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Story Archives: The Other Ferriday Bulldogs
|The Other Ferriday Bulldogs|
When people talk about Ferriday Bulldogs athletics, invariably they are going to bring up the 1950s football teams that won four straight state championships.
But there was another group of former Bulldogs who were also successful and dominant.
Along with the football state championship trophies at Panola Woods Country Club are two state championship trophies won by the Ferriday girls basketball teams in 1961 and 1962.
"Football will always be king," said Dorothy Staggs Ulmer, who was part of both basketball championships. "Girls sports back then were not as big as they are now. But we did have a big following and a lot of support."
The Lady Bulldogs finished 28-11 in 1960 under head coach Martha Paul.
"I knew we would have a good team the next year," Ulmer said. "We all played together for a long time."
Ulmer earned a starting spot her freshman year.
"We had a practice game with Vidalia and I wasn't starting," she said. "Mrs. Paul put me in and I hustled and got rebounds and started every game after that."
The Lady Bulldogs started out 23-0 in 1961 before losing to Central of Larto in the Jonesville Tournament.
"We thought we couldn't be beat, but that game showed we weren't completely in control," Ulmer said.
Ulmer said Jinks Coleman drove home alone in a huff after that contest. Coleman would go on to start the women's basketball program at LSU.
"Jinks was quite the motivator," Ulmer said.
Ferriday did win the Monterey Invitational, Newellton Invitational, St. Joseph Invitational, Buckeye Invitational and Central of Larto Invitational.
Ferriday rebounded from the loss to Central and advanced to the playoffs, defeating Winnfield 42-33 in the semifinals.
Ulmer led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points in the semifinal contest.
Ferriday defeated Mount Carmel 41-36 for the Class A state championship after trailing 22-18 at halftime.
"That was the sweetest because it was the first girls championship at Ferriday and we had all been together for such a long time," Ulmer said.
Ulmer hit a long shot just before halftime that gave the Bulldogs needed momentum going into the second half.
"We had a bunch of good outside shooters," Ulmer said. "There's no telling how much better we would have been with a 3-point line. I learned how to shoot from a film Ms. Paul showed me. I shot the ball two-handed and just followed the directions."
Ulmer, who was called the "Ponytail Sharpshooter" by her teammates, finished the championship game making 10-of-10 free throws, while scoring 18 points.
"Mrs. Paul stressed free throws in practice," Ulmer said. "She made us shoot 50 free throws and I tried to make 50 in a row. Everybody knew the importance of free throws. Mrs. Paul would also turn out the lights and have us practice dribbling the basketball. We also practiced with a medicine ball, which about killed us. It was all about the basics."
Ulmer said Paul also brought in speakers and other instructors to teach and motivate.
"She asked Jim Brown to come teach the track team how to run hurdles," Ulmer said, referring to the former politician who ran track at the University of North Carolina.
Becky Purvis led Ferriday in scoring in 1961, averaging 16 points a game, while Ulmer averaged 13 points.
The Bulldogs finished the season at 41-4.
"Winning the state championship was a dream come true," Ulmer said.
Ulmer, Becky Purvis and Jinks Coleman were on the offensive end of the court in 1961, while Marilyn Stephens, Jery Paul and Carole Burley were on the defensive end.
At that time, six players were on the court in girls games, three on offense and three on defense. It wasn't until the late 1960s that one person ( a rover) could play both ends of the court.
"I liked the way it was because we knew how to pick and roll and knew what each other was going to do," Ulmer said.
Ulmer said a lot of the games were low-scoring.
"We could freeze the ball back then, which is what some teams tried to do," Ulmer said. "Mrs. Paul was able to adapt to anything and use any kind of strategy needed. We had some real shootouts with Harrisonburg and Newellton. Newellton had Linda Harper, who went on to coach the women's basketball team at Northeast Louisiana. They would freeze the ball and then get it in to her. She was a really good shooter. There is a lot of coaching that goes on. You could win a game without having the best players."
With the loss of Coleman, Burley and Jery Paul, the Bulldogs figured to have a tough time to repeat.
"We had Jo Ann Manchester, a tall girl, move in from Jena and some of the younger girls like Margaret Ann Bateman moved up and stepped up," Ulmer said. "But we were focused and we had the advantage of winning it the year before. We weren't cocky, but we were confident."
And they were just as close a unit.
"We all dyed our hair red before one game to be like the Redheads," Ulmer said. "When we started sweating, the red dye started coming off our hair. We all did things together. And the town was just as supportive as it was before."
Once again, the tough district schedule got the Bulldogs ready for postseason play.
"One person could carry a team back then," Ulmer said. "Harrisonburg had a girl named Helen Randall who we had to put two people on."
