Rockdale-Taylor rivalry victim of changing times
Mike Brown

Friday morning was notable for what didn’t happen. Unlike four Fridays ago there wasn’t an aroma of “this is the big one” floating around in the air over the football game that night at Tiger Field.

Nobody was on the alert for possible pranks, the principals of the two high schools involved weren’t gulping hypertension medicine like M&Ms.

You can sure tell the difference between Rockdale-Taylor and Rockdale-Cameron.

This didn’t used to be the case. If you’re a relative newcomer to our town you just might be shocked to hear anyone say the Tiger- Duck rivalry was once every bit as heated as the Tiger- Yoe one, and there were years when it was more intense.

Really, Mike? Oh yes, really.

A number of years ago I interviewed a lady who was one of the first cheerleaders at RHS.

It went pretty smoothly until she began recalling a certain play and then this sweet little old lady suddenly had fire in her eyes and a shrillness in her voice.

Art by Zykayra Hurd, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Art by Zykayra Hurd, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. She was mad. Really mad. It was about something Taylor did— or she remembered they did, which is not necessarily the same thing—against Rockdale in a football game.

In 1925. Yes, 1925!

A friend of mine recalled that in the 50s, because of some squabble the two schools were in, a Tiger football team wasn’t allowed to dress at the Taylor stadium facilities, but had to “go down by the lake.”

The rivalry wasn’t at fever pitch just in football. An RHS basketball team was booted from a district championship on an ineligibility question in the 1960s, and runner-up Taylor went into the playoffs.

There are people around who remember. We might still get that one stirred up again if we re-hashed it in detail here.

But, of course, the biggest Rockdale-Taylor sports confrontation of all time, occurred 60 years ago next month and it’s one nobody really wants to remember for a lot of reasons, not all of them having to do with football.

It was Nov. 22, 1963. If you think you learned that date in the history books, you’re right.

Rockdale was 10- 0 and had been ranked No. 1 in the state from the first drop of sweat in two-a-days.

The Tigers had not allowed a touchdown and had outscored their opponents 337- 5. (Caldwell kicked a field goal and RHS snapped the ball over the punter’s head for a safety against Marlin.) Taylor won its district and the two teams prepared to meet for the second time that year in bi-district. The Ducks were 6-4, one of the losses was to Rockdale and nobody gave Taylor much of a chance.

But, just a few hours before kickoff at Taylor’s Memorial Field, a miserable little rat-faced loser with a mail-order rifle shot the president of the United States just up the road in Dallas.

You hear coaches talk about heart a lot. There was none of it on either side that night. Players on both teams have told me they were walking zombies, didn’t even know if the game would be played. Lots of games were canceled that sad night.

Taylor won 9-7. The winning points were on a field goal. If you want to see it, get any dictionary and look up the definition of “ugly.” There’ll be a picture.

For another dozen years or so the rivalry was still one of the best and then it began to fade.

What happened? Well, that’s actually pretty easy. I remember standing in the Duck gym after a basketball game in the early 70s talking to a THS principal. “We’re the largest school in Williamson County,” he said. “In another 10 years we’ll be the smallest among the bigger towns here.”

He was on the money. Taylor soon moved out of Rockdale’s conference and found more natural rivalries inside its own county, which has morphed into one of the fastest growing in the U.S.

Our county has stayed rural.

The two teams still play each other but it’s almost like a relationship that’s grown apart. You meet because it’s in your calendar, not in your heart.

It’s Rockdale vs. North Austin.

But if you listen closely sometimes in the stands at Tiger Field, or Memorial Stadium, I’ll bet you’ll still hear an old-timer go”

“Hey, you remember that field goal in 1963!”

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