Unless you live in Nebraska, or your interests lie in railroad, North Platte, NE, is probably a city you don’t know or hear much about. It’s a small city in the western half of Nebraska, and is home to the world’s largest rail yard, Bailey Yard. It’s also the smallest metro/ micropolitan area to have ever hosted an American Football League game. On August 27th, 1967, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders met at North Platte High School in an exhibition game.
With a micropolitan population of 37,950 reported in the 2010 Census, North Platte is about eight times smaller than major professional sports smallest market, Green Bay, WI. In 1967, the city of North Platte had an estimated population of less than 20,000. Post-World War II, major professional football games in cities as small as North Platte weren’t terribly common, even if they were just exhibitions. Remember this was 1967, the AFL had already established itself as a legitimate league, and a merger with the NFL was already set. So how did North Platte land this game?
The game was a part of Nebraska’s 100th anniversary of statehood, thus it became known as the Nebraska Centennial Bowl. North Platte was Nebraska’s “Centennial City”. Max Anderson, a local sports booster was the man responsible for bringing the game to North Platte. He organized a fundraising drive, and North Platte was able to guarantee the Broncos $50,000 for the game.
Tickets for the game were rather expensive for the times, costing $10 dollars each. Bleachers were brought in from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and North Platte’s 5,000-seat high school stadium temporarily expanded to 11,000. Only 6,500 would attend the game, but the game was a financial success due to a number of paid no-shows.
The game took place on a Sunday at 2:30 PM CST under clear skies and warm temperatures. The Broncos were coming into the game with a 2-1 preseason record, with both of those wins coming against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings of the rival NFL. The Raiders had a preseason record of 1-2.
The Broncos won the game 21-17, coming back in the fourth quarter with an 80-yard drive capped off by QB Steve Tensi’s 1-yard TD run. The Broncos started the game with an opening drive touchdown on their way to a 14-0 first quarter lead. The Raiders stormed back with a 17-point second quarter scoring spree. The scoring started when Raiders DB Kent McCloughan, a native of Broken Bow, NE, (62 miles from North Platte) picked off a pass, and nearly ran it back for a touchdown.
Both QBs lived up to the AFL’s reputation of airing it out, although the crowd didn’t get to see a lot of completions. Broncos QB Steve Tensi completed only 9 of 27 attempts, while Raiders QB Daryle Lamonica completed only 10 of 30 attempts. Both QBs played the entire exhibition game.
D, Scotty Glacken 1-yard touchdown run (Errol Mann kick)
D, Fran Lynch 8-yard touchdown run (Mann kick)
O, Hewritt Dixon 4-yard touchdown run (George Blanda kick)
O, Blanda 37-yard field goal
O, Dixon 10-yard touchdown pass from Daryle Lamonica (Blanda kick)
D, Steve Tensi 1-yard touchdown run (Mann kick)
- Chris Holmes posted a copy of the game program (front and back cover) on his website grayflannelsuit.net. Be sure to check that out, and the hundreds of other old AFL game program covers he has posted.
- The Broncos were the “home team” in the game. North Platte is 242 miles from Denver, CO.
- The game was televised, even in the San Francisco area. But there were complaints about the broadcast. Notably light poles obstructed the cameras at mid-field.
- The goal post weren’t moved to the front of the end zone, which was their customary place in professional football at the time.
- A few weeks later the Raiders opened their regular season by beating the Broncos 51-0 in Oakland. That season the Raiders represented the AFL in the Super Bowl.
- After their victory in North Platte, the Broncos wouldn’t defeat the Raiders again until 1972; an 11-game losing streak to the Raiders.
- New England Patriots RB Danny Woodhead is a native of North Platte, NE.
Close, Larry. (1967, August 27). Raiders Hope to Play ‘Bronc Busters’ Today. Hayward (CA) Daily Review, pp. 27. Retrieved 5/22/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Reid, Ron. (1967, August 26). North Platte’s Big ‘Happening’. San Mateo (CA) Times, pp. 6-7. Retrieved 5/22/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Reid, Ron. (1967, August 28). Raiders Leave No Clues for Fans. San Mateo (CA) Times, pp. 15. Retrieved 5/22/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Reid, Ron. (1967, September 2). Pro Football in a Small Town. San Mateo (CA) Times, pp. 31. Retrieved 5/22/2012 from NewspaperARCHIVE.
Request: If anybody has any color photos from the game please contact me. I have only found grainy b&w photos of the game.