My father, Boyce Thompson, Sr. (1932-2009) was the last person to drop-kick extra points for his high school team in Westchester County, N.Y., one of many claims to fame for a great high school athlete who never lost his youthful enthusiasm.
Drop-kicking, of course, gave way to place-kicking after the football was redesigned to give it a sharper point. That made the ball easier to throw but harder to control when it bounced.
Undaunted, Boyce Thompson, Sr., drop-kicked extra points for the Bronxville Broncos throughout his high school career. He used to tell his children — while drop-kicking a football about 50 yards or more in the backyard, which can look awful far to a 10-year-old — that his expertise gave the team the advantage of having an extra blocker on the line of scrimmage.
Thompson rarely missed an extra-point attempt, according to his brother Bill Thompson and his close friends Bill Weber and Tom Morelli, who also played on the team. They can’t remember Thompson ever missing an extra-point. That’s nice of them to say, but there’s perhaps some evidence to the contrary.
Local newspaper stories, for instance, indicate that Bronxville scored only 12 points several times during the 1949 season. This would indicate that the team may have failed on extra-point attempts. On the other hand, to be fair, they may have attempted two-point conversions.
Thompson also kicked field goals for the team, though it’s unclear how many he attempted. A full-service kicker in an era before specialists, Thompson also took the kickoffs and punted for the team. However, it was his drop-kicking that drew the most attention. His talent was unusual enough for the time that it was called out in newspaper accounts.
Take the Bronxville Mirror’s report on the Broncos’ loss to Scarsdale to close the 1948 season. Scarsdale jumped out to 7-0 lead, with a place kicker predictably kicking the extra point. Bronxville battled back with half-back McFarlane completing a 20-yard pass to Tasley. Then, according to reports, Weber and McFarlane started making gains on off-tackle runs. McFarlane finally scored on a wide, end sweep. What happened next is the stuff of legend.
“Boyce Thompson came in and split the uprights with a successful drop-kick, tying the score,” read the report. I’m sure the writer, amazed at my father’s retro skill, wanted to italicize the word “successful,” but his editor probably wouldn’t let him.
Unfortunately, the drop-kick wasn’t enough, because Scarsdale late in the game blocked a punt (presumably a Thompson punt) and recovered it in the end-zone for a score. Scarsdale’s extra-point attempt fittingly failed, and the game ended 13-7. The Broncos finished the year at 4-4.
The team got off to a roaring start the next season with a 22-0 trouncing of Lynbrook, a Long Island team. The score would have been even more lop-sided except one touchdown was nullified by a backfield-in-motion penalty. Another touchdown was called back because a receiver was ruled out of the end-zone.
The score was already 7-0 in Bronxville’s favor when Mike Armstrong ran the ball in for a touchdown from the 35-yard line. “Boyce Thompson, one of the few (sic) drop-kickers in the county, easily booted the ball through the uprights for his second conversion of the afternoon,” lustily reported the Bronxville Reporter.
In addition to kicking field goals and extra points, Thompson played running back. He scored touchdowns in games against Pelham, Saunders, Trade, Gorton, and Lynbrook, according to his brother Bill (William E. Thompson), a defensive back on the team whose memory of the season is seemingly very good.
“He was also adept at regaling the team with many whimsical tales after the games in the locker room,” recalls Bill, who may or may not be telling the truth. “He was also very superstitious. There was a tree on the way out to the football field that Boyce ran around three times for good luck. He also had the habit of wearing his jersey backwards and inside out.”
Though living Bronxville football players fondly remember their senior season, truth be told it ended with mixed results. The Broncos were pummeled by Tarrytown in their second-to-last game, 43-0. The next week, in their final game of the season, they fell with a thud to arch-rival Scarsdale, 33-6. Rumor has it that Scarsdale had a score to settle because the year before one of the Bronxville players had thrown a punch after the game at a Scarsdale player.
“He was the No. 1 sprinter in Westchester County,” Bill remembers. “I don’t remember him ever losing a race. He was the only sprinter to run barefoot [the picture below casts serious doubt on this assertion]. He also ran the 220 and the 440. He ran it in 50 seconds at the Penn Relays (for Cornell).”
Bill contends that his brother’s secret to sprinting was to have “a beer before the race, and another after.” This assertion, like many other oral-history, will have to be confirmed by additional research.
Complete results from 1949 Football Season:
Bronxville 22, Lynbrook 0
Bronxville 12, Pelham 12
Bronxville 12, Gorton 25
Bronxville 12, Mount Kisco 6
Bronxville 13, Garden City 19
Bronxville 19, Saunders 0; Co-captain Boyce Thompson went for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Bronxville 0, North Tarrytown 43
Bronxville 6, Scarsdale 33