The Charlotte News

September 7, 1975

By Bill Ballenger

Reynolds and Highsmith Silence Stimulated Bell

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Neither rain nor mud keeps high-stepping Hornet Don Highsmith from gaining yardage in victory over Bell.

Hornets' running back Don Highsmith (32) proved to be at home in the rain and mud as he rushed for 101 yards in Saturday's win over Philadelphia. Above, Highsmith takes a handoff from QB Tom Sherman (19), picks up guard John Culpepper (64) to block and logs a nice gain. It was a simple sweep that Highsmith ran 27 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. (Photos by Don Hunter).

In the spangled verbiage of football, it might be said that the Charlotte Hornets ground out, eked out, slogged through, hung on for or earned a 10-0 WFL victory over the Philadelphia Bell before an estimated 10,500 fan Saturday night in Memorial Stadium. But it would be wrong.

Actually, the Bell was kicked to death and drowned in a pelting rainstorm that made the umbrella decked stands look like a drooping array of colorful toadstools.

On a night when Don Highsmith ran 27 yards for the only touchdown and Pete Rajecki lifted a 37-yard filed goal for the other points, it was Hornet punter Robby Reynolds who deserved a large share of credit for this, the Hornets' third win in a row.

To put matters in perspective, last week the Philadelphia Bell lost 58-39 to Southern California, causing Coach Willie Wood to read the riot act to his team. That was stimulant number one.

Then, early last week, Hornet president and general manager Upton Bell was quoted as having said that if his team could it would "kill" the Bell. Following the riot act, Wood read that to his team. Stimulant number two.

The Bell received the opening kickoff and despite hard Hornet efforts, gained chunks of yardage with great second effort. On defense they limited the home team to 19 yards before intermission. But it was 0-0, thanks to Reynolds.

Five times the blond, Sanford native sloshed into action in that first period and five times he lifted the ball high, driving the Bell deep into its own territory.

Twice he penned the visitors inside their own five yard line, slicing one shot out on the two-yard-line and another on the one. The others were all inside the Bell 20-yard-line.

"We started from so far back that, in a mess like that, it was impossible to move that many yards without making a mistake," Wood mourned later. "Also, all that work seemed to tire us."

Having kicked the orneriness out of the Bell, Reynolds sat down in the second half and let his mates work the way they were supposed to. Coach Bob Gibson told his team to abandon the passing attack, drive block and try to break its runners outside.

Don Highsmith responded to the new effort with 92 second half yards for 101 overall, including the touchdown run and the Hornet defenders went about their work with gusto.

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A cheerful wring... Hornets' cheerleader Julie Summerville is all wet but happy.

After it was over, Reynolds sat grinning in this corner of the whooping, shouting dressing room and pondered what it was that made him such an effective punter in the mud.

"One year (when he was with the University of South Carolina) we played Clemson in weather worse than this," he recalls. "It was just as rainy, and very cold and windy. I kicked pretty well in that on, too.

"Then there was a game in Columbia (S.C.) where we played Virginia in a storm. Of course we had Astroturf there and it wasn't so hard, but I kicked well in that game, too."

And last week, in another storm in Jacksonville, Fla., Reynolds kicked exceptionally well in a 33-14 win and also skittered a ball out on Jacksonville's one-yard-line.

"Two things. First our center, Charles Tiblom, didn't give ma bad snap all night. You can imagine how hard that was in the mud. The other was concentration for fear of what could happen."

Such artistry comes natural to Reynolds, who played his ball at Shelby high School. He is the son of former University of North Carolina punter Bob Reynolds, who played in the Charlie (Choo Choo) Justice era.

Now coaching at Shelby, Bob saw his son quarterback Shelby to records of 12-0-1 and 11-2 and then receive a scholarship for his punting. He still owns the USC career record for punting.

"Dad didn't pressure me, but I was kicking at age seven," Reynolds, remembers. "He said it might be valuable for me some day."

Last year as a Star-Hornet Reynolds average 38.1 yards a boot despite join the team long out of shape. This year he faced a challenger to win his job and earned another pro year.

"I'm hitting the ball better than ever," he says. "What I did was just what I'm supposed to do. I hope I can keep doing it."

So do the Hornets who now face a challenge to their winning streak, facing powerful Southern California next Sunday in Anaheim.