Pflugerville High School celebrates the 50th anniversary of its record-setting squads
“To the German-descended citizens of Pflugerville, Texas (pop.: 400), the most important things in life, in approximate order are chores, church and football.” — Time magazine, Oct. 26, 1962
Between 1958 and 1962, the Pflugerville High School football team was an unstoppable force under the Friday night lights of Central Texas. For nearly five seasons spanning 55 games, Pflugerville’s teams of seemingly ordinary farm boys took on all comers and won.
By the time the winning streak came to an end on a Friday the 13th in November 1962, the Panthers had compiled what was then the nation’s longest-ever high school football winning streak. In the process, Pflugerville outscored opponents by a difference of 2,354 points to 251. Thirty of the victories were shutouts, including a four-game streak in 1958 in which Pflugerville outscored opponents 236–0. Throughout the entire 1960 season, Pflugerville held its opponents to a total of just 28 points, according to school records.
“The speed, the unity and the leadership on and off the field is what made those teams special,” said Charles Kuempel, PHS’s coach from 1955–1974. “This bunch of people was very dedicated and persistent in everything they did.”
The teams coach Kuempel led represented the pride of Pflugerville and even drew fans from surrounding communities. According to those who were there, few of the town’s approximately 400 residents failed to appear at the Friday night games. Attendance at Pflugerville football games was nearly as mandatory as church.
“We had a football tradition in Pflugerville—a tradition on Friday nights to go to the games,” said Willard Hebbe, wingback/defensive back of the 1959–62 teams. “We just enjoyed playing football, and the city really came out to support us.”
Vernagene Mott, PHS class of 1960, was a cheerleader during the winning streak. Two of Mott’s brothers, a cousin and her husband all played for the Panthers. Mott was born, grew up, built a career and raised a family in Pflugerville.
Mott remembers Pflugerville circa 1960 as a town composed of “three gas stations two beer joints and one convenience store for groceries.”
“Everybody turned out [for football games],” Mott said. “You didn’t have a lot of things to do in such a small town. It was a gathering place, and everyone showed up for Friday night football.”
Most of the players from the Panthers’ winning streak were small compared to today’s standards. Hebbe, Mott’s brother, weighed all of 130 lbs. during his playing days.
“Probably half the time the boys on the other team were bigger than us, but we just rolled through them,” Hebbe said. “I think sometimes we were just a little smarter than the other teams.”
The fact that Pflugerville’s male student enrollment hovered around 40 during the winning streak makes the team’s accomplishments all the more remarkable. In a 1962 interview with Time magazine, Kuempel said 31 of the school’s 40 boys played football—and of the nine who didn’t, seven were ineligible and one was the team’s manager.
Although a team-first attitude prevailed, Pflugerville was not without its own athletic standouts. Foremost was Joe Weiss, a cousin of Mott and Hebbe, who measured 6 feet 4 inches tall, 190 lbs., and starred as the team’s quarterback from 1960–62. Weiss led the team to 34 consecutive victories and later received a football scholarship to Texas A&M University.
Weiss is quick to defer credit for the team’s success to others.
“It involved the whole community …. They all participated,” Weiss said. “A lot of people would come the high school students, the bands, the cheerleaders. [Players] weren’t given any special treatment, but [the community] was all on board.”
Half a century removed from their remarkable winning streak, the members of Pflugerville High School’s most successful teams are still being remembered. On Oct. 12, coach Kuempel, 58 former players and their families were recognized for their accomplishments during halftime of the game between PHS and McNeil High School.
“They really gave us a warm welcome,” Weiss said. “Friday night football in Pflugerville—what could be better than that?”
After the streak: Pflugerville High School alumni 50 years later
Vernagene Mott — Mott graduated as valedictorian of Pflugerville High School in 1960 before moving on to The University of Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in math. Mott later married former Panthers running back Charles Mott (class of 1961). The Motts returned to Pflugerville where Vernagene taught in the region for 35 years prior to taking on her current duties as vice president of the PISD board of trustees. Charles became a radiologist and eventually returned to the Panthers’ sideline, where he served as team physician.
Joe Weiss — Weiss graduated as valedictorian and senior class president of the PHS class of 1963. Weiss went on to a successful college football career at Texas A&M University, where he was the starting tight end under coach Gene Stallings. In 1967 Weiss earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering before embarking on a successful career running refineries for Texaco out of Port Arthur. Weiss retired in 2009 and returned to Pflugerville. He now operates a ranch in Williamson County.
Willard Hebbe — Hebbe graduated as senior class vice president in 1963. Hebbe played in only one losing game during his entire high school career. Coach Charles Kuempel credits a winning touchdown catch by Hebbe during a 1960 game against Johnson City as one of the most critical moments in keeping the winning streak alive. Hebbe later graduated from The University of Texas before going onto a career as a computer programer for Lockheed. While at Lockheed, Hebbe was assigned to work with NASA during the Apollo moon landing missions. Hebbe returned to Pflugerville in 1982 before retiring in 1995.
Charles Kuempel — Coach Kuempel, a 1949 PHS graduate, continued to enjoy success on the field after the streak ended, leading the Panthers to the state finals in 1970. Kuempel coached the Panthers football team for 19 years before retiring from football in 1975 and taking up a career as a rancher and farmer. Kuempel continues to stay in contact with as many of his former players as possible.