This week as the Warner Robins High School football team prepares for the state championship game against Rome on Friday, I wanted to take a look back at my 33 years of following the team. Some would say I’m not your typical fan since Warner Robins High School is not my alma mater but I adopted them as my high school team when I moved to Warner Robins, Georgia in 1984.
IN THE BEGINNING….
As most of you know through either following my blog or knowing me personally, I am a huge fan of Georgia High School football. My dad took me to Clinch County football games growing up and later I followed Villa Rica when I attended school there from my 8th to 10th grades. Although I live in Nashville, Tennessee now, I still keep up with my pigskin obsession thanks today’s social media and technology.
When I left Villa Rica High School before my junior year, my parents moved to Savannah where I finished high school at Tompkins High School. I never got into the football team at Tompkins. It was nothing like it had been at Villa Rica. Even if I had followed the Tompkins Wolverines, I would be a football orphan now since the school closed in 1989.
After graduation, I left home for the Air Force. After tours in Abilene, Texas and Thule, Greenland, I found my way back to Georgia in 1984 when I was stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. I already knew about the reputation of Warner Robins football. They had were state and national champions in 1976 and 1981. They were up there with the top football programs in the state. Naturally, I was excited to attend my first game on November 30, 1984 when Warner Robins played Valdosta in the state playoffs. Although Warner Robins lost the game 28-0, I was hooked and couldn’t wait until the start of the 1985 season.
I had officially adopted the Warner Robins Demons as my football team.
MY FIRST SEASON…
I attended every home game the next season. I took my first road trip with the team to Lowndes when Warner Robins played the Vikings and won a hard fought 8-7 game in the playoffs. The next week I wasn’t able to attend the state semifinal game against Bradwell Institute due to being out in the field for a military exercise; however, I managed to tune into the game on the radio while I was huddled around a pot belly stove in a tent. Warner Robins won and the next week I drove to Athens to attend the state championship game against Clarke Central. That was the coldest game I believe I have ever attended. I also took a date with me that night. A Clarke Central fan yelled at our heads every time their team did anything positive on the field. Warner Robins lost the game 21-7 and it was a long drive back home. It was another loss in a personal way as the date I took to the game informed me that she was interested in someone else on the drive back to Warner Robins. Ouch.
UPS AND DOWNS…
The next time Warner Robins played in the state championship game was in 1988. It was a great season and an exciting atmosphere for the game. Tickets were hard to get and I ended up bringing a blanket although I stood the whole time as Warner Robins beat Brookwood for the title.
Winning was always fun. Warner Robins has done that a lot. The next season, the Demons continued their winning ways and even found themselves as the top ranked team in the nation in USA Today as they entered the final game of the regular season. The final game was the annual rivalry game against Northside Warner Robins.
If winning was fun, the sting of a defeat was hard to take but none more than that night. Northside stunned Warner Robins 7-6 in that game. Warner Robins scored late but missed the extra point. I remember literally rolling around on the ground in disbelief along with the fans around me. That was a tough one to take even though Warner Robins beat Northside a week later in the region playoffs. No one ever talks about that one.
Of course, I ended up becoming a season ticket holder and had the best seat I could possibly have to watch all the home games at Imternational City Stadium (now known as McConnell-Talbert Stadium a.k.a. “The Mac”). I had also moved to a house which was in easy walking distance of the stadium. Those were some of the best years. I loved that walk to the game. And, if you don’t know me, you have to understand that I HAD to be in my seat before kickoff. I never liked being late. Someone once told me that they would still start the game even if I wasn’t there. That’s true but I always had to be there and that person was just a hater anyway.
When Northside was having their championship years I would go to their games when the season was over for Warner Robins. I supported them as they represented the city but I never considered myself a fan. I was happy when Northside finally shook off the years of choking and finally winning their state titles. I have always hoped that Warner Robins and Northside would meet one day in the state championship game. It almost happened in 2011 but they both lost in the semifinals.
THE DEMON MASCOT…
So what about that nickname? The Demons?
