'58 Hermitage football team still relishes in championship

by Matt Lincoln

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The 2010 Hermitage football team has a chance to make history this weekend, by winning its first state championship in 52 years.  But if history truly is destined to repeat itself, then we must look back on the last team to accomplish that feat.

The 1958 Hermitage football team did not start off towards greatness. Their toughest game of the season, was their first, a 13-7 defeat of Lane, where the Panthers needed a touchdown in the waning minutes to preserve the victory.

As the season went on, the team kept getting stronger.  Led by the running tandem of Emmett Ellen and David Shelton, the Panthers kept winning games week after week.  The team was headed by legendary coach Chester Fritz, who was a very tough disciplinarian.  The Panthers responded to Fritz's leadership, and heading into their final game at Parker Field (where The Diamond now currently resides) Fritz gave the team his best pep talk yet.  He began his speech, but had to stop midway through.  After a tear ran down his face, Fritz left the locker room.  The Panthers responded with a 52-0 defeat of Mt. Vernon, capping a perfect 10-0 season.

There were no championship games in 1958, and the Panthers had to wait until all the games were over to see if they had earned enough points to be awarded the championship.  The night of Thanksgiving, Hermitage was awarded the title.

Now six members of the state championship team are a part of Hermitage's Hall of Fame.  If the Panthers win on Saturday, there no doubt will be a few of the current Panthers who find their way into that hall.

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