Emma Poole, Salvatore Ambrosino
A History of Football at Florida Southern College
“To our Alma Mater, Southern, and the floating White and Blue.”
Before the campus even called Lake Hollingsworth home, the pride of Southern College was its football team. Boasting wins against Stetson, University of Miami, Rollins College and even the University of Florida, the history of the blue and white eleven is little-known but rich nonetheless.
Florida Southern College was first located in Leesburg, Fla. Although the college was established in 1885, the football program was not instated until 1912. Of course, the program got off to a rocky start – the next year, the Moccasins were defeated 144-0 by the University of Florida Gators. That did not deter the team from working to become stronger in the coming years.
With World War I coming to an end, the Moccasins missed a season in 1918. But in 1919, they were due for the biggest comeback in the history of the program.
It was Saturday, Nov. 1, 1919. Southern College’s Moccasins were set to meet one of their rivals, the University of Florida Gators, in Sutherland (now St. Petersburg), Fla. In the most major upset in Florida Southern football history, the blue and white goal was never threatened – the Moccasins defeated the Gators 7-0. This win gave the college the confidence that they needed to take pride in their football team.
However, in their very next season, in 1920, the college lost their athletics program.
The future of the Southern College football program may not have looked the brightest, but a major change was on the horizon for the college.
The year 1922 brought about a significant development to Florida Southern College’s – known as Southern College at the time – football story, when the college moved to its current location in Lakeland. With this move, the football program was reinstated.
Before the 1923 season began, a practice game showed significant growth on the team, which was promising for both the team and the fans. The 1923 season opened on Oct. 13.
The Stetson Hatters, one of Southern’s rivals, were the opponents. Much to the surprise of the fans, the Moccasins outplayed the Hatters in every stage of the game, defeating Stetson and setting the school up for a riveting season.
With growth continually occurring, the Southern College football program affiliated with the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association – now known as the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – a partnership that would last until 1930.
The games themselves were not the only significant things in the history of Florida Southern’s football team. The leadership and initiative displayed by students to keep Southern College football alive throughout the program’s existence are perhaps what makes the program the most notable.
Arkansas native Hollis Fuaman “Gal” Galloway first came to the Southern College campus in the fall of 1925. Football wasn’t the only activity that Galloway took part in – he was heavily involved on campus, even being voted Junior Class President in 1928 and was also voted “Most Athletic” by his classmates.
During the fall of 1927, Southern defeated rival Rollins and tied rival Stetson in a dynamic season. “In a return game with the Rollins Tars on November 19 the Blue and White eleven got into the spirit of the thing and swamped the luckless Winter Parkers 37 to 0,” read a report from a Florida Southern 1928 yearbook. They could not have done it without quarterback Galloway, whose distinctive playing style was a trademark on the team. “Gal has a puzzling hip movement and sidestep that makes him the best broken-field runner on the squad,” the yearbook said.
After Galloway’s time at Southern was over, the team would gain a new leader. Voted “wittiest” by his classmates, Marcus Marchant was nicknamed “Joker” and was the center for the Moccasins. The 1928 season would line up to be the most remarkable season ever for Southern football.
A 26-0 loss to the University of Florida was strikingly similar to previous years, but the Moccasin spirit was not defeated. Although they hadn’t won against the Gators, the ability with which their defense played was a sure sign that a championship game may be in the near future for Southern. Fans feared the optimism of this prediction until the season continued.
Oct. 20 brought Southern a 27-0 victory over Piedmont. On Nov. 12, the Moccasins racked up 18 points compared to Erskine’s 0 in Lake Wales, Fla.
In DeLand, Fla., on Nov. 13, with Governor Doyle Carlton, Senator Duncan U. Fletcher, and more prominent figures in attendance, Southern College defeated the Stetson Hatters 13-0.
Nov. 24, 1928 brought the largest marginal victory the Mocs had seen all season long: a 58-0 victory over Rollins College.
It was followed on Nov. 29 by a close 13-7 win against Wofford. Although the score was tight, this game, along with the previous string of wins, solidified Southern College as the number one ranked team out of 30 on the S.I.A.A. roster.
The climax of the season came on Dec. 8, 1928, when the Southern Moccasins and the Chattanooga Moccasins met in Lakeland to vie for the conference title. Although the game ended in a 19-0 loss for Southern College, it did not change the fact that the season had been remarkable. At that year’s football banquet, Marchant was named the team captain.
In 1929, Oklahoma native David Carlyle Huskey stepped onto the scene. A star basketball player, Huskey decided to put his athleticism to use on the football team as well. His leadership among the team and the student body paved the way for the next year’s team to accomplish something remarkable – beating one of the best teams rival Rollins had produced in many years.
“Most athletic” was one title used to describe Jack Spivey in the 1930 Interlachen yearbook. The halfback was the only man on Southern College’s team to return a kickoff for a touchdown that season. The next year provided a similar scene, when Doc Melton ran the ball back for 97 yards to defeat the Miami Hurricanes. This remarkable touchdown wasn’t the last the Southern football program would see from Doc Melton.
In a tumultuous time when the program lacked leadership and support from the college, Southern College disaffiliated from the S.I.A.A. That wasn’t the end for the program, though. A determined Melton dreamed up an extensive intramural program, including a football team. As the student coach of the team, he was discouraged when tryouts didn’t produce enough players to form a team. From the existing intramurals, Melton recruited a full team – many of which had never played competitive football – and put together an entire season schedule for the team. They played against independent teams across Florida and had a relatively successful season. The most remarkable part: Melton did all of this with no financial support from the college.
The next years presented similar challenges for the Moccasins. New student-coach Johnny Woodall’s popularity and leadership provided him some assistance in recruiting another team from the intramurals, one of which was Oliver Daughtery. It would be that season that would send Daughtery into national headlines for his 105-yard touchdown against Bowdon College in LaGrange, Georgia.
In 1935, the college would lose the football program again – this time, permanently. Regardless, morale was strong until the end. “A good year is forecast for the 1935 Moccasins,” read an excerpt from the 1934 yearbook, not knowing that that season would never come to be. While that prediction may have been ironic, it was not entirely incorrect.
Perhaps the upsets, scores, and excitement were not the biggest legacy that football left at Florida Southern. Although they are now a distant part of the college’s history, there will always be lessons in determination and resilience to be learned from the blue and white eleven.