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By James McAfee
(Second of series)
C. H. Underwood, who will be inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame April 19, decided to handle his farming and ranching operation during the 1974-1983 school years except for 1975-1976 when he just taught English at Knox City High School and when he returned to coach football in the fall of 1979 after the coach left early in the season.
He accepted the assignment as line coach in football under Tommy Sloan and as head basketball coach at KCHS in the fall of 1983. The Greyhounds ended up as 1A 11-man state champions, finishing with a 11-1 record, the one loss coming at the hands of 2A Albany by a 19-14 score in the opening game. After winning district, the Hounds scored wins over Meridian (46-15), Nazareth (20-6), Valley (13-0) and Wink (12-7) to reach the finals against Bremond, battling back from a 20-0 deficit to score a 27-20 victory.
Underwood remembers his offensive line averaged only 168 pounds, including a 200-pound center, while Bremond had 200+ pounders up front except for the ends. “The boys were quick and smart and didn’t like to lose,” Underwood recalls. “We were able to use many different blocking schemes.
“Uniquely, a week after that game in Weatherford, the Harris Poll still had Knox City ranked No. 6, so much for polls,” he said. “We also didn’t have even one first team all-stater.”
The downside for a basketball coach like Underwood was a shorter season and eventually a 10-4 record after a 49-47 setback to Aspermont in a district showdown match and a 68-64 loss to Roby in bi-district.
Coach Jimmy Rogers’ track team that Spring claimed district and regional championships and finished fourth in state with Underwood coaching the sprinters. Rogers had many more successful years in track.
While the Hounds were competitive in football where Underwood handled the offensive line, it was on the basketball court that they had more success, missing the playoffs in 1985, but advancing the next five seasons. They were 12-2 at the Christmas break, but then lost two seniors.
Knox City compiled a 24-7 record in 1985-86, winning district and then beating Crowell, 84-63 in bi-district and edging Newcastle, 84-82 in the area round before falling to Krum, 82-65, in regional.
The Hounds followed up the next season with another district title and a 26-8 record, scoring playoff wins over Rule (80-42) and Aspermont (49-45) before being eliminated by Munday, 55-49, in the regional quarterfinals.
After the two teams split games, Knox City suffered a 56-47 playoff loss to Munday, settling for second place in district in 1988. Then the Hounds ran past Rochester, 74-43, before being eliminated, 65-63, by Aspermont, finishing with a 21-10 record.
The Greyhounds failed to win district in 1989 after forfeiting two games because of a player being declared ineligible because paperwork for an advanced chemistry class was not filed correctly. They then lost to Aspermont, 55-50, in bi-district,
The Hounds finished with a 20-12 record in 1990, suffering a narrow 69-67 setback to Jayton on a last-second shot in bi-district. It turned out to be Underwood’s last time to coach basketball at Knox City, finishing with a 139-48 record.
The reason was that Underwood suffered from nerve damage from close contact with diazinon after school was out and he was not physically able to continue, deciding to concentrate on farming and ranching for the next five years.
When Underwood and his wife started looking at teacher retirement in 1995, they needed a few more years to reach that goal. No assignments were open nearby, so it was off to Hamlin with his son Reed joining. He was the defensive line coach, serving under Alan Cherry, and head basketball coach. The Pied Pipers advanced to the third round in football, beating Cisco 35-0 and Stanton 39-28 before bowing out in the regional round to West Texas. 34-7. Underwood’s cagers finished with a 9-11 record, his only losing season in 21 years. Reed was a sophomore point guard.
Underwood moved to Rotan the next season as an assistant coach in football and head basketball coach. The Yellowhammers posted a 23-8 record, sharing the district title with Roby before being eliminated by Nazareth, 68-61, in the regional semifinals. He recalls that previously Rotan was better known for its football success. Reed was a varsity point guard.
In 1997, Underwood was inducted into the All-Americas Hall of Fame.
Then Underwood accepted a position as the assistant to Tulia basketball coach Tommy Miller, who Underwood had coached in the 1971 six-man all-star football game. Miller had graduated from nearby Weinert. With Reed as the starting point guard, Tulia took a 35-0 record to state before falling to Crockett in the semifinals. Underwood’s JV team had a 16-5 record. Underwood also assisted Miller at the TABC all-star game that year in San Antonio.
Reed led the team in three-point shooting percentages playing alongside Mikey Marshall, who went on to play for Bobby Knight at Texas Tech University. Reed finished as an honor grad as well as a national merit scholar, allowing him to also go to school in Lubbock.