The Charlotte Observer

September 7, 1975

By Richard Sink

Highsmith's TD Run Silences Bell, 10-0

With heavy showers before, during and at the end of Saturday night's game at Memorial Stadium, the middle of the beautifully green field became a brown glob of mud.

But the chewed-up, slippery interior of the playing surface became more than just a nuisance to runners, passers, kickers and tacklers. It became a very definite factor in Charlotte's 10-0 conquest of the Philadelphia Bell, the Hornets third straight victory after two opening World Football League losses.

"The footing was so bad inside that we decided to go outside" Charlotte Coach Bob Gibson said afterwards. He told his players as much at the halftime intermission.

He turned Don Highsmith loose around the ends in the final 30 minutes, and the Hornets halfback worked wonders, including the 27-yard touchdown jaunt around the right side that broke the scoreless ice on the second play of the final quarter. Pete Rajecki's fifth field goal in as many tries this season, this one his longest from 37 yards, clinched the win with 1:55 left.

HIGHSMITH gained 92 yards in the second half on 14 carries after being contained to nine yards on six first-half attempts.

The crowd, which was registered unofficially at approximately 10,500 on the turnstiles and was held down by the inclement weather, saw a different Tom Sherman from the one that performed last week in similar conditions at Jacksonville. He completed only one of eight passes (it was fumbled away by Danny Whyte) after a nine-of-11 performance last Saturday.

But the Hornets resorted to other techniques besides Sherman's passing.

"We had to go from the I (formation) in the second half," Gibson said. "That way you can start both backs from the middle with one deeper and go wider. Highsmith did great, and it was a great job in a lot of adversity by Tom.

"He showed that if one thing can't go, you can be sound and still do well. You can revert to the simple things and the job done. We played good sound football and played field position.

"We didn't take advantage of a couple things in the first half but those 10,500 fans who sat through this mess kept our guys going. It was really appreciated."

THE FANS could have given up on the Hornets in the first-half downpour. The club netted only 16 yards in total offense to the Bell's 106 in the opening 30 minutes and the ball for 13 fewer plays.

"We didn't do a lick in the first half," Gibson admitted, "probably because we were going inside. We didn't think we could try the sweep but we could have. I think offensively, maybe both ways. We were outplayed in the first half, but we stuck in there.

"Robbie Reynolds did just a superb job getting punts out of there in weather like this. He had some great punts, which is the thing to do."

The Bell's diversified offense was clamped into a measure of conservatism by the weather but its kicking game still could have salvaged a 6-0 lead. However, Bob Cooper missed field goals of 43 and 34 yards, and following his last failure the Hornets initiated their touchdown drive that had to cover 90 yards after a holding penalty on the first play.

Sherman kept giving the ball to Highsmith and Lewis Jolley in the 11-play march and two fumbles that went the Hornets' way and upset Bell Coach Willie Wood kept them alive.

Only once in the drive did Sherman hint at a pass, and on that play he scrambled for 25 yards. However, the ball slipped out of his hands and defensive back Frank Polito had apparently retrieved the ball when guard Larry Butler crashed into him and worked the ball free to keep Charlotte in control at its 39.

ON THE FIRST play of the last quarter, Jolley fumbled and tackle Willie Cullars recovered for the Bell, but an official decided the bobble came after his whistle. The Bell, of course, didn't agree and maybe were still steaming on the next snap when Highsmith burst the 27 yards for the TD.

It gave him 56 of the 90 yards in the march and enabled him to close in on his first 100-yard night of the season.

Jolley dropped Sherman's pass on the action point attempt but Rajecki later put the game away after Charlotte had driven from the Bell 41.

Philadelphia inserted King Corcoran after that but he enjoyed no more success than starting quarterback Bob Davis and the shutout was preserved. "Our defense did an excellent job," Gibson said.

"They got beat a little the first half, but we made them earn everything as a whole."

THE BELL maneuvered the ball for 11:17 of the first period, which included a 14-play drive that ended in Copper's first unsuccessful field goal try. Little Johnny Land was its only effective runner with 78 yards on 20 carries.

Whyte's fumble of Sherman's lone completion gave Cooper another chance midway of the third quarter. The Hornets, however, didn't muff their second chance in the final half.

And Linebacker Jere Brown, who earlier recovered a bad snap on a Bell punt attempt, ended the evening on the perfect note for the Hornets with an interception of a Corcoran pass near the end zone.