An analytical look at Bonham football coaching history: part 1
By Ken Porter
Jan 10, 2023
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Bonham High School football began in 1900 with a single game against an unknown opponent with an unknown coach. If there was a coach at all. And they lost. It was not until 1913 that they played a full season but then fell back to sporadic play with 2-to-5 games played per season as WWI eventually took its toll on the nation.

Over 122 years Bonham has had 35 coaches.  And only 10 of those coaches have sustained 4 seasons or more.  Four of those coaches are responsible for coaching 35 seasons or 28% of all of Bonham football. Fourteen district championships (and 1 co-championship) have been won over this time with the last championship being won 17 years ago in 2005 with Larry McFarlin at the wheel. Bonham has had only 5 undefeated regular seasons which is not an easy task at any level.

Who was the best coach or the best team?  Every generation has their opinion about that and the variables on success are unlimited and somewhat immeasurable. 

One of Bonham’s biggest challenges over the years has been the rapid growth of their district opponents that are often metroplex suburbs that have likely surpassed the UIL cutoff numbers the last 2 years though by UIL rule they remain within Bonham’s district. This has left Bonham with oversized district opponents such as Plano, Lewisville, Richardson, McKinney, Grapevine, Lewisville, Frisco, Princeton and the list goes on over the years.

The coaching names that many will recognize due to their extended coaching career at Bonham are McElhannon, Jake Swann, L.D. Clark and of course, Keifer Strickland.  Keifer who?  More about him later. 

These men are the 4 that have coached 28% of all of Bonham football. The data speaks to a small group of Bonham coaches that enjoyed sustained and proven success over an extended period of at least 8 seasons. 
Below is a list of Bonham football coaches that coached at least 4 seasons for the Warriors over the past 122 years.


 (*Jim Acree also coached 2 years in Bonham in ’58-’59 & won 2 championships.)

The 1960s era of Bonham football belonged to Coach McElhannon who achieved something no Bonham coach had done before or since by reaching the state semi-finals while plowing through some traditional Texas football powerhouse programs. Bonham football was at an all-time high with his sustained winning records over 11 seasons. The town and community rallied around his winning football teams. Many of the boys were conditioned during the summers by hauling hay which is part of a training program that other district rivals such as McKinney and Plano did not have. 

During this time the community supported construction of a football stadium with a 5,000 seating capacity that is still the envy of most teams in north Texas.

McElhannon’s Bonham teams were in arguably the toughest 3A district in the state. The Dallas Morning News sportswriters, specifically Blackie Sherrard, often mentioned Bonham in his columns.  McElhannon was known for his fair and equitable treatment of his players along with the ability to identify the most talented athlete for each position.

In the mid 80s L.D. Clark also achieved milestones never matched by any Bonham staff.  He won 4 district championships while winning over 70% of his games.  And not just for 3 or 4 seasons but over 9 seasons.  The 2 coaches with the most state championships in Texas - G.A. Moore and Gordon Wood won just over 80% of their career games.

Much has been written and said about Coach McElhannon, Coach Clark and their successful teams.  Their teams support the adage, “Success breeds success.”  

But there was another Bonham coach that enjoyed tremendous success at Bonham.  And was also a part of the first major sports tragedy that made headlines across the nation.

- To be continued -