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Golden Age of Thomson football provided wonderful memories

The years 1965 to 1970 marked a Golden Age for Thomson High Football.

Our Bulldogs put together a 62-4 record during that stretch, which included three region championships, two state championships, and a 36-game winning streak.

Two of those losses were to region rival Statesboro, which meant that despite going 9-1 in 1966 and 1970, Thomson was denied a berth in the state playoffs. Thomson's loss in 1966 was to Statesboro by a score of 7-6. The Blue Devils won the state title. That gut-wrenching loss is significant. Ray Guy, the only sophomore on that team, suffered his only high school defeat. The other seniors on the 1968 team never lost a game in high school. You see, part of that Golden Age was because the Thomson High "B" team during that same span won 53 straight games under the tutelage of Ed McIntyre.

I missed few Thomson games as a youngster, and it had a profound effect on my life. I didn't think that Thomson ought to lose on Friday nights, and I still don't. This experience as a child drove me to work as hard as I could during my 23 years coaching in Thomson to help us win.

The 1968 team had its work cut out for it after we won our first state title in 1967. Gone were 18 seniors, including Class A Lineman of the Year Andy Knox, future Little All-American Bobby Norris and Wofford College star and all-state lineman Glenn Reese. As if that weren't enough, coach Paul Leroy left to take the head coaching reins at Waycross High School.

While the cupboard was far from bare with future All-Pro Ray Guy and nearly 20 rising seniors returning, repeating would be tough. Joe Compton, whose Fitzgerald team had lost the state title game to Carrolton in 1964, came to town with a totally new offense. The Dogs had primarily run the straight T during Leroy's reign, but coach Compton brought in the Notre Dame Box. Similar to the old single wing, the "box" had been invented by legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.

Compton was a perfectionist. I remember attending a practice in preseason and for what seemed like an hour, he had the team run one play over and over. The hard work paid off, but it wouldn't be easy. After running roughshod over Aquinas in the opener, we defeated a tough Bradwell Institute team 26-13 with Guy missing the game with a back injury. The next week, as a shocked Thomson crowd watched, we fell behind 20-0 at the end of the first quarter to Evans only to storm back for a 39-20 win. In a key play, Skeet Reeves returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

We all looked forward to the showdown with Statesboro at Womack Field. I missed that game, which Thomson won 34-0, giving Statesboro its first ever defeat in that stadium. My Aunt Donie, who I love dearly, had the audacity to get married that weekend. My family traveled to the Atlanta area that Friday and I had to wait nervously for a phone call to hear the results. Personally, I think fall weddings should be outlawed.

We avenged the 1965 defeat in the South Georgia Championship game by coming from behind to defeat Americus, led by future college and NFL coach Chan Gailey, 34-7. We then had to face Compton's nemesis from his 1964 title loss, the Carrolton Trojans. Led by legendary coach Charlie Grisham, Carrolton had won state titles from 1956-61 and 1964. They had lost the state title game in 1960 and 1962 and ran the same offense as the Dogs.

Thomson marched down the field on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead as Guy scored the TD and kicked the PAT.

Then, Carrolton shocked the Dogs with a 55-yard TD pass, but Guy blocked the PAT. The game settled into a defensive slugfest.

Carrolton had a field goal bounce off the crossbar early in the fourth quarter and then with time running out, Guy blocked another field goal attempt and Thomson preserved the victory 7-6. I remember storming the field and Thomson guard Rick Hawes picking me up in the celebration.

Eighteen seniors played their final game at The Brickyard and only Guy had ever lost wearing the Black and Gold.

What an amazing group, which included Dan Coxwell, John Bledsoe, Tommy Locket, Lem Brooks, Monty Nelson, "Kentucky" Jones, Lewis Richardson, Roddy Attaway, Bob Wilson, Wayne Ansley, Mac Bowman, Allen Hall, Tim Gilmore and all-staters Lucky Chandler and Carl Gunn, in addition to the aforementioned Guy, who was Class A back of the year, Reeves, and Hawes. What a great group of young men.

Thanks for the memories.

Web posted on Thursday, September 01, 2011

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