My Obsession With Georgia High School Football

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.

I am #48 in this photo in 1979 at Villa Rica

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.

With my dad at the Georgia Dome

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.


Team of the Week:  Montgomery Biscuits

I’m sorry if you have had breakfast already but there is a minor league team in Montgomery, Alabama that probably makes everyone hungry in the Southern League.  The Biscuits are the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.  They have been in Montgomery since 2004 and play in Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium.  

The Biscuits were baked when the Orlando Rays began to decline in attendance from 2000-2003.  The owners announced the team would move to Montgomery.  The Biscuits name was selected from 4,000 entries in a “name the team” contest largely due to the potential marketing possibilities.  The team’s souvenir store is called the “Biscuit Baker” and you may often hear fans chant “Hey Butter Butter” at opposing batters.  During games, biscuits are shot from an air cannon into the stands.

The Biscuits won back-to-back league titles in 2006 & 2007.

Most notable former players are:  Matt Diaz, Evan Longoria, David Price, B.J. Uptown and Seth McClung.

The Biscuits are currently in second place in the Southern League’s North Division with a record of 28-22 in the second half of the season.  They finished 34-36 in the first half.

First Baseman Patrick Leonard leads the team in batting with a .319 batting average.  Taylor Guerrieri leads the Biscuits with the most wins on the pitching staff.  He has a record of 12-5.

The latest news on the Biscuits is not good as one of their fans suffered a “horrifying” eye injury from a foul ball at a recent game.  An errant line drive rocketed into the stands above the home team’s dugout near third base, hitting the woman in the head.  Critics are arguing the case for extended netting to protect fans from stray balls and broken bats at the stadium.

Timeouts In Life

The daily routine is grinding.  I often feel like I am on a treadmill that never seems to end.  Fortunately, I do have weekend breaks but one day is usually filled with chores and errands that can’t be done during the week.  

It helps when you can take a timeout.  

This weekend my wife surprised me with a weekend at an Airbnb in the country at the Gratidude Ranch between Fairview and Leipers Fork, Tennessee.  The first thing I noticed was the absence of traffic sounds.  Just the sounds of nature filled my ears.  Crickets and the horses eating the grass near us.   It is the typical country farm setting that we don’t experience everyday. 

Having time to take a timeout in everyday life is important because our minds and our bodies need to take a break from the constant motion.  We are not machines.  Every machines breakdown or parts wear out.  

We need time to slow down and listen to nature.  Embrace the silence.  Rest.  That’s why God encouraged us to have a day of rest.  I know some religious folks take the sabbath day to the extreme and some have even made an entire religion out of it.  Is it not surprise that we had to mess up a simple thing as rest?   No, it’s too simple.  There has got to be more to it than that.  

Chill out.  Rest.  Relax.  

We work too hard at too many things not to take a break.  I welcome the rest and time just to lay in a hammock and watch the clouds go by.  Listen to the occasional huff sound made by a horse or the popping of the tin roof when the sun goes in and out of the clouds. 

Why does the quiet scare us?  Why do we fear of doing nothing?  Why is rest looked at as being lazy?

When we lived in Tampa I always observed how stressed people were to find a way to relax.  People were impatient in a place you would think they would be laid back.  It turned out to be more stressful to go to the beach than it did just to stay home.  

Stop.  Enjoy today.  Take a break.  

If God needed a day of rest don’t you think we need it too?

Friday Flashback:  1972 Olympic Men’s Basketball Final

It was the shot heard around the world when Alexander Belov scored on an uncontested layup at the buzzer to give the Soviet Union a 51-50 victory and dealt the United States their first loss in Olympic men’s basketball.  Team USA had won 63 straight games and seven gold medals in the sport before that game.

The final three seconds of the Gold Medal final is perhaps the most controversial three seconds in Olympic basketball history.  After being fouled, USA’s Doug Collins made both free throws to give his team a 50-49 lead for the first time in the game.  After the Soviets inbounded the ball, the referees stopped the game with one second remaining.  The decision was made to put three seconds back on the clock after the Soviets claimed that they had called for a timeout between the two free throws by Collins.  The game official never acknowledged the timeout.  After the Soviets brought the ball inbounds, the horn sounded for what should have ended the game and a Team USA win; however, referees ruled that the clock had not been properly reset to show three seconds remaining.  Belov caught a full court pass and scored the winning basket as he rose between two USA players to make the layup.

It was certainly a bizarre series of events.  You can see the video by clicking here.

The USA filed a formal complaint with the International Basketball Federation but they ruled in favor of the Soviets.  Team USA refused to accept the Silver Medal.    

Even years after the controversial game, most of the players feel strongly about refusing the medal even when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) offered to award them at the 1992 Olympics.  A few have relented but would only accept the medal if it was unanimous among the team.  It is reported that Kenny Davis still strongly opposes so much that he has even had a clause put in his will forbidding his wife, children or descendants from ever accepting the silver medal after his death.  

