Another season of Georgia High School Football kicks off this weekend. Although I currently live in Tennessee, I still have an obsession for high school football in the Peach State. I know I probably shouldn’t but it is difficult since I have spent most of my life following high school football in Georgia.
You need to know that growing up, my dad was a preacher and our church was really strict about our forms of entertainment. We weren’t allowed to go to college or professional football games so that basically left high school football as one of the few non-sinful things we could do for entertainment.
My interest for high school football began in 1974 when we lived in a small community near Folkston, Georgia called Homeland. I attended middle school in Charlton County and started following the Indians. My dad was probably the most responsible for my interest in high school football. He had played for the Clinch County Panthers when he was in high school and took us to several Clinch County games. The first game I remember was Charlton County’s 6-0 win over Clinch County for the Region 2B title in 1975. I sat on the Charlton County side in a game that was played at Waycross Memorial Stadium. Needless to say, it was a very quiet ride home that night.
We were living in Ware County when I started high school. I played on a football team for the first time on the Gators’ B-team but after the first game, we moved to Villa Rica, Georgia. It was at Villa Rica when I started following the Wildcats. My parents let me go to several Friday night games at Villa Rica. The most exciting season was in 1979 when the team won their final four games after a 1-6 start to qualify for the playoffs. One of the key games was an overtime classic in the homecoming game against the Darlington Tigers. Villa Rica defeated Darlington 20-14 that night. In the playoffs, Villa Rica stunned two-time defending AA state champion East Rome 3-0 in the mud at Barron Stadium. I listened to that game on the radio. I went out for the football team in the spring of my sophomore year, played in the spring game against Carrollton. Unfortunately, we moved yet again before I graduated from high school. My final two years of high school were spent at Tompkins High School in Savannah, Georgia. With my playing days clearly over, I listened to games on the radio on Friday nights. During the 1980 season, Tompkins got into the playoffs with a 4-6 record and upset heavily favored Coffee County 24-21 in the region playoffs. Tompkins wasn’t very good during my senior year and I gravitated to listening to Savannah Christian games on the radio instead. I remember the Raiders winning a thrilling 18-14 game over Pinewood on the game’s last play. The Raiders went on to win the state title.
I went away into the United States Air Force after graduation and really didn’t find interest in high school football where I was stationed. The only game I attended during that time was a game in Abilene, Texas. Yes, I know Texas is big in high school football but it didn’t interest me. Not like Georgia. It wasn’t until I returned to Georgia in 1984 when I was stationed at Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Georgia that it all started again. My first game back was the AAAA State Quarterfinal playoff game between Warner Robins and Valdosta. Valdosta won that game 28-0. After that game I kinda adopted Warner Robins as the team I would follow for the next 24 years. I was a season ticket holder for several seasons. The highlight of those years were when I lived within walking distance of the stadium. I witnessed many exciting games. I remember sitting in the sub-zero tempartures in the 1985 state championship game in Athens as Warner Robins lost to Clarke Central. The 1988 state championship win over Brookwood. Agony of defeat when Northside beat Warner Robins 7-6 in 1989 when Warner Robins was ranked #1 in the nation.
I also supported Northside when they weren’t playing Warner Robins and found some of their games exciting too. I watched the Eagles come up short several times as they choked in the big games but finally broke through in 2006 to win their first state championship.
Between 1992-1996 I actually got experience as a sports writer and covered several high school games in Middle Georgia for the Macon Telegraph. The time as a writer gave me a new perspective on high school football. I also covered the private schools in the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA) although I have to be honest and say they weren’t my favorite but they also provided some exciting games as well. I covered Tattanall’s 17-14 win over Westfield in the state title game in 1995. As a sports writer, I had some unique situations such as having to sit on the roof of the press box in the 1994 state quarterfinal game at West Laurens because there was no room for me inside the press box. Or the weekend when I covered four games in three days because Macon only had one football stadium. There was also the time when at a post game interview with a football coach, he completely turned his back on the other reporter and would only answer my questions. The other newspaper had reported a negative incident involving some players during the week.
If I could have made a living be a sports writer and covering Georgia high school football I would have.
The last season I attended games was in 2009. I witnessed an amazing comeback by Warner Robins in their annual rivalry game with Northside. They trailed 20-0 going into the fourth quarter but won the game on an improbable pass to stun Northside 21-20. Four weeks later Northside won an exciting game against Peachtree Ridge in the state quarterfinals 20-17 in overtime. Northside eventually came up short to Camden County in the state championship game.
The last game I attended a game in Georgia was the 2010 Class A State Championship game when Clinch County defeated Savannah Christian 24-14 at the Georgia Dome. I attended that game with my Dad and that will be a forever happy memory I will have with him.
Since then I have moved to Florida and now Tennessee. Even without being there in person, I still go to my computer on Friday nights and listen to the games. I love technology now that makes this possible.
I will never forget one night when I was watching Warner Robins play Central in the rain at Thompson Stadium. I was asked if I had a child playing on the team. I said that I didn’t. Strange, I know, but she said that I must be a true fan of high school football.
You would have to understand me to know my obsession.