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Celebrating 100 Years of Aztecs Football

Note: Although today marks the 100th birthday of Aztec Football, the 2021 season is the 99th Aztec team. San Diego State did not field teams in 1943 and 1944 during World War II. The 2022 season will be special:  the 100th Aztec Football team will play in the inaugural season in Aztec Stadium.

October 1, 1921 – 100 years ago today – Aztec football took the field for the first time, a 6-0 win vs. Army-Navy Academy JC. San Diego State, led by Head Coach C.E. Peterson, won three more games that initial season and finished 4-6. The next season the Aztecs finished 6-4 overall and 4-0 in league to win their first of 21 conference championships.

It was a hard-nosed squad that practiced on sand-and wood shavings-filled tackling dummy they made themselves. Guys with great names like John Hancock and George Champion. Let’s take a minute to remember the 19 men on that ‘21 squad and thank them for everything they did to start the great tradition of Aztec football:

Alfred Tarr (Captain), Ross Bond, Walter Bryant, George Champion, Hi Dillon, Curtis Gorham, John Hancock, Herman Harris, Jones Hathaway, Arthur Heilbron, Spencer Held, Tom Hester, Al Morrison, DeWitt Mott, Julian Pohl, Sam Russo, Lyman Scheel, Joe Varney and George Wilson.

The 1921 Aztecs Football Team

Tarr and Hancock were named first team all-conference; Champion was on the second team. Harris was named captain for the 1922 championship season at the 1921 football banquet.

Alfred Tarr, Captain 1921
Herman Harris, Captain 1922

Coaching staffs 100 years ago weren’t like they are today. In addition to football, C.E. Peterson was also the head basketball coach, head track coach and business manager for the Women’s Rowing Association. After he retired from coaching, Dr. Peterson became the Dean of Men, a position he held into the 1950s. When the new gym was opened in 1961, it was named in his honor. My Dad, Tom Ables, always said that “Dean Pete” deserved something better than Peterson gym named in his honor.

SDSU’s 1st Football Head Coach, C.E. Peterson


Learn more Aztecs Football history with GO AZTECS! by Tom Ables. Photography by Ernie Anderson and others. Click below to get your copy today!


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