40 years ago tonight Birmingham defeated the Florida Blazers 22-21 in the first (and only) World Bowl to determine the WFL championship.
The first quarter saw no scoring, but The Ams got on the board in the 2nd quarter with a 15 play drive that covered 58 yards, with Joe Profit carrying the final yard for the score. The action point failed and Birmingham led 7-0. On their next possession, Birmingham rolled 66 yards in 7 plays with Art Cantrelle doing most of the damage, first on a 30 yards bolt and then by finishing it off with a 5 yards blast up the middle for the TD. Matthew Reed came on and rolled around right end for the AP, and the Ams were up 15-0. That’s the way things stood at intermission.
The 3rd quarter saw Birmingham take the kickoff and Mira direct a 74-yard 11-play drive for 7 more points. Mira found TE Bob Brown alone in the right flat and Brown scored from 26 yards. The AP was no good and Birmingham seemed in control 22-0 as the 4th quarter got underway.
However, the Blazers had no intentions of going away quietly.
On the first play of the final period, Blazer QB Bob Davis threw to Reamon who scampered 39 yards for the TD. The AP failed and the score now stood 22-7
Davis then directed a quick 83 yards in 7 plays to score, Davis going to TE Greg Latta for 40 yards for the TD.
The Americans offense could get nothing going and punted. Blazer return man Rod Foster zigged and zagged his was 76 yards with the punt all the way to the end zone, and suddenly the Ams lead stood at one point. Reamon got the call for the AP, but Warren Capone met him head on at the goal line to preserve the lead. Birmingham then had to run out the remaining time on the clock. Reed had a clutch 12 yard run with Blazer defenders hanging all over him for a crucial first down. Charley Harraway delivered a big 10 yard run for the game’s final first down, to allow the Ams to run out the clock at the Blazer’s one yard line. Birmingham wasn’t trying to score, as Head Coach Jack Gotta said, “One point was just perfect”.
The Win meant that Birmingham had won 13 straight home games with no losses, completing a wondrous 17-5 run.
After the players filed into the lockerroom, defensive captain LB Ross Brupbacher presented the game ball to “The City of Birmingham-and I hope they bring us back next year to play here”. Meanwhile Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies were standing by, not to secure the celebration, but to confiscate the winner’s uniforms and equipment as a result of unpaid bills. To add to the ignominy even trainer Drew Ferguson’s shoes were repossessed.
But the spirit of the victors was not dampened, when the World Bowl trophy was hoisted in the room. All got to see and touch the large trophy, rightly deserved after a hard fought win.
After 40 years the World Bowl trophy still resides at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham. Many of the memories may have faded, but the Ams place in history, if not in the hearts of many football fans, was secured.