Texas high school football season is an exciting Texas tradition that has evolved into a rite of passage for young athletes who play for guts, glory, and school pride. It’s a place where dreams are made, and stars shine under the Friday night lights, especially for the Marathon Mustangs 1976 State winning championship team.
To celebrate 100 years of Texas high school football, the University Interscholastic League and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football have teamed up to honor the greatest teams ever. The 1976 Marathon Mustangs state winning six-man champion is one of them, having been nominated as one of the top 100 teams in Texas high school football history.
The players from that talented team, Marathon natives and still close friends Ben Ramirez, Leo Cavness, and Cary Shackelford, relish the glory days.
Said Ramirez, “We played four years of high school football in Marathon, went to State five years in a row, and won the state championship twice.”
Shackelford added, “When we entered the season, we knew that the goal was to go to State and win it.”
The Mustangs were invincible, as they frequently tore up the opponent’s defense and showed no mercy.
“We scored three or four touchdowns more than everybody we played,” said Cavness. “It didn’t matter who we played. Every game we played in our senior year, we knew we were going to win.”
On their way to the State final against the Harrold Hornets, the Mustangs came out on top, 62-14, led by running back Ben Ramirez, who ran 237 yards, with five touchdowns rushing on just 19 carries. The Mustangs’ athletic prowess was a force to be reckoned with, and injuries were minimal. Quarterback Lonnie Salmon, who now lives in Alpine, could even throw a ball the length of the entire football field.
Some of the most memorable moments were sharing fun times with friends, on and off the field. “We were together all the time, and it was great to get out of town!” said Ramirez.
Marathon easily defeated the May Tigers in the State championship game held at Brownwood. “We took over, and started dominating, and then we just rolled them up. It was just fun!” Shackelford exclaimed.
Said Cavness, “In the fourth quarter, Coach Jones said, ‘Okay, end it,’ and we ended it.”
It has been 44 years since the Mustangs took home the six-man state championship, and all three players agreed it would be great to bring back high school football in Marathon.
In the meantime, they will be honored and recognized during Marathon High School’s homecoming festivities in February 2021.
Marathon ISD Superintendent Dr. Pete Price said, “Marathon ISD is so proud of the 1976 football players and all of the other outstanding student athletes who have participated in sports over the years. Their commitment to excellence, teamwork, and school spirit is a legacy to which our current student-athletes can aspire. To be able to say that we were one of the best teams ever, is quite an honor. There is nothing like having a football team in a small town.”