Coached at: Sumner High School (1972-1998)
By Earl Austin
One of the highlights of my 25 years of covering high school sports in St. Louis was being able to cover the Sumner High football dynasty under the direction of coach Lawrence Walls. When I first started in the business in 1986 with the Northside Journal, I was assigned to cover the Public High League. That meant I got to get up close and personal with the Sumner Bulldogs and Coach Walls.
And, it was a special treat. I witnessed some great football and got a chance to develop a special relationship with a great man. Not only were the Bulldogs one of the top football programs in the state of Missouri, but Walls became one of the most successful coaches in the Midwest region during his illustrious career that spanned three decades.
Walls has had many honors bestowed upon him throughout his career, including the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mo. The Hall of Fame is a fitting honor for a man who created one of the most enduring dynasties at the school he has always called home.
Lawrence Walls graduated from Sumner High School. Lawrence Walls played football at Sumner High School. Lawrence Walls coached at Sumner High School. Lawrence Walls lives and breathes Sumner High School.
From 1972 to 1998, the Sumner Bulldogs did not take a back seat to any other high-school football program in the state. The numbers that he produced were staggering. His overall record was 247-60-5. The Sumner program stood on the same plane with other state powers such as Jefferson City, Kansas City Rockhurst, Hazelwood East, Hazelwood Central, Columbia Hickman and Webb City back in the day.
The Bulldogs battled all of those programs toe-to-toe and won more than their share. In 28 seasons, the Bulldogs won 20 Public High League titles, including 14 consecutive league titles from 1983 to 1996. He led the Bulldogs to 20 postseason berths and nine state-championship game appearances. The Bulldogs reached the pinnacle of high school football in Missouri when they won state championships in 1973, 1982, 1990 and 1991. The 20-year anniversary of Sumner’s last state-championship team was honored at the recent Show-Me Bowl weekend at the Edward Jones Dome.
The list of great players that were developed under Walls’ guidance is almost endless. You had Oscar Harvey, Sorrell Harvey, Ben Cowins, Courtland Thomas, Anthony Stafford, James Gregory, Albert Thomas, Darnell Walker, Marquis Walker, Ronnie Wingo, Hollis Thomas, Darris Pierce and so many more All-PHL, All-Metro and All-State players who went on to have great careers at the collegiate and professional ranks.
Those great years of Sumner High football represented a golden era of Public High League athletics. Those Saturday afternoons at a PHL football field were a special place to be when the Bulldogs took the field.