Former Woodlawn football coach A.L. Williams learned through a phone call that he was being inducted into the Louisiana High School Athletics Association Hall of Fame.
“I said, ‘You sure? I think you’ve got the wrong guy here,'” said Williams, who helped legendary coach Lee Hedges start the Woodlawn program before taking over and winning the only state championship in 1968. “I was really surprised.
“All the coaches and players and supporters that were ever with me, they share this honor with me because I didn’t do anything by myself.” Williams joins local official James R. Boyett as part of the eight-member hall of fame class to be inducted Thursday (Wednesday’s ceremony was postponed due to weather). Boyett started his 38-year officiating career while he was a Louisiana Tech student and has called thousands of basketball and baseball contests. “It was a complete surprise. I never thought about any of that when I was officiating because I thought the hall of fame was for coaches and players,” said Boyett, a Minden resident and Sarepta High graduate. “I called a lot of games in the (Minden area) and went to the Shreveport and Ruston areas a lot. “I enjoyed being with the kids, and after I had been officiating awhile, I got to know the coaches and fans. I was fortunate that I didn’t have any trouble.” Williams compiled a 64-25 record in his eight seasons from 1966-73 with the first true high school passing attack in the area. After one-and-a-half seasons as a volunteer assistant coach at Fair Park, Williams helped Lee Hedges install a passing attack out of necessity at newly-opened Woodlawn High. “We didn’t have one letterman or a 200-pounder that first season … and we didn’t win a game and didn’t score until the sixth game, but it might have been our best coaching job,” Williams said. “We were running play-action pass, but we had some dropback passes in there and ran a lot of sprint outs. “We didn’t have any size or depth … and the pass was the equalizer.” Billy Laird, a future Louisiana Tech quarterback and offensive coordinator under Williams at Northwestern State and Tech, missed the 1960 season with a broken ankle but helped the Knights to a district championship in only the school’s second season. “We didn’t have a practice field at first, and we went to an elementary school and had a rock pickup before every practice so we could use the field,” Laird said. “We ran a Wing-T but put play-action pass in it … and we were one of the first (high schools) to really use the pass in our game plan. “We threw it when we wanted to and not when we had to. That was a great coaching staff, and Williams was one of the nicest guys. That’s why so many respect him and come back to see him.” At a time when most high school boys worked at least summer jobs, Williams started extra throwing sessions for quarterbacks, receivers and running backs. He said he borrowed a lot of passing concepts from Louisiana Tech coach Joe Aillet, and eventually the Knights went to a spread offense running coordinated route concepts that torched high school defenses. He developed quarterbacks like Laird, Trey Prather, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson and Johnny Booty. Before New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Philadephia’s Nick Foles, both from the same Texas high school, met in the playoffs this season, Bradshaw and Ferguson were the only two other quarterbacks from the same high school to meet in the playoffs (1974). “Aillet was ahead of his time … and we were the first (area high school) to start reading defenses because of him,” said Williams, who would later coach at Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech. “We were throwing hot routes by reading the linebackers, and everybody thought we were just throwing screens. “We had quarterbacks with strong arms, and offensive line coach Billy Joe Adcock made sure they had time to throw.” Williams finished a dominant decade in the 1960s and into the early 1970s, winning five district championships, the 1968 state championship and the corresponding coach of the year honor. He also led Woodlawn to an undefeated regular season in 1966. Boyett did both Not only did James R. Boyett officiate, he coached and taught math at Theresa M. Lowe Junior High in Webster Parish starting in 1959. “I coached a little basketball, a little football after I got out of the service after two years,” Boyett said. “We played on Tuesday nights, but other than that, I was officiating. We had quite a few officials back then, so I just said I couldn’t call a game that night. Boyett’s wife was also an educator, teaching at Minden High for 34 years. One of the Boyetts’ three children, Ross Boyett, is principal of Elm Grove Middle School in Bossier. Over his 38-year career, Boyett is credited with more than 100 basketball playoff games, 15 years as a basketball assignment secretary, 34 years as a baseball umpire with the Minden Association with more than 200 tournaments and playoff games. At 81 years old, Boyett works as a salesman at Minden Athletic Supply. He makes an occasional appearance at events like Minden’s Christmas basketball tournament, but he said he doesn’t go to many games any more. “I’ve seen too many games just to watch,” Boyett said with a chuckle. He retired from teaching and coaching in 1987 when Lowe Junior High was closed.