After winning the South Central Association (SCA) Conference football title in 1942 for the first time, all sports at Thayer High School were greatly curtailed during World War II, or "dubya, dubya two," as Archie Bunker called it.
Many young men left school to serve in the military and gasoline was rationed, so most sports had to take a back seat to world events, with the exception of Major League Baseball, which President Roosevelt encouraged as a morale booster.
Mr. C.E. Pepmiller, the superintendent at Thayer, filled in as a coach in an attempt to field a team during part of that time, with volunteer help from Ted Sullivan, a 1943 graduate.
Marvin Wheeler, the high school math teacher also assisted and coached the basketball team in 1946.
After the war, Thayer hired Max Richesen, a former Southwest Missouri State player and a 101st Airborne war veteran, in the fall of 1946. He got busy and ordered new green and white uniforms and molded plastic helmets for the football team.
A standout basketball player, Paul Schuster, told about returning to school from the military.
His first night back he went to a Bobcat game and ran into Miss Ross, the principal. She asked why he wasn't playing and he said he wasn't sure he'd be permitted. But when she told him that it would not be against the rules, he ran to the dressing room and played in the last half of the game.That's just how things worked back then.
A gridiron was laid out across the outfield of the new baseball field, south of the cemetery, in 1947. Lights were added in the summer of 1948, which ushered in night games. Those night games created more interest and attendance.
Richesen fielded good teams. His teams took on Poplar Bluff in '48, then in 1949, they had a shot at the league championship, only to lose the last game of the season by a score of 6-0, knocking them out of contention.
Often times, the players and wannabe's were put to work by Richesen raking and picking up rocks off the new field. Coach Richesen resigned in the spring of 1951 and Carroll Parrott, a soft-spoken decorated Marine Corps veteran, became the new coach in the fall of 1951. David Meek started as the assistant in the fall of 1953, the first assistant coach at Thayer.
In 1952, the SCA Conference was expanded to nine teams with the addition of the Mountain View Pirates joining the Ava Bears, Cabool Bulldogs, Houston Tigers, Mountain Grove Panthers, Rolla Bulldogs, Thayer Bobcats, Willow Springs Bears and the West Plains Zizzers.
The Mountain Grove Panthers were a perennial powerhouse, especially in the 1930s and 40s. They won the championship and represented the SCA in the Ozark Bowl several times.
Then in the early 50s, Willow Springs became the top team in the league, going undefeated from 1950 through the 1952 season.
Coach Harold (Speedo) Harmon installed the single wing offense. With Sonny (Buck) Stringer's strong off-tackle running and end around sweeps, they romped on other schools, usually winning by two or more touchdowns. (Stringer gained a total of 231.5 yards per game in his senior year).
Willow Springs soundly defeated the Springfield Bulldogs in 1952, a school that had more students than the entire population of Willow Springs. The 1953 Thayer Bobcats have the distinction of breaking Willow Springs' undefeated string of 36 consecutive games.
In the fall of 1955, the Bobcats put together a great team, winning the conference and going undefeated, never allowing their opponent more than six points in a single game.
Their coach, Bob Sechrist, had replaced Carroll Parrot after the 1953-54 school year, while coach Meek remained as the assistant coach.
The 1955 team won convincingly, except for the Cabool game which went down to the wire tied at 6-all. They won at Dexter 28-0, Ava 12-6, Willow Springs 26-0, Rolla 14-6, Cabool 12-6, Mountain Grove 13-0, Mountain View 14-0, Houston 51-0, West Plains 13-6 and the Springfield Bullpups 40-0.
Several guys on that team won honors and Bill Linson was selected as a Parade High School All-American from that team.
Talking about great high school teams, Valle Catholic High School in St. Genevieve, Mo., in 1966 set single season records that still stand.
Aside from going undefeated, the Valle Warriors did not allow a single point to be scored against them while accumulating 535 points on offense or 53.5 points per game. They messed up Kinlock High School's homecoming game that year by the score of 79-0.