponents 312 to zero over 10 games. No opponent came within three touchdowns of Lake. This was before Mississippi had statewide high school football playoffs, but Lake was the undisputed champion of the old Cherokee Conference. The Hornets won the south division and were supposed to play French Camp for the league championship. Apparently, French Camp decided that discretion really is the better part of valor and declined to play.

Fifty years later, looking at the scores, it is difficult to blame them.

Undefeated, un-tied, un-scored upon

Lake 18 | Choctaw Central 0
Lake 20 | West Lauderdale 0
Lake 40 | Stringer 0
Lake 30 | Beulah Hubbard 0
Lake 54 | Sebastopol 0
Lake 42 | Hickory 0
Lake 20 | Scott Central 0
Lake 30 | Nanih Waiya 0
Lake 20 | Clarkdale 0
Lake 38 | Edinburg 0
Lake 1 | French Camp 0 (forfeit)

Twenty-six of the 29 Lake Hornets are still living, and all 26 will be back in Scott County this Saturday night to be honored by the Scott County Sports Hall of Fame at Roosevelt State Park. They will come from nine different states and one will return home from Germany. They wouldn’t miss it. Would you?

Said Freeman Horton, the team’s best player, who later was a four-year starter at Southern Miss, a longtime coach, and now lives in Horn Lake, “We achieved something back then that can never be surpassed. Some other team, somewhere, might tie our record, but I doubt it. One thing’s for sure, they can’t beat it. There’s no way.”

Coach Granville Freeman was an old school coach in some ways but decades ahead of most high school coaches in so many others, as we shall see. “When I went to Lake in 1973, I told them we would have a team that when opponents got ready to play us, they would be shaking in their shoes,” Freeman said. “I’d say we accomplished that in 1974.”

Old school? Lake ran out of a straight T-formation, nothing fancy. The Hornets played a standard four-man front defensively. Freeman demanded all-out effort, all the time. He drove the team bus to practice 5.3 miles away from the school. After what was usually a long, tortuous practice if he wasn’t satisfied with the effort or performance, he followed in the bus, lights on, while the players ran all the way back to the high school. If they were going too slow, he’d rev the engine. If that didn’t work, he might even bump a straggler’s rear end. 

“You couldn’t do that these days, could you?” Freeman said, chuckling. “I’d need a really good lawyer.”

He would also have needed a jury made up of avid Lake football fans who knew there was method to his madness.

There’s no doubt Freeman worked at least as hard as his players. Said Harry Vance, the team’s quarterback, “Coach was 25 years ahead of everybody else in the way he used film and developed scouting reports. By the time we met as a team after church on Sunday, he had graded Friday night’s film and had a 20-page scouting report prepared and printed on the next opponent. It was only Sunday and we already knew everything we were going to do.” 

Coach Granville Freeman
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Granville Freeman from Lake, Mississippi.

Said Vance of his coach, “He coached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And he was crazy smart.”

Horton, who starred as an outside linebacker on defense and left tackle on offense, was widely recruited. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss all offered scholarships. So did Bear Bryant at Alabama, and this will tell you much about Granville Freeman’s crazy intellect. Bryant and Ken Donahue, his top recruiter, visited Lake to recruit Horton. Freeman was discussing Horton with Bryant and Donahue after practice when Donahue asked, “Coach, I don’t understand why you don’t you play your best athlete at middle linebacker? At Alabama, Horton would be playing in the middle.”

Responded Freeman, “Well, Coach, I’ll tell you why. If I line up Horton in the middle, I don’t have any idea which way the other team is gonna run. But if I line him up one side, I know for damn sure which way they ain’t about to run. This way, we only have to defend half the field.”

Freeman says he looked over at Bryant. The legendary, old coach was chuckling, as he told Donahue: “Well, now you know, Coach, makes a whole lot of sense to me.”

