Kingsport’s First High School Football Team

Summer is coming to an end and kids will be returning to school next week…That means that football season is almost here!

Dobyns-Bennett High School football got its start in sticker-1the summer of 1921 when Don Williamson, manager of the “Y,” gathered a group of boys and began teaching them the game. From there the idea was put into motion to form a team for the high school. In the fall of 1921 the high school officially had a football team.

The high school did not yet have a football field so practices and home games were played at the old Baseball League Park. The park was located downtown, around where the post office on Center Street is today. The park was torn down in 1926.

1921 Football Team. Front Row: Van Dorsey, Robert “Bobby” Dodd, Josh Denham. Middle Row: Elmer Breeding, Milton DeVault, Walter Poston, Carl Rutherford, Bert Fine. Back Row: William Williamson, Arthur Poston, William Rutherford, Coach Don Williamson, E.B. Blankenbecler, Lee Meredith, Claude Greer (Manager), Fred Wright, Leslie Simmons, John Dodd.

The 1921 season resulted in 2 wins, 7 losses and 1 tie.

The first touchdown scored for the school was by halfback Josh Denham in a game against Abingdon High School.

The worst loss that year was a 53-0 defeat to Bristol.

The team played Johnson City three times during the first season, losing 2 and tying 1.

Walter Poston was captain of the 1921 squad.

1922 Football Team. Front Row: W.C. Pendleton, LeRoy Shelton, Robert Poston, Robert Dodd, Fred Clyce, Forrest Dorsey. Middle Row: Coach LeRoy Sprankle, Fred Wright, Luke Lowe, Ben Leeper, Walter Poston, Milton DeVault, Miss Roma Williamson (sponsor), Hagan Stevens, Walter Kemp, Glen Calhoun, Carl Rutherford, William Williamson, Leslie Simmons (faculty manager). Back Row: W.V. Pierce (student manager), Van Dorsey, Stanley Palmer, Gladstone Smallwood, Arthur Poston, William Pendleton, Matthew Lunn, Emary “Jitney” Blankenbecler, Lee Meredith, Winton Compton, Ross N. Robinson (principal).

Nearly all of the boys on the first football team played on the 1922 squad coached by LeRoy Sprankle who became known as the “Father of Kingsport Athletics.” The 1922 football team had more success than the previous year, the season ended with 8 wins and 2 losses.

Football Records for 1921 and 1922
Football Records for 1921 and 1922

If you are interested in the early years of sports programs at Dobyns-Bennett please visit the archives for more information. Most of the information above came from the book “My Boys” by LeRoy Sprankle. The book and LeRoy Sprankle’s personal collection is available for research.


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