September 30, 2011 11:12:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
The strategy was simple.
Still, it earned Rudy Pope a lot of flak.
But when you're going up against someone as unstoppable as Philadelphia High School standout running back Marcus Dupree, it doesn't hurt to try any method to try to gain an advantage.
So when the New Hope High School coach and defensive coordinator Jim Hamilton told their players to tear away Dupree's jersey and to pull down his socks, they hoped it would have an effect.
"Every play we tore one of his jerseys off he would be out of the game ," Pope said. "Anytime he was out of the game I figured would help us."
Pope's strategy worked better than expected. The Trojans had to go through nearly 20 tearaway jerseys before their tactics forced Dupree to go to a regular jersey that made it easier for one defender to grab him and then hold on for reinforcements.
In the end, New Hope limited Dupree to 80 yards and went on to a 14-3 victory before a crowd Pope estimated at more than 3,000 at Trojan Field.
"He looked like Superman with goggles on," Pope said earlier this week about the regular-season game on Oct. 2, 1981. "Marcus Dupree was the best high school running back I have ever seen. There is no comparison to him."
New Hope will celebrate the 30th anniversary of that game tonight before the 2011 team's game against Oxford. There will be a reception at 6 p.m. in the New Hope High common area, followed by a ceremony at 7 p.m. to honor the former players from both teams.
Pope, who spent four years as an assistant coach and four years as the head football coach at New Hope, won't be able attend. He left this morning to go to California, but he has fond memories of that New Hope team that went on to win nine games and to defeat West Point in the inaugural Orange Bowl in Calhoun City.
"It was a big event," Pope said. "We played them the year before and they beat us bad (41-13). We got embarrassed big time. He was some kind of athlete."
Pope said the New Hope players grabbed at Dupree's jersey in the game in 1980 only to have him break free and rush for 230 yards and score four touchdowns.
In 1981, Pope vowed things would be different, especially after seeing some of his players pick up pieces of Dupree's tearaway jerseys and stick them into their pants as souvenirs.
To be successful, Pope and Hamilton, who is now an assistant football coach at Columbus High, needed a defense that was going to rise to the challenge. Led by linebackers Terry King, Tracy Cole, Randy Abrams, and Mark Murphy, New Hope and defensive lineman Tony Eddins answered the call.
"The defense played real good," Pope said. "We had a pretty good team that year. We didn't have any real superstars. We just had 11 guys who played real good football together."
Steve Younger, who played quarterback for New Hope in 1981, remembers the hype surrounding the game and how signs were posted in front of homes and announcements like "Go Trojans and Stop Dupree" were posted at businesses like Johnson Superette leading to the school. He credits Pope and Hamilton for getting the defense inspired to play to the level it did against Philadelphia.
"Our defense was one of the best ones New Hope has ever had," Younger said. "We didn't give up many points to anybody, and we didn't give up a whole lot of yards. They had a great plan leading up to the game, and everybody worked just a little bit harder that week."
Dupree went on to play football at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned several honors, including second-team All-American and Big Eight Conference Newcomer of the Year. He left the school in the middle of his sophomore season and briefly attended Southern Mississippi, but didn't play a game there.
Dupree joined the United States Football League the following season and signed with the New Orleans Breakers in 1984. He played for the Breakers for two seasons before a knee injury forced him out of action. He came back to professional football with the NFL's Los Angeles Rams in 1990. He played in 15 games in two seasons before he was waived before the 1992 season.
Younger recalls how Dupree came into the New Hope locker room after the game to praise the Trojans for their effort. He said Dupree was friendly with many of the New Hope players after they had spent time with him at a football camp at Louisiana tech in Ruston, La.
But Younger, who will be at the ceremony tonight, said the friendships were put on hold for one night.
"I can see Tracy Cole and Terry King making him mad," Younger said. "Every time they would get a piece of his jersey they would throw it down like it wasn't nothing. About the second quarter Mark Murphy looked down at him (after tackling him with a traditional jersey) and said, 'We're playing real ball now. There are no more tearaway jerseys. It worked he got frustrated and he got mad about it. It just worked."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.