Ferriday defeated Coushatta 49-34 in the Class A semifinals to advance to its second straight championship game.
Ulmer scored 25 points, hitting 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
"Mrs. Paul chewed me out many times for not shooting the ball more, but I got more of a thrill out of getting an assist by reading the players and the play than passing the ball," Ulmer said. "But when she got on me, I did look to shoot more."
The Bulldogs defeated Amite 58-28 in the Class A finals in their home gym, storming out to an 8-0 lead before going into intermission with a 27-13 advantage. Ferriday led 45-21 going into the final period.
Ulmer finished with 22 points in the contest, hitting five field goals from behind the free throw arc and nailing 12 free throws.
The Bulldogs finished 36-3 on the season.
"It was great winning on our home court," Ulmer said. "They had everything roped off and people standing on the sideline."
Ulmer, Stevens, Purvis and Manchester were named to the All-State first team, while Bateman was named to the second team.
"We were a real tight group," Ulmer said. "We were good friends who started playing together when we were freshmen and sophomores. Everything just kind of clicked. We were just like a family. It was a case of the right combination of girls with the right coach at the right time. We all loved basketball with a passion. And Mrs. Paul taught us so much, not just basketball. She taught us life skills."
And while the Ferriday girls may not have received the publicity of the boys teams, they had a very big and loyal following.
"We were treated like royalty," Ulmer said. "And the support was great, you would think we were playing for Duke University. We had the best equipment and (former Sheriff) Noah Cross led us on out of town games with his siren going. We would get back late at night and he would have that siren going. But no one seemed to mind. I still see people today who ask if I played basketball at Ferriday High. I think what we did help promote girls sports around here. Everything seemed to start clicking after that. The softball team won a couple of state championships and so did the track team. It was like a sports dynasty here."
Ulmer attended Northwestern State and competed on an independent women's basketball team. There were no women's sports at the time.
She returned to Ferriday and began teaching at Ferriday HIgh. And, of course, coaching.
"I did what Mrs. Paul wanted me to do," Ulmer said. "And I really wanted to help the girls out the same way she helped us out."
Ulmer was named girls basketball, softball and track coach at Huntington when the school was formed in 1970.
"We started out at the Methodist Church and I spent the first year trying to get uniforms," Ulmer said. "When we moved to the permanent location, it was a concrete floor we played on. I swept that floor many a time. And I bet I put out a million chairs for different events. I got one of my former players, Coot Gilley, to help me with track. We had some great athletes at Huntington."
At Huntington, Ulmer's basketball teams won district four times and was state runner-up three times.
Ulmer's softball teams were district champions 11 times and won state titles in 1971, '72 and '74.
Ulmer's girls track teams won state in 1971, '72 and '73.
"I loved track," Ulmer said. "I would have different strategies. We went to a state meet in Ruston and I swapped up my fastest runner from last to first. She came around that curve with such a big lead and we pulled it off."
Ulmer also started the band at Huntington in 1970, serving as director for two years.
"There was no band director," Ulmer said. "A lot of the kids came from Ferriday High where they played in the band. I would just go to the game and get them started, just '1-2 ready, play.'"
Ulmer said she did not have a lot of time for extracurricular activities.
"When you coach, you don't have a life," Ulmer said. "I would go out and play golf and the older ones were beating me. I hated that because I didn't like to lose."
Ulmer said her former teammates still keep in touch and are still a close bunch. She still gets a bit emotional when talking about Coleman, who died of cancer at the age of 56 in 2000.
Prior to becoming the first women's basketball head coach at LSU, Coleman was the head girls' basketball coach at Monterey High School in Monterey, where she led her team to the 1971 Class B Final Four.
Coleman coached both basketball and volleyball at LSU from 1973 until 1977.
Throughout her tenure, however, she was required to teach five physical education classes in addition to her coaching duties.
Coleman led the Lady Tigers to a No. 11 final AP ranking in the 1976-1977 season and to a No. 10 final ranking in the 1977-1978 season. Her teams went to three AIAW Tournaments, won a state title in 1978, and earned a regional crown in 1977.
In the 1977 AIAW National Tournament in Minnesota, Coleman's LSU team defeated Western Michigan (91-53), Baylor (71-64), and Immaculate College (74-68), before falling to Margaret Wade's No. 1 ranked Delta State team in the national championship game by a score of 68-55.
To date, the 1977 team is the only Lady Tiger basketball team to play in a national championship game.
"She had a great impact and just loved sports," Ulmer said. "She loved basketball more than any of us. We loved it, but not like her."
Ulmer, who has taught at Ferriday, Huntington and Vidalia schools before retiring in 2008, still volunteers her services when needed in extreme situations.
"I have been blessed to work with some good people," Ulmer said. "A lot of people have really supported me and I am very appreciative of that."
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