Philadelphia Bulletin

September 7, 1975

By Bulletin Staff Writer

Hornets Buzz in the Rain and Sting Bell, 10-0

Charlotte, North Carolina - Unlike a week ago, the Bell played it close enough last night to both encourage Coach Willie Wood and keep Channel 29 on the air to the bitter end.

The Charlotte Hornets only beat the Bell, 10-0, which Wood considered a considerable improvement from the 58-39 debacle at Southern California last week. That game was so poorly played and so lengthy the television station signed off the air before the game ended.

Last night, the television show improved only slightly due to a driving rain, which shut down both offenses completely for a half, and kept things close until the Bell’s vastly-improved defense began to bend.

Lone Seven-Pointer

That wasn’t until the second play of the fourth quarter, until Don Highsmith took a pitchout and sloshed 27 yards for the only touchdown of the game. Highsmith’s run culminated the only real offensive thrust by Charlotte, an 80-yard, 11-play drive. Pete Rajecki then put the game away with 1:55 left on a 37-yard field goal.

“I think we played a pretty fair game overall,” said Wood. “I thought we had good control of the ball in the first half, but we lost some of our composure. Once again, it was the little things that killed us.”

Looks Like A Recovery

 Twice on Charlotte’s winning drive, the Bell appeared to have recovered fumbles. The first came on the play that got Charlotte moving, a rollout by quarterback Tom Sherman that move the ball from his 15 out to the 32. Sherman gave up the ball when hit by Gregg Butler, and Frank Polito of the Bell appeared to fall on it.

It took the officials a full 15 seconds to dig through the pileup and determine Charlotte had maintained possession.

From there, Highsmith finally finding room outside began to take over. He picked up the next three first downs to move the ball to the Bell 35.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Lewis Jolley fumbled, and the Bell recovered, but officials ruled the fumble occurred after the whistle. On the next play, Highsmith took a pitch from Sherman, broke right, got away from a Polito tackle at the 15 and ran in. Jolley dropped Sherman’s pass for the action point, and Charlotte led, 7-0.

The Bell offense, which had moved the ball sparingly through the first half, broke down completely in the second. Its best chance to take the lead over in the final 30 minutes came on a break produced by the defense.

Danny Whyte of Charlotte caught a Sherman pass for a first down at the Hornets 34, was hit by Polito, and fumbled. Herb Lynch picked up the ball and ran to the 21. But the Bell couldn’t move further than the 17, and Bob Cooper missed a 33-yard field goal.

Cooper earlier missed a field goal attempt from the 43. It came after a first quarter 54-yard Bell drive kept alive mostly by the running of John Land.

At that point, it appeared the Bell could move on Charlotte.

“But this team still doesn’t play with complete freedom,” said Coach Wood. He says it doesn’t have his system down well enough yet to make big plays that win games.