Members of the 1961 Wildcats — Andy Anderson, Chuck Carona, Roy Gene Evans, Terry Gragg, Steve Phillips, Mark Schumann and Stan Moore — plus coach Jackie Russell, gather at the high school near the start of the 2011 season. After the photo shoot, they hit Picasso’s in Lake Highlands for pizza and to reminisce. Phillips helps to keep 1961 and 1962 grads in touch by maintaining email correspondences among members of the first and second graduating classes. PHOTO BY Benjamin Hager

1961 Lake Highlands Roster

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Lake Highlands High School celebrates 50 years of football this year. “The Lake Highlands Wildcats opened their football career Friday night with a 16-12 victory over Anna,” read a blurb in sports section of the Sept. 2, 1961 Dallas Morning News. “Kenny Woods scored both Wildcat touchdowns … Roy Evans tossed to Tommy Webb for a conversion with five minutes remaining in the game … It was Lake Highlands’ first football game in history.”

Chuck Carona, who today is the dean of the college of education at Dallas Baptist University, was number 87 that season. He played defensive back and remembers — perhaps more clearly than he remembers that first night — the first practice season.

“We started two-a-days in August. Our helmets were very different than what they have today. We practiced in these hot long-sleeved cotton jerseys. No mesh or cooler materials like you have today,” he says. “But we didn’t care. We were just excited.”

Lake Highlands High had been around just a couple years, so in ’61 the sophomores were the upperclassmen. That meant Carona and his teammates during the 1961 season were 14 and 15 years old, but they played against mostly juniors and seniors.

“We did pretty well, considering. That first year the Wildcats won seven, lost two and tied one.”

A few years ago, Carona says, he received a tour of the impressive Wildcat-Ram stadium from friend Bob Iden, retired LHHS principal. Carona says he still follows LHHS football and plans to catch a game or two this fall.

He recalls that his Wildcats team played and practiced at a stadium on Greenville Avenue. While much has changed over the years, he says, the spirit that surrounds the high school and athletics program has not.

“That’s what makes Lake Highlands so special. There is this tight-knit small town feel — a community spirit around the school and the teams that never seems to change.”