1963 Grand Prairie football team has night to remember

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by GEORGE RIBA/WFAA SPORTS

wfaa.com

Posted on November 24, 2013 at 5:59 PM

GRAND PRAIRIE, TX - In 1963, Dan Chilton, Mark Babina and Gary Gilbreath were seniors on the football team for Grand Prairie High School.

On the night of November 22, they were the only team that played in Dallas County.

"I just remember going down that tunnel and coming out into the lights and seeing everybody in the stands and how quiet they were," Chilton said who was an offensive guard and defensive tackle on that team.

Babina was a tight end on that team. "What had taken place was of such a magnitude that very few 17 year olds would have ever, ever, even today, would comprehend or understand," Babina recalled.

Gilbreath was the quarterback on the team. "I remember that there was a time of silence that was given for President Kennedy," Gilbreath said. "You could hear a pin drop at that time it was so quiet."

The game was played in the Gopher bowl in Grand Prairie where a sellout crowd had gathered.

"I remember a real quiet lock room and not being and not much being said at that point," Gilbreath said. "You could tell it bothered people that we were there and what had happened but actually it was that night after that ball game you had time to think about it, that's when it hit us."

Their opponent, Wichita Falls was enroute during the time of the assassination and since there were no cell phones, were unreachable during their trip.

"I think it was the right decision," Chilton said. "I did not personally want to delay the game. They were here, we were ready to play, they were ready to play, and we felt like it was the right thing to do to go ahead and play."

"No I don't have any regret about the game being played," Babina said. "It was something that was an experience that I'll never forget before the game and after the game, but during the game, I was truly focused on that one moment."

Grand Prairie had never beaten Wichita Falls for the district champion but on this night, they did.

"Now in retrospect in what the feelings were, there were 85 hundred people there that took their mind off it for about three hours," Gilbreath said.

That victory created a rare scene, the celebration of a football team juxtaposed with the sadness of a nation; emotions not fully understood for years.

"I didn't get any of those feelings that I should have gotten when we won the game," Chilton said. "It was surreal and very emotional."

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