They survived dengue fever, traveled by train to road games and shook hands with US President Warren G. Harding.
And they haven’t lost a game either.
The just-begun 2022 high school football season marks the 100th anniversary of the Charleston High School Bantams’ undefeated season in 1922. That team went 10-0-1, the only blemish a 6-6 tie on the road against a Massachusetts team.
The Bantams won their third straight state championship that season under a future Citadel coach named Carl Prause.
The fervor surrounding the team, the News and Courier reported at the time, was “the most hysterical football enthusiasm Charleston has ever seen”.
The captain of this team was the late Teddy Weeks, whose son John remembers his father’s Bantam tales.
“They didn’t have a team from 1913 to 1919,” John Weeks said. “They had dissolved football, I think because of the First World War. My dad said they went to the manager and tried to get support. They put together their own equipment, started a team and have won the next three state championships.”
Despite two consecutive state titles for the Bantams, the 1922 season did not get off to a promising start. Many players and coach Prause have been stricken with ‘dengue fever’, a mosquito-borne virus.
But despite dengue fever, the Bantams beat their first four opponents 139-0, including a 27-0 spanking of mighty Duval High of Jacksonville, Fla.
Then came the big road trip to Peabody High from Massachusetts, the team that had traveled to Charleston in 1921 for a big game at Hampton Park, where nearly 5,000 fans filled the wooden stands.
“The biggest football crowd in Charleston history so far,” wrote Thomas Waring of the News and Courier in a 1982 retrospective. “The stores closed, the town was decorated and everyone was talking about the Game.”
The Bantams won this game by 13-6. For the trip back to Boston, the Bantams chartered two Pullman train cars. A 1954 article reports that the team took care to carry, in barrels, “a sufficient quantity of water from Goose Creek” to avoid any ill effects from strange water drinking.
The team stayed at the Bellevue Hotel in Boston and drilled the next day on historic Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States and the site where the colonial militia assembled for the American Revolution.
For the game at Peabody, some 6,000 fans packed into the stands, and the Bantams scored first when Weeks hit Albion Johnson for a 75-yard touchdown pass. But the extra point from Weeks’ drop kick peeked the post, leaving the score at 6-0.
Peabody responded with a contested touchdown and also missed his extra run, with the game ending deadlocked at 6-6.
That missed extra point would stay with Teddy Weeks for years, his son said.
“Fifty years later, he said he could still see that ball hit the post and go sideways,” John said. “They’re the only team that’s been able to equalize them all season.”
Even the New York Times looked into the game.
“The New York Times said we should have won because Peabody’s touchdown didn’t get scored,” Bantams player Paul Read told the News and Courier in 1982.
On the way back, the team stopped in New York for lunch hosted by the New York Chamber of Commerce. A 1954 article recorded a Charleston player’s impressions of the Big Apple.
“New York is fine, but I like Charleston better,” Wallace Jeffords said. “I would rather live in Charleston.”
In Washington, DC, the Bantams toured the White House and were hosted by President Warren G. Harding, a meeting hosted by SC Senator NB Dial. In Charleston, the team was finally welcomed home by cheering fans who sang “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!”
Those six points scored by Peabody were the only points allowed by the Bantams all season. They have won their last six games by a combined 239-0, including a 48-0 win over Gaffney to claim a third straight state championship.
Prause, who later coached at the Citadel, was operating a shoe store on King Street when he was persuaded to coach the Bantams. He had played football in the army during World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and a Purple Heart.
At the Citadel, Prause had a 41-32-4 record from 1922-29, and his 1926 team went 7-3 with wins over Clemson and South Carolina. Many players on this team were former Bantams, including team captain Ephriam Seabrooks. Teddy Weeks also played for and captained the Citadel football team.
Other members of the 1922 team included CB Coleman, Moonie Brown, Eddie Doyle, Tom Ferguson, Frank Drowota, Clarence (Dutch) Brinker, George (Boll weevil) Kirkpatrick and Frank Taylor. The team’s average weight was 144 pounds.
Prause’s secret to winning with bantamweight players?
“He had a knack for firing high school kids,” said a former player in 1982, “to believe the world revolved around their victory.”
For the Charleston High Bantams in this season 100 years ago, it must have seemed that way.