Friday Flashback: My First High School Football Game (November 21, 1975)

Every year at this time I look forward to the new Georgia High School Football season while looking back to the past of games I have attended. Since moving away from Georgia in 2012, I have not attended any high school football games in other places I have lived. Georgia was my home for over 40 years of my life. With all the teams, players, games and stats being stored in my head from all of those seasons, I can’t really see myself getting involved in another state. Today I reside in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and live within ear shot of a high school football stadium but I don’t have the same feel for high school football here as I did with my time in Georgia.

I attended my first high school football game on November 21, 1975. I was 11 years old. It was a game between the Clinch County Panthers and Charlton County Panthers. The teams were playing in a region playoff game at Memorial Stadium in Waycross, Georgia as a neutral site.

At the time we were living in Homeland, Georgia where my dad was the pastor of a small Pentecostal church. I attended Bethune Middle School in Folkston which was part of the Charlton County school system. My dad had attended high school and played football at Clinch County so he was quite interested in attending this game which was the first time his alma mater had played in a playoff game.

During the regular season, the teams had split their games with Clinch County losing at Charlton County 15-10 and the Panthers winning at home 14-7 during week eight. This created a need for the teams to have a playoff since they both had 5-1 records in Region 2-B.

The neutral site of Waycross Memorial Stadium might as well had been Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for me. If you have ever been to this stadium, you know how that stadium is configured having once been the home to a few minor league baseball teams. It was an old stadium with some of the seats under the roof which had been behind home plate during its baseball days. My parents let me sit on the Charlton County side which was only a section over. I even went to the concession stand and got me a hot chocolate which was needed on a cold November night in South Georgia. I enjoyed my warm beverage while watching the game. The game was a defensive battle between the two rivals which bookended the Okefenokee Swamp. The Panthers actually dominated the game but not the scoreboard as they came up short 6-0 to end their season. My dad was disappointed in the outcome as he talked about it on the drive home how his Panthers had dominated the game but weren’t able to win the game. I didn’t share his disappointment as I was happy on the inside since I had been rooting for the Indians to win the game.

Waycross Memorial Stadium, Waycross, Georgia

The win for Charlton County was short-lived as they lost to Lincoln County the following week 13-0 in the state playoffs. The Indians eventually won the first of their four state championships in 1999. Clinch County won their first state title in 1988. They have won eight state titles.

I still fondly remember that first game and that was a start of a long history of following Georgia high school football over the years. I would attend three more different schools after we moved from Charlton County in the summer of 1976 with stops at Waresboro, Villa Rica and finally finishing at Tompkins High School in Savannah.

That first game began my interest in Georgia High School football. I have attended many games over the years but you always remember your first experience. Incidentally, the last Georgia High School football game I attended was in December 2010 at the Georgia Dome with my dad to watch his Clinch County Panthers defeat Savannah Christian 24-14 in the state championship game.

Friday Flashback: First High School Football Game

oneida

Oneida Football Club was the first “high school” football team

 

As you know from reading my blog, I am a high school football fan.  As I thought about the subject of this week’s Friday Flashback subject, I wondered about the first high school football game.

My research turned up that the first recorded high school football game was played in 1825 by Oneida Football Club in Boston, Massachusetts.  There is an inscription near Frog Pond on Boston Common which reads:  “On this field, the Oneida Football Club of Boston, the first organized football club in the United States, played against all comers from 1862 to 1865.  The Oneida goal was never crossed.”

There isn’t any record of the first game but 13 of the 16 Oneida players attended Epes Sargent Dixwell’s Private Latin School.  At that time, football was mostly a recess game and resembled more like rugby than today’s modern American football.

A “touchdown” in this early, prehistoric version of football was scored by crossing a line at the end of the field. There were no goalposts. To start the game, the ball was dropped into the middle of the field, and play was continuous until one side crossed goal line. The ball itself was not the oblong ball used today but was more like a square with the corners rounded off.

The most celebrated game Oneida ever played was on Nov. 7, 1863, against a combined team from Boston English and Boston Latin. Oneida won the game and the ball which was used can be found at the Historic New England museum, on Cambridge Street.

In the State of Georgia, Cedartown is the earliest recorded team to play in 1887.  Back during those days, games were played in the community.  Thomasville and Valdosta played as far back as 1895 as well.  According to the Georgia High School Football Historians, the first organized championship games were played in 1948.  Lanier (Macon) beat Marist 15-14 for the AA title, Fitzgerald defeated Decatur 20-19 for the A title, West Point topped Cordele 20-6 for the Class B title and Fort Valley defeated Gordon Lee 25-14 for the Class C championship.

The first high school football game I attended was on November 21, 1975.  It was the Region 2B Championship Game between Clinch County and Charlton County which was played in Waycross, Georgia.  Charlton County won the game 6-0.  I was attending middle school in Folkston, Georgia in the Charlton County school system.  My dad’s alma mater was Clinch County where he had played football.  Needless to say, it was a house divided.  I remember thinking how cool it was to attend the game at historic Waycross Memorial Stadium.  As I recall, Clinch County dominated the game statistically but Charlton County scored early then held on to win the game.