Many in Lake thought Freeman really had lost his mind during the spring of 1974. That’s when he called his players together and told them summer workouts would be different that year. Twice a week, a ballet teacher was going to come from Jackson and work them out in the gymnasium. Yes, they were going to take ballet lessons, and they would each pay for the lessons. “We thought Coach Freeman was nuts when he told us about it,” said Dewey Holmes, the team’s star running back who rushed for more than 1,200 yards. “But we all did it.” These weren’t rich kids, mind you. Many of the Lake players picked up aluminum cans on roadsides to earn the money to take ballet.

It made all kinds of good sense to Freeman. “Ballet is all about balance, about footwork, about flexibility and core strength,” Freeman said. “I thought it was perfect training for a football player. We called ourselves the twinkletoes Hornets.”

A lot of folks laughed when they heard about it. They weren’t laughing a few months later, not after 312-0.

And nobody was laughing in the locker room at halftime of a game at Hickory. Lake led only 7-0 and Freeman was furious. So, he yanked the helmet off one player and threw it through a window. “I surprised myself with that,” Freeman said. “I thought, ‘Now, I’ve done it.’”

So he did it some more. He grabbed more helmets, threw them through more windows. Final score: Lake 42, Hickory 0. Of course, Hickory wanted those windows fixed and when the bill arrived, Lake Hornets fans raised the money to pay.

Another time, after a scoreless first half with Stringer, Lake players feared what would happen in the locker room. They expected another tirade. Instead, Freeman walked in and told them he was so disgusted he was quitting on the spot. So, he walked out of the locker room and took a seat in the stands. And that’s where he was when the Hornets returned to the field and proceeded to score 40 straight points.

Many readers might wonder what happened to Granville Freeman, so wildly successful, so early in his coaching career. Answer: Four years later, he retired from coaching at age 30 with a 57-2-1 record. 

Why? Burnout was surely one reason, and there were at least 485 more. His last monthly paycheck at Lake was for $485. Said Freeman, I did the math and figured out what I was making per hour. I was coaching the junior high and high school teams, mowing and lining the fields, watching film, carrying it to Jackson to be developed, doing scouting reports, washing uniforms, running the summer program, teaching, driving the bus. It came out to 17 cents an hour. I wasn’t sleeping much.”

As many coaches in Mississippi have, Freeman stopped coaching and started selling insurance. Fourteen years ago, when he explained the reasons for his his early retirement from coaching, the interview was interrupted when someone knocked and slipped a payment under the door of his State Farm office. Freeman never missed a beat, laughing and telling this writer, “You know, that right there never happened back when I was coaching.”

Now 77, he has retired also from State Farm. The insurance money was far better in those later years but nothing ever happened to come close to the satisfaction of that unparalleled autumn half a century ago.

Dewey Holmes
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Dewey Holmes

Undefeated. Un-tied. Un-scored upon. Perfect. That’s why all 26 living players are coming back. That’s why end Dexter Brown is traveling from Frankfurt, Germany, to take part. That’s why Holmes, the star running back who later rose to the rank of full-bird colonel and traveled the world in the U.S. Air Force, is coming from his home in Tucson, Ariz.

“We grew up together, we achieved together,” Holmes said. “I wouldn’t miss this.”

So many stories will be told, none more than what follows.

Nobody had come really close to scoring on the Lake Hornets until the final game, when a fourth quarter fumbled punt gave Edinburg the ball at the Lake 8-yard line. Three plays later, the ball was still on the 8, and Edinburg, trailing 38-0, lined up for a field goal. Moochie Weidman, the Hornets’ nose guard who might have weighed 140 pounds, broke through the center of the line so quickly he blocked the kick with his chest.

How did it feel, someone asked Moochie, after he regained his breath. He answered with a grin. “It hurt so good,” he said.

Freeman Horton says it remains probably his favorite memory of that un-season. “Moochie was our smallest guy, the one you’d least expect, and he was the hero,” Horton said.

Sadly, Moochie Weidman is one of the three deceased 1974 Lake Hornets, but he will be remembered, ever so fondly, Saturday night.

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