Most of my church were Northside fans and I got a lot of grief at times for supporting a team called the “demons”. Some even went as far to claim people were worshipping the Demon who shot out fireworks after the team scored. No, that doesn’t happen. People need to lighten up. Nobody is worshipping demons at the games. I will admit that I never liked the name Demons but I certainly don’t cheer a demon. I have always supported the players not what their mascot is and I don’t go overboard with Demon stuff. There is something about hearing the P.A. announcer declaring: “Touchdown Demons!” and seeing that demon in the end zone shooting fireworks from his pitchfork. Okay, I know how that sounds but no one is worshipping demons.
FROM SPECTATOR TO REPORTER…
In the mid-1990s, my attendance of Warner Robins’ games was limited when worked a part-time job as a sports writer for local newspapers. I began with the Macon Telegraph then briefly with the Warner Robins Daily Sun and finally the short-lived Herald. Instead of watching Warner Robins’ games, I was covering both public and private schools. I can say it now that covering private school games in the GISA was nothing like Warner Robins football. Fortunately, I did have an opportunity to cover a few Warner Robins’ games during my sports reporter days. I remember my first time and how excited I was to interview Warner Robins Coach Robert Davis. But I won’t lie to you, I felt pretty intimidated to get the chance to interview a coaching legend like Davis. I knew better than to ask any stupid reporter questions. In that first post-game interview, it turned out that there was a feud going on between Davis and the Daily Sun. The Sun had reported some negative news about some players that week. When I joined the Sun’s reporter to interview Davis, Davis refused to answer the Sun but, instead, looked directly at me and answered my questions. I was pretty smart to not ask anything about Mazzio’s Pizza and his football players. Yes, that was a hot topic then. My last Warner Robins’ game as a reporter was covering the 1995 semifinal game at the Georgia Dome. Warner Robins lost to SW DeKalb that night 7-0 and I walked with the players as they exited the field to a barrage of insults from the SW DeKalb fans. I can’t repeat what they said to the players.
BACK TO NORMAL…
I eventually went back to my fulltime job and got back into being a regular fan at Warner Robins’ football games. In 1997, I braved the rain as Central Macon ended Warner Robins’ 64-game winning streak over Macon schools. As I was sitting there under my rain soaked poncho in anguish, one of the coaches’ wives asked who did I have playing in the game. Of course, I had no one. I was just a crazy fan. Some would say I still am.
THE FASTING SEASON…
Perhaps the strangest season for me was the 2004 season. The team had come off a disappointing 6-4 season where they had missed the playoffs for the first time since 1978. Before the season started, I got caught up in some religious teaching about fasting. Most of the time fasting related to going without food for spiritual reasons but a preacher had taught that fasting wasn’t just from food but from anything a person is willing to sacrifice. Yes, you know where this is heading. I decided to “fast” Warner Robins football games for the 2004 season. I didn’t watch or listen to the games. Of course, that was the year Warner Robins won their last state championship. So if you are wondering if the “fasting” worked? It did although the results did not come immediately. But, I never “fasted” any games ever again.
MY LAST GAME…
The last Warner Robins game I attended in person was on October 30, 2009. It was the annual Warner Robins-Northside game. Northside came into the game undefeated while Warner Robins was 5-3. Northside jumped out to a 20-0 lead. All seemed lost but the Demons rallied in the fourth quarter and late in the game the quarterback heaved a pass downfield that was caught for a touchdown and a thrilling 21-20 win.
Due to changes in my life, I have not been able to attend another football game but I have tuned in almost every game on either the radio or the Internet broadcast of the games. I am thankful for modern technology because I can follow the team even living here in Nashville, Tennessee. I have listened to every broadcast again this season. My wife laughs at hearing me and the ups and downs of “attending” the games in my office. The 2017 season has been a very exciting season. Warner Robins will be playing for their 5th state championship on Friday. The game will be played at 3:30 p.m. my time so I am either going to have to take off from work or have the game in my ear while I’m working.
That has been my life for the past 33 seasons of following the Warner Robins Demons football team. I thought moving away would change things but it hasn’t. There is just something about Warner Robins football on Friday nights in the fall. It’s something that will always be a part of my life. Yes, it’s high school football but this is just my thing. Win or lose on Friday, I will being looking ahead to the 34th year.