The West Orange Chiefs and Bridge City Cardinals met for the first time Oct. 24, 1958.

The rivalry lasted until the West Orange High School merger with Lutcher Stark High School in 1977. Old Chiefs and Cardinals decided to meet this year when West Orange-Stark and Bridge City played on the 50th anniversary of the first game.

Fifty years ago, the Chiefs were 7-0 going into the game. Bridge City won it 8-6, starting a rivalry that lasted until WO-S graduated its last class in 1977. Any time the Chiefs and Cardinals played, no matter which sport, competition was fierce.

Mike Trahan, a member of the ‘58 Chiefs and an organizer for the reunion, managed to get 17 of the original Chiefs back. Sadly, because most of the ‘58 Cardinals were hard hit by Hurricane Ike, only three could attend.

One of those was Wayne Brent, who had headed up the effort to try to locate and notify the Cardinals. The other two attending were Ben Bythwood and Tom Hoffpauir.

“I suppose there are so many of our team staying with relatives or living out of town,” said Brent. “They are just out of contact.”

Trahan had better luck with the Chiefs and was able to contact a majority of the members. In addition to Trahan, chiefs attending were Murl “Tank” Bishop, Ted Copeland, Roland Guillot, Bobby Hughes, J.D. “Pods” Longlois, John Lounsberry, Roy Nation, Doug Pence, Jimmy Richardson, Ernie Runnels, Robert Sims, Butch “Possum” Wallace, Leon “Lumpy” Wallace, Lanny Wheat and Pete Walston.

Reunion guest of honor was ‘58 Chiefs’ coach Ed Brune, accompanied by his son Larry. Coach Brune remembered all of his former players and has stayed in touch with several of them.

In 1958, Brune was starting his first year as a coach. In addition to being the football coach, he also taught two biology courses, three physical education classes and coached track and baseball. In football, he was assisted by Wayne Shoemaker and Leroy Owens.

Reunion stories went flying like footballs. Some centered on being put against “Tank” Bishop in practice, who seemed to be able to “put anyone down at any time.” Some recalled running laps for mistakes, under orders from Brune.

“Coach, you made us run and run and run. At times all I did at practice was run,” said Copeland. 

“You should not have made so many mistakes,” replied Brune with a grin.

Someone mentioned the game against Hemphill, which started a flood of stories. 

The game was played after a hard rain. “I was driving the bus up there and the water was running everywhere along the side of the road,” said Brune. “All of you guys were from black ground land.

Someone asked me what was causing the water to be so red. I told you that you were in the Redlands and you were seeing what red dirt did to water. I don’t think any of you had ever been out of West Orange before.”

“Remember when the umpire spotted the ball for the play and the ball floated out of position?” asked Butch Wallace. The Chiefs won the game in spite of the weather and tough playing.

“Remember when we had to go out and build our field on our own?” asked Longlois.

The grass was high and weeds were everywhere. The Chiefs had to cut grass and line off the field and do nearly everything except build the bleachers.

One membersof the team was the late Howard Clayton.

“Clayton got too hot and passed out in the tall weeds. He was the smallest on the team. He came up to me and apologized for falling out. I had not even noticed he was gone. The weeds were so tall,” said Brune.

Trahan presented Brune with a football signed by his old team.

Brune expressed his appreciation and remarked how much the team meant to him.

When the three Cardinals arrived, some Chiefs and Cards met face-to-face for the first time since in 1958. It did not take long to forge new friendships. They all had the common ground of being from two small towns, two new schools and two new football teams.

Brent brought a scrapbook with newspaper clippings and pictures.

Naturally the clippings about that 1958 game were the most popular. Brent and Trahan paired off and went over the book page-by-page.

As members of the two teams visited, they discussed the possibility of another reunion next year so that more former Cardinals could attend.