The Charlotte Observer

September 7, 1975

By Peter Barnes

'I Think I'm A Great Running Back...'

Call it Chapter Five in Don Highsmith's continuing story of "Send a Message to the World."

"I think I'm a great running back, and all I have to do is keep playing the kind of game I am capable of playing and some day people will realize I really am good.," the Hornets star said as he peeled off his muddy uniform.

Lying on the locker room shelf just above his clothes was the game ball, given to Highsmith for rushing for 101 yards and scoring the winning touchdown, as the Hornets won their third straight game, 10-0 over the Philadelphia Bell.

Last week Highsmith gained 99 yards in a win over Jacksonville, and the five-year pro journeyman now has gained 326 yards for the season.

"People talk about what the Hornets don't have, and what I don't have," Highsmith continued. "But I think we've got a lot of talent and determination. If we keep playing well long enough, they'll get the message.

Highsmith wasn't the Hornets only standout in the muddy victory – quarterback Tom Sherman called a smart game, even though his passing was erratic (one for eight, for 19 yards); Robby Reynolds punted beautifully in the quagmire; Tom Chandler continued to improve at linebacker.

But when the Hornets began moving in the second half on their way to the game's only touchdown, it was Highsmith who carried six times for 55 yards as the team moved 90 yards to the goal.

THE EVENING'S horrendous rains were apparently more bother to the spectators than to the team.

"I think that having to go out and loosen up in the rain was probably harder on the team than playing in the rain," Coach Bob Gibson said. "We played in the rain last week too and once the game starts it isn't too bad."

"The mud was really deep in the middle of the field," reported quarterback Sherman, "but as long as we win it doesn't bother me too much what happens. I threw a couple good balls that just didn't happen to connect," he said to explain his passing percentage, discounting the rain.

The rain also failed to stop Hornets punter Robby Reynolds, who put two punts inside the four yard line during the first half to keep the Bell backed up on their own goal line.

"The rain really didn't matter, although the mud late in the game forced me to be a little more careful," Reynolds said.

WHILE THE Hornets effectively bottled the Bell offense that scored 39 points last week in a loss to Southern California. The Charlotte defense was respectful of Philadelphia's attack.

"John Land is probably the quickest running back I've seen," said Chandler, who had nine solo tackles to tie with Jere Brown for team honors. Land gained 78 yards on 20 carries.

"J.J. Jennings has a lot of power as a runner, but more than that, I respect him as a blocker," Chandler added. "They are a good team."

SPIRITS IN the Hornets dressing room were high after the team's third straight win, but the club still hasn't had the big home show they feel is coming.

"It's a little frustrating," noted Chandler. "People were still skeptical of the team during the opener (three weeks ago against San Antonio) and then tonight we had the rain.

"I know the team wanted to put on a big, really good performance and fill the stadium. The fans we had tonight were great to come out in this weather, but it wasn't like a full house," Chandler said.

"But we're playing well, and going to keep improving. Charlotte's got a good team and that's all there is to it."