11-25 baty

Buryl Baty, Coach Raymond Berry & Lowry Inzer – Post-Sherman game (note leather helmet on shelf)

But for one bad weekend, it was a glorious year for the Paris Wildcats and their hometown.

The Wildcats had earned statewide notoriety and respect, which naturally reflected well on Paris as well. This was the era in Texas when Friday Night Lights was not the name of a movie — it was a religion. The only game in town, so to speak. There were no televisions, no internet, no cell phones. Effectively, other than a bi-weekly rotation of new movies at the theater, there was no competition for high school football and its Friday night heroes.

The Wildcats would enter the ’41 season rated among the best teams in Texas, and their expectations were, having been robbed in the playoffs the previous year, to win the football state championship.

The 1940 season had been a great one. They’d marched through the regular season undefeated and won the bi-district game over Greenville. They’d fielded many great players, a Hall-of-Fame coach and a great team. But the journey to a championship had ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Masonic Home on a controversial play in the quarterfinal game.

This crucial contest, which is highlighted in Jim Dent’s book “Twelve Mighty Orphans”, ended in a 6-6 tie that was decided upon penetrations and propelled Masonic Home into the semifinals. In contrast, the Wildcats rode the train, disheartened, back home to Paris. The devastating outcome had tainted the season for the entire town of Paris, while steeling the team’s determination to go all the way the following year.

Numerous returning stars reported in high spirits to two-a-day practices in the intense heat of August. Among those were future college players Luke Abbett, Jack White, Gene “Red” Hudson, Bucky Sheffield, Ollie Jack, Buster Espy, Jake Coker, etc. But the brightest and most widely-acclaimed star for the Wildcats in 1941 was co-captain and All-State back Buryl Baty.

The Wildcats again blitzed, like the Nazis’ blitzkrieg across Europe, through the regular season undefeated. Many star players contributed and shined brightly, but this was Buryl Baty’s year.

Despite missing an entire game due to a nagging ankle injury, he ran for 1468 yards and 22 TD’s, threw for every passing yard that the team accumulated, accounted for 35 touchdowns and personally scored 160 points for the season, the second highest total in the state.

Many of his totals still stand in the PHS record book. As the regular season concluded, the Paris Wildcats were ranked the No. 1 high school team in Texas.

1941’s bi-district foe was the Highland Park Scotties on Friday afternoon, Dec. 6, in Dallas.

Unfortunately, Baty was carried off the field with another ankle sprain in the first quarter, and the Wildcats were stunned by their first loss in the last 24 games. It was a long bus ride back to Paris that night, and a quiet, somber locker room the next morning as the Wildcats turned in their pads and uniforms.

The following morning, Sunday, December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. And while this was a world away and would only later directly affect the still-young Wildcats, it effectively topped-off what would prove to have been a bad weekend in Paris, Texas.

The sting of the loss would eventually fade while the horrors of WWII would alter their lives dramatically, and forever.

Much of the team would return for the ’42 season while a few boys progressed to college and/or careers. Most eventually joined or were drafted into the military. 

Baty returned from the war to star for the Texas Aggies and be drafted to play pro football. He instead chose to coach high school football, like his mentor, Coach Raymond Berry, and build men from boys. He would go on to be twice named coach of the year. 

But these milestones were only the beginning — a preparation for his legacy. He went on to courageously lead in a movement that is still changing the face of our country. Accordingly, he was later honored, by an El Paso high school stadium being named after him and by being inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame.

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