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1968 was good year for sports at THS

1968 was a good year at Thomson High School.

One of the reasons: Students claimed five of seven region championships that year and the football team won back-to-back state titles. The region feats that year came in the sports of football, baseball, tennis, golf and literary.

"It was one of those unforgettable years at Thomson High School," recalled Paul Leroy, former head football coach and athletic director at the high school. "We did real well in a lot of sports and literary. The only sports we didn't win a region title in that year was basketball and track."

One year before, the basketball team won a region title.

The year nearly brought the school two state championships in two different sports -- football and baseball.

Though the football team successfully defended their 1967 title, the baseball team wasn't as fortunate in their bid to win a state championship.

Nevertheless, players on that 1968 baseball team were some of the best ever produced at Thomson High School. Some of the players included: Tommy Brown, Johnny McCarty, Ray Guy, David Young, Danny Kimbrel, Al Adams, Bobby Norris, Joe Dowda, Tommy "Snake" Williamson and Ricky "Sizzler" Powers.

The team was coached by Cleveland Lott, who now lives in Fairfax, Va.

He is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army National Guard. Coach Leroy helped Coach Lott that year when he had duties in the Guard.

And so did Bobby Fox during the championship series against Westminster of Atlanta -- the team Thomson eventually fell to for the baseball title in 1968.

The 1968 team did something no other baseball team has ever done in the history of Thomson High School, even though the 2010 team came close, making it the semifinals of the Georgia Class AAA state baseball playoffs. A week ago, the team was knocked out of the running to advance to the championship series.

"THS was blessed with a great group of athletes in 1968," said Tommy Brown, who went on to become a successful businessman in Thomson. "We had just won the state football championship in December of 1967, won the region in basketball and now it was baseball season. A lot of the same athletes played all sports and we also had some good athletes who only played baseball."

Brown said the team got off to a slow start in 1968, but eventually picked up the pace and went on to win the sub-region title.

One of his fondest memories about that year came when Thomson was in quest of the region championship at the old Thomson baseball field, which back then was inside The Brickyard.

"I was the centerfielder with a decent arm and our opponent had a man on third base," explained Brown.

"The batter hit a fly ball to me and my throw beat the runner by about 15 feet. Our catcher, Bobby Norris, who was a notorious hitter on the football team caught the ball and ran up the third base line to tag the runner. He did so by flipping the runner over his shoulder."

Following that play, the opponents' bench "went nuts, but after order was restored, we went on to win the game and the region title," added Brown.

Thomson's next challenge was to seek the South Georgia Championship against Americus.

The Bulldogs met the challenge, but there was nothing easy about accomplishing the feat.

Back then, Americus was known as a powerhouse in both football and baseball.

"They had some great athletes including Chan Gaily, who went on to have a great career in pro and college coaching," said Brown, noting that Gaily was a sophomore at the time.

In the best two of three game series against Americus, "one of our stud pitchers was Ray Guy," said Brown. "He could bring it. He was almost unhittable."

Coach Leroy said Guy pitched 15 1/3 innings in Game 1. Guy, who was drafted to play baseball right out of high school, but decided to play college and pro football instead, struck out 21 Americus batters.

In the 12th inning of that game, Thomson turned the incredible defensive play -- a triple play.

It was recorded by Johnny McCarty, the team's shortstop, who caught a line-drive, then stepped on second base before throwing to first baseman Dan Coxwell to get the runner out there to complete the feat.

Tommy Williamson later relieved Guy on the mound and ended up being not only the winning pitcher, but being the player who drove in the game's only run in the 16 with a double that allowed Thomson to win Game 1.

"That was an unbelievable game," said coach Leroy. "There were 33 strikeouts in that game."

Thomson went on to win Game 2, 5-3 and advance to the finals against Westminster. Guy was the winning pitcher.

Errors cost the Bulldogs in Game 1, resulting in a 4-3 loss. Thomson committed nine miscues in that game. In Game 2, Bobby Fox helped coach the Thomson team because coach Lott got called to active duty in the Guard. Thomson also lost that game.

Web posted on Thursday, June 03, 2010

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