Team USA teams have gone 59-3 since that game winning seven of the last 10 Gold Medals.  Team USA was again shocked in 1988 losing to the Soviets 82-76 in the semifinals which was the first meeting of the two teams since the controversial game.  In 1992, NBA players were allowed to participate in the games.  

Nashville To Make Bid For MLS 

I was wondering if Nashville was going to try to get another professional sports team for the Music City.  It appears that they now have their sights on an expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS).  Various news reports state that Nashville mayor Megan Barry has allocated $50 million in proposed revenue bonds for a soccer stadium.  Most MLS teams have built their own soccer-specific stadiums.  MLS is going to expand to 24 teams next season and add four more teams later.  Nashville supporters are hoping to be in the latter group before MLS holds at 28 teams.

The Nashville MLS committee is made up of 22 people and includes executives from almost all of the city’s biggest companies.  So there appears to be some serious backing for this.  

The next question is:  Can Nashville support a professional soccer team?

I think it is very possible that the MLS can succeed in Nashville.  There is a lull in sports here between hockey and football seasons so an MLS team could fill that void.  Although we have the Nashville Sounds AAA baseball here, an MLS team would still be a good fit for the area.  The city has turned out for Team USA games at Nissan Stadium.  Although Nissan Stadium is a good home for an expansion team, Nashville may follow suit with other MLS teams to build their own soccer-specific homes.  There had been some talk of remodeling Herschel Greer Stadium which is the former home of the Nashville Sounds.  

The MLS is expanding to Atlanta (2017) and Minnesota (2017 or 2018), Los Angeles (2018) and Miami (2018).   

Personally, I am concerned about the MLS expanding so much.  The league has succeeded beyond expectations but there is still a concern that its’ popularity isn’t growing that much.  Maybe I’m wrong but soccer leagues have had a poor history in the United States.  

Nashville currently has a soccer team with Nashville FC which began play in 2013 in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).  The NPSL is a national amateur league.   Nashville FC plays their home games at Vanderbilt Stadium.  Nashville FC will evolve to the United Soccer Leagues (USL) in 2018 so it will be interesting to see what happens if Nashville secures an MLS franchise.

Past Nashville soccer teams:

  • Nashville Diamonds, American Soccer League (1982)
  • Nashville Metros, Premier Development League (1989-2012)

Team of the Week:  Hickory Crawdads

The team with one of my favorite nicknames in minor league baseball is now playing in their 23rd season.  They have been a farm team for the Texas Rangers since 2009.  The Crawdads are currently 24-20 and third place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division.

The Crawdads have been pretty successful on the field winning three league titles (2002, 2004, 2015) and 10 division titles.

They play at L.P. Frans Stadium which opened in 1993 and seats 5,092 fans.

When the team was purchased and moved from Gastonia, North Carolina, the team was named the “Crawdads”.

Most notable players that have played for the Crawdads:

  • Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Joe Beimel (Seattle Mariners)
  • Matt Capps (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Magglio Ordonez (retired – played for Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers)
  • Chris Young (Kansas City Royals)

Left fielder Eduardo Pinto currently leads the Crawdads with a .337 batting average and was recently called up to the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League.  Jonathan Hernandez has pitched in 92.2 innings for the team.  His Earned Run Average is 4.86.

For more information about the Crawdads, go here

Roughnecks Strike AUDL Championship Trophy 

The Dallas Roughnecks were one of the dominant teams in the AUDL this season.  They only trailed their opponents in games twice this season.  On Sunday against the Seattle Cascades in the AUDL title game they overcame an early deficit to finish the season 17-0 with a 33-27 victory.

Dallas seized the momentum in the second quarter when Dillion Larberg blocked a pass then scored on the offensive end on a tipped disc.  Dylan Freechild and Dan Emmons connected on the huck for another score and then the rally was on as the Roughnecks built a 20-15 lead.  After winning the first quarter 11-10, the Cascades were outplayed in the second 10-4.  

The Roughnecks’ offense got better throughout the game and never let up.  Seattle rallied in the fourth quarter but Dallas’ five goal lead was too much to overcome.  

Dallas won the championship in their first season while Seattle came up short in their amazing run through the postseason.

AUDL Championship Weekend:  Dallas tops Toronto, Seattle shocks Madison

In the AUDL semifinal match ups on Saturday, Dallas and Seattle emerge to play for the title.  Here is a recap of the games:

Seattle 26, Madison 25

The largest crowd in AUDL history (3,000) witnessed the Seattle Cascades cling to a one-point lead to snap Madison’s 31-game home winning streak.  With nine seconds left, the Radicals’ Kevin Brown hucked the disc to Kevin Pettit-Scantling in the end zone into a crowd of Seattle defenders.  The disc was knocked to the ground as time expired.   

