For the second installment of our Flashback Friday feature, I head to the Lone Star State to remember the 1978 Stratford High School (Houston, Texas) championship team.
While there were many leaders on that Class 4A state championship team, future NFL running back Craig James shined with a record-breaking year that saw him shatter Earl Campbell’s Class 4A rushing record. James is one of 50 former NFL players featured in my book High School Football in Texas: Amazing Football Stories from the Greatest Players of Texas.
During our chat for the book, James repeatedly talked about how good that 1978 Stratford Spartan team was. In fact, James and many of his teammates from that team still get together to reminisce about that magical season that saw the Spartans rack-up more than 7,000 yards rushing as a team from its wishbone formation. Stratford scored 532 points, the second most ever in Class 4A, which was then the state’s largest classification, now known as Class 6A.
James ran for 2,411 yards, which topped Campbell’s record of 2,036. He did it while only carrying the ball 13-to-15 times a game.
How special was that team and season? James, who played in a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots and was one-half of the famed Pony Express at SMU with Eric Dickerson, says if he had to do it all over again, playing one more year with Stratford would be his dream.
“If the Lord said ‘Craig, if you can go back and play one more season what would it be?’ My answer without hesitation would be that I would want to go back to play on that 1978 championship team again,” said James. “That team was better than the conference championship teams I played on at SMU (1981 and 1982), it was better than my Super Bowl team (1985) with the Patriots. That’s if we made it apples to apples. We were just a really good team.”
James also believes that his team, which had nine players go on to play Division I football, isn’t considered as one of the state’s all-time best. He told me that he believes the reason Stratford is left out of the all-time best conversation is because they didn’t have a star like John Tyler High had in Campbell.
James and his teammates capped their perfect season with a 29-13 victory over defending state champ Plano before 30,000 fans at the Astrodome, which gave the Spartans a bit of a home field advantage. James played a huge role in the victory with 168 yards on 13 carries. he scored two first half touchdowns to give Stratford a 13-7 lead. His 80 yard TD run in the third quarter blew the game open.
James is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.