1903 Season Ender Against Sherman Institute

A while back, I was asked about the scheduling of the Carlisle-Utah game on December 19, 1903. Based on what I had read at the time, I concluded that the reason for the trip to California trip that year was to play Reliance Athletic Association on Christmas Day in San Francisco and that the game with Sherman Institute on New Year’s Day in Riverside was a side trip. Well, that may actually be the opposite of what was the case.

In 1902, Carlisle alum Bemus Pierce took the job of coaching the Sherman Institute team in Riverside, California and, apparently, took it pretty seriously. CFBdatawarehouse.com lists their record as 8-1-0 with the Stanford & Santa Ana All-Stars being the team that scored the 6 points total scored against them that season. Victories included a 34-0 thumping of Occidental College and a 28-0 thrashing of Southern California, which many call USC.

The 1903 season didn’t turn out as well. Sherman Institute lost its season opener to Pomona-Pitzer in a more lopsided score than they had defeated them the previous year. They also lost to Stanford 18-0 but beat USC 12-0. With a 4-3 record, they were called West Coast Champions—surely a dubious title that year. Regardless, they suited up to play the eastern powerhouse in a New Year’s game.

Game reports indicate that this was one of the hardest fought games of football ever played in Southern California. Carlisle scored a touchdown just three and a half minutes into the game and would have been held with that score had it not been for a disputed play. Wilson Charles broke through the Sherman left tackle for a 45-yard touchdown run that the captain of the Sherman Institute team claimed was blown dead by Umpire Hauberman. Referee Tappan allowed the play. Sherman scored six points and lost 12-6 (Correct this score on page 47 of Steckbeck). Carlisle lost quarterback James Johnson and fullback Charles Williams early in the game to injuries. Sherman’s stars were Captain Neafus, for his fast playing, and Pierce for his defense work. So, it appears that Bemus Pierce suited up to play his old comrades. His playing days weren’t completely over. 

It wouldn’t be until 1916 that USC would beat Sherman Institute in the first game in which they scored on the Indians.

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