As he swung open the screen door to his father's hardware store each Saturday morning, during the high school football season, a young Jay Koch knew what was waiting for him on the other side.
Ribbing. Needling. Call it what you will.
To many of the Haven (Kan.)
old-timers, the comparisons made between any Wildcats squad to the powerhouse team they competed for were mere reminders of Haven's 256-0 win over Sylvia in 1927.
The win that tops all wins in Kansas, as well as the rest of the nation, was still somewhat fresh in the minds of Haven's citizens at the time. But for good measure, former Wildcat players had little trouble thinking back to that November evening and reminding the next Wildcat generation of the thumping they dished out.
Regardless of the outcome of any game, Koch always found himself in a tight corner trying to get by many former Wildcat players before they spotted him and once again reminded him of the national standard they set.
"I'd have to walk by them to get to the back of the store so I could get to work," Koch recalled of those fall Saturday mornings in the mid to late 1950s. "Some of the guys that hadn't yet begun their work for the day – even some of the guys that didn't work anymore – would be sitting around the potbelly stove at our hardware store, drinking coffee.
"I always had to hear about that football game. We never measured up to the 1927 football team."
With the death of all the members of Buell Hunter's famous Wildcat squad, the memories of the contest soon began to fade. At the same time, Haven's population was growing and eventually doubled to today's population of about 1,200 – requiring a higher-capacity water tower.
After putting plans for a completely new water system into motion, Haven City Administrator and Public Works Director Allen Blake and the community around him began searching for something unique-to-Haven that could be displayed on the new tower.
"I think it's something to brag about," Blake said about the highest-scoring football game in America. "We were looking for something notable to put on the water tower and that certainly fits the bill. It's unique to Haven.
"Now we're in discussions as to what is appropriate to put up there. It's been recommended that we put the words, ‘Home of the Highest Scoring Football Game in American Football History' on the tower."
While there was thought to be some controversy as to whether or not to include the score of the game and the name of the Wildcat opponent on the tower, Blake said he couldn't recall much dissension at all.
"It was definitely talked about," Blake said. "But I don't think it was that big of a deal. We think we came up with a good way to display the record without being disrespectful to the other team involved."
Blake's "Sign Committee" is set to begin taking bids for the new water tower on Feb. 2. Then he estimates another 12-18 months to complete the project.
The tower will stand on the eastern side of Haven, right next to Haven Road and in close proximity to Highway 96. Once completed, traffic running in all directions will be informed of Haven's claim to fame. Blake added that the selected logo would more than likely run all the way around the tower.
"I hope that this is something that's memorable," Blake said, "so people will have something to think about Haven."
While playing football at Haven, Koch and his teammates won two Central Kansas League titles. But their accomplishments paled in comparison to the Haven football team of 1927 – a squad that set the standard for which all other Wildcat gridiron teams are compared.
Led by Koch's quarterback-playing father, Louis, the Wildcats overpowered and outran a young Sylvia team that was under the assumption that it was going to be playing against the Wildcat junior varsity. Rumor had it that Sylvia sat down during the game and refused to play after discovering it would be banging heads with the overpowering Wildcat varsity.
But Koch was not about to buy into that theory. Not after listening to his father speak about the game.
"My father always told me that Sylvia did not sit down," Koch said. "Every time he turned the corner, he said, there was somebody there for him to hit."
The elder Koch's 5-foot, 6-inch and 140-pound frame was not the norm for the 1927 edition of Wildcat football. Koch said that his father described the 1927 team as consisting of especially big linemen and really fast backs.
The elder Koch had plenty of foot speed, even into his 50s. But it was Elvin McCoy who stole the show that evening. McCoy scored 13 touchdowns against Sylvia and posted 90 points on the scoreboard to place his name above all other names in establishing single-game individual marks in both categories nationally. Eventually Ricky Lanier of Williamston Hayes (Williamston, N.C.) did tie McCoy's touchdown mark in 1967.
Haven's 38-touchdown performance also stands alone in the National Federation of State High School Associations High School Sports Record Book. Just for comparison, the most recent Haven team scored 165 points in 10 games, nowhere close to equaling the total from that one famous game.
Hunter's team captain Jesse Atkinson scored 60 points in the win. Every Wildcat but center Charles Blachly scored. One earlier account claimed that some of Haven's linemen lined up in the backfield and scored from there.
Sylvia did move the ball on an early-game possession, driving to Haven's 30-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. Then Matt McCoy rambled 70 yards for the game's first points to put the Wildcats up and for all intents and purposes sealed the win.
"That was the end of it," Koch said in reference to Matt McCoy's run. "After that we just blew them out."
A substitution rule during that era may have contributed to the blowout. With only about 21 players suiting up on his roster, Hunter's hands were tied.
"Back then, if you went out in the first half, you couldn't come back in the game until the second half," Koch recalled. "If you went out in the second half you were done for the game."
Another 1920s rule allowed the receiving team to kick the ball right back to its opponent. Sylvia apparently employed that rule some throughout the game – hoping to have better luck on defense.
Haven's record offensive output occurred in a regulation 48-minute, 11-Man game. The Wildcats' single-game point production edged Staunton's (Ill.) old mark of 233 points set in 1923. Stigler (Okla.), Muskegon (Mich.) and Cozad (Neb.) all established 200-plus point games in the early 1900s as well.
Word of Haven's one-night scoring fest reached some of the nation's top newspapers and even made it onto Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" radio program along with "Ripley's Believe it or Not." In a 2007 story in the Hutchinson (Kan.) News, it was reported that Darrell Blachly, son of Charles Blachly, discovered the score on the inside of a Bazooka bubble gum wrapper.
Haven devoured the first six opponents on its 1927 schedule by a combined score of 275-0. Then after scoring on every possession against Sylvia, the Wildcats upended Burrton (Kan.) 49-0 to cap a perfect 8-0 season without giving up a single point.
Kansas began competition in state championship football playoffs in 1969. Otherwise, Haven surely would have been an odds-on favorite to win it all in 1927.