The Charlotte Observer

October 19, 1975

By Richard Sink


PHILADELPHIA - This one was a joke, a real bummer from the start to finish.

That the Charlotte Hornets were even in the World Football League contest at the end, 18-10 is a credit to their defense and the fault of some equally bumbling plays by the Philadelphia Bell.

A comedy of errors by both teams would have had Franklin Field roaring and cracking at is old, creaky seams if there'd been anybody here to laugh. Only 1,293, a WFL season low, bothered to show on an off-and-on rainy Saturday night that also offered the Stanley Cup champion Flyers on television as alternative entertainment.

But Mary Tyler Moore couldn't have been any funnier than some of the proceedings at Franklin Field. The Hornets alone tabulated three lost fumbles and two interceptions, not to mention near-fumbles, dropped passes, botched chances and curious decisions.

At the half, with the Bell ahead, 10-3, on a field goal with a second left, the Hornets had rushed 17 times for minus-2 yards. Only reserve Molly McGee's 43-yard scamper on fourth-and-one which set up Don Highsmith's ensuring four-yard touchdown gallop half-way through the final quarter kept the team's final rushing total of 66 yards from being downright embarrassing.

"Lack of concentration hurt us in not sustaining drives," said Charlotte Coach Bob Gibson. "Ha! Sustaining drives? What am I saying? We didn't have any drives to sustain. This was almost a laugher."

Even Gibson couldn't resist a hurt chuckle. His first move with a reporter after watching quarterbacks Tom Sherman and Brian Dowling complete only 12 of 36 passes and seeing team rushing leader Don Highsmith carry 16 times for minus-two yards was to grab a notepad and scribble an unprintable in all capitals, underline it and accentuate it with three exclamation marks.

"We got no offense at all," Gibson said. "When you can't move it at all, you've got to say it was a plenty poor performance. I don't think we blocked a soul, and they manhandled us on the offensive line. We didn't have complete concentration. When you get the ball in your bosom and drop it after cuddling the s.o.b. its just lack of concentration.

"The offense showed complete ineptness and the defense looked like (unprintable bleep) yet only gave up 18 points. I was surprise our tackling was lousy. That's the only reason they ran well. Really, the poor defensive tackle was the only thing wrong on that end."

"It was our worst over-all performance of the season."

Easily, No contest.

Randy Rhino had in come up often from his safety position and let the team with nine unassisted tackles, plus four assists. Often, they were against running back Claude Watts, the WFL Player of the Week three games ago and a strong candidate again. He set a Bell record with his 136 yards, off 25 carries. At one time he was up to 142 before a seven-yard loss was thrown in.

The Bell, getting only five-of-18 completions and a hurting three interceptions from quarterback Bob Davis, traveled almost exclusively by land, including a little guy named John Land, who lost his team rushing record to Watts but tackled on 93 yards on 14 tries.

The Bell got quick retribution for its earlier 10-0 shutout in Charlotte by moving 80 yards strictly on the ground and on two offside penalties against the Hornets to score on first possession. Davis dived a yard for the 7-0 lead with 10:36 gone.

The Hornets answered by advancing the ball 44 yards - all in the air - and settled the Pete Rajecki's 27-yard field goal with a 1:37 left in the first period. It made Rajecki 8-for-9 for the season.

Bob Cooper boomed a 44-yarder on the last offensive play of the half for Philadelphia's 10-3 lead.

Watts went outside for the last yard on forth down to complete a 1-play, 79-yard drive - all on the ground, for a 17-3 margin with 1:12 elapsed in the final period. Surprisingly, Davis passed to tight end Ted Kwalick to make it 18-3.

A quick five-play drive engineered by reserve Dowling put the Hornets back in shape with 8:52 left. But when the Bell got the ball back, Gibson elected to go with a 10-yard holding penalty on third down rather then an incomplete pass and the move backfired. Watts was wrapped up for a loss on the next play, but tackle David Douglas was detected for a face-mask violation, an automatic first down.

The Bell got to run an extra six plays before punting into the end zone and a late Hornet burst was negated when backup tight end Danny Whyte joined Sherman and Lewis Jolley in losing fumbles. Safety Bill Craven nabbed Whyte's bobble for his second recovery of the evening to go with an interception.

The Hornets got interceptions from Rhino (his third), cornerback Larry Shears (his fifth) and linebacker Marty Huff (his second) but on this night, they were in a lost cause.