Even more than the touchdowns and points, Walter Peacock remembers the rain on Oct. 21, 1971.
And the mud.
“It was really muddy,” Peacock said. “But I didn’t mind it. I knew where I was going.”
Peacock was a 160-pound senior halfback at Shortridge High School in the fall of 1971. On a rain-soaked field at Manual High School, Peacock scored nine touchdowns and converted three two-point conversions in an 84-0 obliteration of Wood High School, which closed in 1978.
The headline of The Indianapolis Star the following morning blared, “Wood buried by Peacock’s 60 points.” More than 40 years later, his 60-point night remains city and state records for a game, although the Indiana Football Coaches Association website incorrectly credits him with 10 touchdowns and 69 points.
“Everybody was happy for that accomplishment, but it wasn’t something I thought much about at the time,” Peacock said this week. “It didn’t seem like that big of a deal until years later.”
Peacock, 58, went on to set the career rushing record at Louisville, piling up 3,204 yards from 1972-75. But Peacock — who has lived in California for the past 12 years as a computer tech consultant after moving from Washington D.C. with his wife, Lorie, sons Bryan, Walter and daughter Eliska — said it’s the memories of Shortridge that are most vivid.
“Really all of my memories of football now are games that I played at Shortridge,” he said. “Those are the days and the games that I reflect back on today. Football at Shortridge was a great experience. I learned everything there.”
Shortridge was a powerful program at the time, finishing the season with a 9-1 record. Wood wasn’t expected to put up much of a fight, mired in a five-game losing streak after opening the season 2-0.
In a loss to Cathedral the previous week, Peacock was held to 81 yards, the first time all season he had failed to crack the 100-yard mark. Earlier that week, Peacock had crashed his car into the back of another vehicle.
“It was a distraction all week,” he remembered. “We really wanted to beat Cathedral, but we had some turnovers and didn’t play that well. Cathedral did. I didn’t have the game I should have.”
Wood put up much less of a fight. Peacock, who hadn’t played football until his freshman year, scored his first touchdown on a 38-yard run 4 minutes into the game and ran for the two-point conversion. Near the end of the first quarter, Peacock scored again on a 3-yard run.
In the second quarter, Peacock scored on a 28-yard pass reception from quarterback Brad Grissom, then followed it with a 14-yard run and two-point conversion. Peacock added touchdown runs of 12 yards and 9 yards before halftime, giving Shortridge a 40-0 lead, with the star running back scoring all the points.
“I remember the Wood players seemed like they were concerned about the rain,” Peacock said. “It didn’t bother us.”
In the third quarter, Peacock scored on runs of 15 yards (followed by his two-point conversion) and runs of 2 yards and 1 yard. Shortridge coach Jerry Chance sat Peacock and the rest of the starters in the fourth quarter as Shortridge finished off the 84-0 win.
Just a few weeks later, the season, as well as Peacock’s high school career, was over. He did earn some national recognition when he was featured in the Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” section. He finished the season with a city record 178 points and 1,243 rushing yards.
Peacock’s father, Walter Peacock Sr., was one of the leaders in attempting to keep Shortridge open when it closed as a high school in 1981.
“My father took it upon himself to cut the grass and keep our football field looking good,” Peacock said. “We grew up six or seven blocks from Shortridge, so that was our school. I have nothing but great memories from there.”