Sam Houston 25, Stephen F. Austin 14
The success of the 1952 football team in powering the Bearkats to their first post-season football game in history was a harbinger of even bigger successes to come of Sam Houston head football coach Paul "Red" Pierce's teams.
The 1953 team was ripping through opponents averaging 27 points per game in its first six victories while shutting out two of its first seven foes. A loss to Lone Star Conference champion East Texas was the only blemish on the Bearkats' record.
But Stephen F. Austin came to Huntsville determined to pull off an upset and, for awhile, it appeared the Lumberjacks just might do it.
Running back McNeil Moore was back for his senior season and continued to be one of the Bearkats' top offensive weapons. The Sam Houston Alcalde described Moore's running style as "sparking!"
Early in the contest, Moore broke free for a 53-yard gain that set up a two-yard touchdown smash.
But the Lumberjack defense toughen and, after a second quarter touchdown and extra point, Stephen F. Austin held a 7-6 lead at halftime.
"The Kats came charging out after the intermission to quickly tally six points," the Alcalde reported.
Moore scored on a 23-yard spurt and added another six points on the next drive to put Sam Houston up 18-7 at the end of the third quarter.
The Jacks narrowed the gap with a touchdown in the fourth period by a three-yard run and extra point conversion by Dawton "Oz" Hughes put the contest out of reach as Sam Houston triumphed 25-14.
One week later Sam Houston completed the regular season with a 19-0 victory over Northeast Oklahoma to give the Bearkats an 8-1 season mark and a runner-up finish in the Lone Star Conference.
For the second year in a row the Bearkats earned a post-season bowl berth, this time heading to Evanston, Indiana, and the Refrigerator Bowl.
Led by halfback Dick Gaines, who earned "Most Valuable Player" honors for the game, Sam Houston came from behind to defeat College of Idaho 14-12 for the Kats' second consecutive post-season victory.
The 9-1 final season record ranked as Sam Houston's best season mark since 1930.
Moore, Gaines, tackle Earl Gerstenberger, end Max Whitley, guard Melvin Harrison and center Louis Woodard earned All-Lone Star Conference honors.
Moore completed his Bearkat career with 2,578 yards rushing in three seasons from 1951 to 1953 stood as the school career record until 1994 when Charles Harris totaled 2,688 yards. Moore went on to play in the National Football League for the Bears.
The next chapter in the "Battle of the Piney Woods" football rivalry sees Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin battle at Reliant Stadium in Houston Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
Crowds of more than 25,000 have packed the lower bowl at Reliant each of the past two years and tickets are going fast.
Battle of the Piney Woods Tickets are now on sale through the university's athletic website. Fans also can purchase tickets at the Sam Houston athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone at Bowers Stadium or by calling ticket office at (936) 294-1729.