Part VI in a series counting down the 10 most memorable performances in the history of Tommy Oliver Stadium
Doug Nettles didn’t need much prompting to remember the third game of his senior season against Pensacola Woodham in October 1969.
Seldom used at running back because of the prowess of teammate Marvin West, Nettles had instead become a second team all-state defensive back and played some wide receiver at Rutherford. The problem with the latter was that head coach Jim Redfern didn’t have an established passer to get Nettles the football, so instead he toyed with a system to get both Nettles and West in the backfield at the same time.
A midweek ankle injury suffered by West with Woodham invading Tommy Oliver Stadium simplified that process for one night.
“I think they were rated No. 3 in the state at the time,” Nettles said of Woodham. “Wednesday afternoon Marvin twisted his ankle, and here we were having to play this juggernaut and didn’t have our best offensive weapon.
“Redfern called me in his office on Thursday afternoon and told me it looks like you’re going to start. Marvin can’t play.”
Nettles said the first few times he carried the ball he wasn’t able to gain much yardage against Woodham, which had a very good middle linebacker.
That’s when fullback Hunter Carter turned to him in the huddle.
“He said the only thing stopping us is the middle linebacker,” Nettles said. “When we run that trap, wait until I hit him and cut off me.”
Nettles saw Carter issue a crushing block, cut to the left and saw daylight.
“It was one of those things where everybody was moving in slow motion except me,” Nettles said. “A couple of guys had an angle on me and I shifted into another gear I didn’t know I had.”
The result was a 70-yard touchdown run, and Nettles got loose for three more long scoring runs before halftime.
“After that it was like stampede left … they just couldn’t stop me,” said Nettles, who ran for more yards in the first half that his entire high school career to that point. “Otherwise I was breaking tackles and exploding.”
Nettles said he carried the ball only three times in the second half before Redfern replaced him on offense. He added another scoring run, and on 12 carries for the game compiled 315 yards rushing and five TDs.
His replacement, Marshall Williams, also added a scoring run as the Rams won 56-24.
“After the game we were walking off and Redfern asked me how many touchdowns I had,” Nettles said. “When I told him five, he said something like, ‘If I would have left you in you might have scored 10.’ But he said their coach was a friend of his and we’ve got to play these people every year so he didn’t want to run up the score.”
Nettles also played defense most of the game and added an interception. Not coincidentally, Marvin West’s ankle got better in a hurry and Redfern paired both of them in the backfield the rest of the season.
Nettles finished with about 900 yards for the year, went on to attend Vanderbilt and then had a fine professional career with the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants in the NFL.
Next: No. 4, A memorable finish punctuates an incredible game.