‘Astrodomination’ raises scholarship funds

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015

By John DeVillier

Special to The News

PORT NECHES — Spirits were high Saturday at “Astrodomination” despite alma mater’s closing-seconds loss to Nederland, 30-27, in the Bum Phillips Bowl the night before.

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Over 100 members of Port Neches-Groves’ 1974 through 1977 teams gathered at the Pompano Club for fellowship, food and a lively rehash of a memorable era. The Indians won the Class 4A championship in ’75, went to the semifinals in 1974 and 1976 before falling in the `977 state championships game, 13-10 to Plano, before a record crowd of 49,955 at Texas Stadium.

Doug Ethridge, head coach during that 52-6 stretch, and a number of his former staffers attended the reunion. While game films rolled silently on television monitors, emcee Karl Segura turned the microphone over to the former coaches and players, all of whom reaffirmed lasting bonds and mutual admiration.

Craig Guillory, a wide receiver on the team that beat Odessa Permian 20-10 in the 1975 title game showdown at Texas Stadium, recalled a recruiting visit by University of Texas coach Darrell Royal where he viewed game films in Ethridge’s home:

“Coach Royal was here to sign Wilson Weber, our all-state linebacker, but the play of a defensive end, Kirk Romero, also caught his eye.  Kirk was making life miserable for Permian and after Royal mentioned the dynamic play of ‘No. 62’ for the third time, Coach Ethridge let him know he probably wasn’t looking at a big-time college player:  “He’s only 5-7 and 160.”

“We had a lot of No. 62s on that team,” Guillory said.

Not all of the Indians were undersized.  Wide receiver Andy Gilbert told a story about the Indians’ towering tight end, Kyle Aguillard:

“There was a mix-up just before the game against Permian so we were shuttled to the Dallas Cowboys’ dressing room. There were chalkboards over the lockers.  One had the name of their all-pro tight end, Billy Joe DuPree.  Well, Kyle picked up a towel, erased DuPree’s name, and replaced it with his own.”

That wasn’t the end of the yarn.  After locating the locker of Dallas’ star receiver Drew Pearson, Gilbert duplicated Kyle’s stunt.  “I wonder what DuPree and Pearson thought when they walked in Monday?” Gilbert said.

Richy Ethridge, son of the Hall of Fame coach, said the reunion netted $10,000 for Port Neches-Groves high school’s scholarship program. The funds came from ads in a 16-page supplement edited by Port Arthur News copy editor Dave Rogers and featuring playoff game stories that appeared in The News.

The special edition, printed by The News, was distributed to those in attendance Saturday.

Phillip Fuller, commodity risk manager for Houston’s Genesis Entergy-LP, is credited with the “Astrodomination” label.  The ‘Dome, former home of the Houston baseball team, was a frequent site of Port Neches-Groves playoff games. Richy Ethridge, Segura, Guillory, Romero and others planned the union.

Too small for college football, Romero is among Indian exes who made their mark in business, industry or professions. He is CEO of Meridian Modular, a company that designs and manufactures steel-frame housing for remote worksites.

No. 62 flew from company headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, to join his former teammates.