Dallas 27, Toronto 20

The Roughnecks dominated the Rush like they have all their opponents this season as they jumped out to a fast start to an early lead and never looked back.  Outstanding play from Kurt Gibson and Chris Mazur kept the pressure on for Dallas.  Toronto was unable to dig out of the early hole.  Dallas finished the first half when Dallas Smith connected with Dillon Larberg to give the Roughnecks a 14-8 lead at the break.

Dallas now faces Seattle today at 1 p.m. EST for the championship.

Marathon Prayers

It’s hard enough to pray.  But it’s even more difficult to find the time to pray in our busy daily lives as well as praying quality prayers when we do pray. One of the most challenging prayers for me are the long term prayers.  The prayers we pray for a long period of time. For me, these prayers are usually for people or difficult times I may be going through.  

It’s easy in the beginning to pray for something like a pray warrior but when the prayer isn’t answered after days and weeks I have to be honest and say that my prayers lose a little steam.  I don’t feel that they are as fervent or effectual.  They easily become repetitive and simply words.  It’s easy to get weary.  

So I asked myself this question:  How can we condition ourselves to pray “marathon” prayers?

  1. Assess your current prayer condition.   How often do you pray now?  You may discover that it needs a little work.  Like a runner that is serious about running a marathon, you can’t just do it haphazardly.  
  2. Proper training.  The best training manual we can follow is the Bible.  Read and study passages about prayer.  
  3. Do what works best for you.  Some people like to pray loud.  Some like to be quiet. Find the way that fits you best.  
  4. Get started.  The only way you can get good at praying is to pray.  Set the schedule that works for you whether it is morning or afternoon or night. 
  5. Stay motivated.  Keep in mind why you are doing it.  Keep the goal on your mind.  
  6. Set your own pace.  Long distance praying is just that – long.  There are no shortcuts.  Chip away at it and don’t give up. 

Just like running a marathon, praying for something for a long time isn’t going to be easy.  It is especially difficult when it appears things that you are praying for are getting worse.  That part can really freak you out.  Don’t give up regardless of what you see on the outside.  You never know what God is doing that you cannot see. 

Here are some passages that will help:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

AUDL Championship Weekend Preview

HEADER-champDallas, Seattle, Toronto and host, Madison will take to the air in the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) Championship weekend.   This will be the fifth championship in the league’s history.  Here’s a look at the four teams that will play this weekend at Breese Stevens Field:

Madison Radicals (15-0) are the host team looking for their first title.  They were runner-up finishers in 2013 and 2015.   The Radicals are the Number One seed in the final four.  Madison has won 31 consecutive games at home. Madison is quick to build a lead on their opponents with their defensive pressure. Matt Weber, Seth Meyer, and Kevin Pettit-Scantling are key players to watch in generating turnovers at the beginning of the game and providing the Radicals with an immediate boost of momentum. The Radicals will play Seattle at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Toronto Rush (13-2) survived an overtime thriller in the East Division final against the DC Breeze.  They are 1-1 in the finals, winning the 2013 championship over Madison.  Toronto is one of the deepest teams in the league.   Mark Lloyd, Isaiah Masek-Kelly, and Cam Harris are the playmakers for the Rush although they have had lower numbers this season.  Toronto will meet Dallas in the first semifinal game on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Dallas Roughnecks (15-0) are the newcomers to the championship in their first season of play in the AUDL.  The Roughnecks’ roster includes five players who competed for Team USA in the World Ultimate Championships in London this summer.  Dallas enters Championship Weekend V with the most potent offense in the league—and perhaps the best offense in AUDL history—but their defense is the focal point for the team’s energy. Dan Emmons and the Larberg brothers (Dillon and Christian) are tough for opponents to stop.   Their quick restarts off of opponents’ turnovers are quick and difficult to defend.  The Roughnecks will play Toronto on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Seattle Cascades (11-5) are the underdogs coming into the finals having swept two California foes in the division semifinals and finals to represent the West in Madison.  The Cascades’ offense is dynamic when the disc is moving between all their parts, constantly shifting the opponent’s defensive alignment and disguising the Cascades’ point of attack striking with precision. Mark Burton and Donnie Clark have emerged as maybe the most dangerous downfield offensive tandem in the league.  The Cascades will face Madison in the semifinals.

The championship weekend will be televised on ESPN3 and streamed on Facebook Live.

Past AUDL Championship Results:

  • 2012 Philadelphia Spinners 29, Indianapolis Alleycats 22
  • 2013 Toronto Rush 16, Madison Radicals 14
  • 2014 San Jose Spiders 28, Toronto Rush 18
  • 2015 San Jose Spiders 17, Madison Radicals 15