Tonight in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state quarterfinals, The Warner Robins Demons will host the Clarke Central Gladiators. This matchup takes me back to the 1985 State Championship game which was played between these two teams in Athens, Georgia. In fact, I start shivering immediately when I think about it. It was the coldest high school football game I have ever attended. I had to pull up the weather history to find the exact temperature which was 29 degrees at kickoff. That was cold.
The 1985 season was my first full season of attending Warner Robins football games. The team finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0 which was capped with a thrilling 21-14 overtime win over crosstown rivals Northside. Warner Robins defeated Southwest Macon 40-14 and then Northside again 27-0 in the region playoffs. Warner Robins edged Lowndes 8-7 in penetration in the first round and then beat Bradwell Institute 28-14 in the semifinals.
I decided to make the two-hour trip to Athens for the game. At the time I was a single 21-year-old man in the Air Force and I was able to convince a date to go with me to the game. More on that later. When I arrived at the game I had general admission tickets and the only seats I could find were the front row of bleacher seats in one of the end zones. I had a blanket and attempted to keep warm but the cold weather made the blanket as stiff as a sheet of plywood. The bleachers were also full of some Clarke Central fans – one of which would purposely yell in my frozen ear every time his team made a big play. I might have moved had I not been frozen to the bleacher. I think every part of my body was cold that night. I certainly wasn’t a whimp to the cold weather since I had just been transferred to Robins Air Force Base from Thule, Greenland and it was a painfully freezing reminder of Greenland.
Although the game was statistically close, Clarke Central recovered three Warner Robins fumbles, turning the first two into a pair of field goals (31 and 41 yards) by John Kasay, who also put four of five kickoffs deep into the end zone to help keep the Warner Robins offense backed up. Additionally both Gladiator touchdowns were big plays, the first a 53-yard pass from Robbie Kamerschen to Tommy Stewart on the Gladiators’ first possession of the second quarter and the second a 54-yard run by tailback Richard Jewel on Clarke’s first possession of the third period.
In comparison, the Gladiators committed only one turnover, a fumble at their own 42 late in the second quarter. After recovering, the Demons moved to a first down on the 4-yard line, but the Clarke Central defense held on three straight running plays inside the 2 and took over on downs, preserving a 13-7 halftime lead.
Kamerschen and Jewel accounted for the majority of Clarke’s 291 yards total offense, as the senior quarterback completed four of eight passes for 122 yards while the senior tailback rushed 14 times for 108 yards.
Warner Robins, which totaled 245 yards offense and led 14-13 in first downs, got 101 rushing yards on 16 carries from junior Jeff Thompson. But 98 of those came in the first half. Warner Robins totaled just 53 yards and two first downs after intermission.
The game was a disappointment. I had to drive the long trip back home. The only consolation was that my car had heat and I would be able to thaw out on the drive. I also had my date with me.
On the drive back I got that “You’re a nice guy but I just want to be friends” line. Ouch. My football team and my dating suffered a bitter defeat that night. That night was cold on so many levels.
But, as they say, it all worked out for the best. As for Warner Robins, it took three seasons before they captured the state title and demolished Brookwood in 1988.
No high school game was colder than that night in Athens.
Back in the day – like LONG before I was born when the National Football League (NFL) was just a baby sports league, many of the teams shared the names of their Major League Baseball (MLB) counterparts. Since the NFL was trying to survive in those early years, some teams felt that sharing the name would encourage fans to attend. Baseball was king in those days. Today, none of the team names are shared since the St. Louis Cardinals left St. Louis for Arizona. Here are some of the NFL (or other professional teams) which shared names with their baseball brothers:
Origin: Two Brooklyn businessmen bought the Dayton Triangles in 1930 and renamed the team to the Dodgers.
Played from 1930-1943
Best Finish: 2nd place (1933, 1935, 1940, 1941)
Best Players: Morris “Red” Badgro, Benny Friedman, Frank “Bruiser” Kinard and Clarence “Ace” Parker
What happened to the Dodgers? Team was renamed to the Tigers in 1944 but went 0-10. They merged with the Boston Yanks for the 1945 season. The franchise indirectly became the Indianapolis Colts.
New York Giants
Origin: One of five teams that joined the NFL in 1925
Played from 1925 – Present
Best Finish: 13-1-1 in 1929
Best Players: This is a long list but would include Lawrence Taylor, Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff and Charlie Conerly
What happened to the Giants? The team has been called the “New York Football Giants” by ESPN’s Chris Berman but the baseball team moved to San Francisco in 1957 leaving the football team as the only Giants in New York.
Origin: Joined the NFL in 1933 and was originally named the Pirates by owner Art Rooney but locals referred to the team as the “Rooneymen” to distinguish them from the baseball team.
Played: 1933 – 1939
Best Finish: 6-6-0 in 1936
Best Players: Byron White (would later become Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court). At the time White signed the biggest contract in NFL history.
What happened to the Pirates? The team was renamed to the Steelers in 1940.
Origin: Joined the NFL in 1933
Best Finish: 3-6-1 in 1933
Best Players: None
What happened to the Reds? The team was suspended by the league for failure to pay their dues during the 1934 season and were replaced by the St. Louis Gunners after eight games. The Reds have the two lowest officially recognized season scoring totals in NFL history. They scored only 38 points in 10 games in 1933 and 37 points in 1934.
New York Yankees
Origin: Played in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1946
Best Finish: 11-2-1 in 1947
Best Players: Spec Sanders, Tom Landry, Frank Sinkwich
What happened to the Yankees? Before the 1949 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers football team folded and merged with the Yankees to become the Brooklyn-New York Yankees in the final season of the AAFC. The AAFC was absorbed by the NFL after the season but did not bring the team into the league and divided the players between the New York Giants and New York Bulldogs (which played at the New York Yanks in 1950).
St. Louis Cardinals
Origin: NFL team relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in 1960.
Best Finish: 11-3-0 in 1975
Best Players: Larry Wilson, Don Maynard, Roger Wherli, Dan Dierdorf, Jackie Smith and George Privateer
What happened to the Cardinals? Owner Bill Bidwill moved the team to Phoenix, Arizona after the 1987 season.
After the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona, no other NFL team has shared a name with their baseball teams. The only teams who currently have closely-related team names are the Chicago Bears/Cubs and the Detroit Lions/Tigers. According the team origin information both NFL teams were named to relate to their baseball teams.
I have loved football from a very young age. The first football player I ever remember watching was Joe Namath. The first time I ever attended a football game was in 1974 when my dad took me to see his alma mater Clinch County Panthers play the Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets.
I never had the chance to play youth league football but after much asking, my dad finally let me be on the Ware County Gators 7th Grade team. I wanted to play football. I tried really hard to do it. I never realized until I tried to play on how limiting those darn pads were. Shoulder pads simply swallowed me up and the helmet made me resemble more of a bobble head figure than an actual football player. I still tried to play and I stood on the sideline in a real game as our team beat Atkinson County 8-0 in a spring game.
That was the last time I thought I would ever be on a team as we moved to Villa Rica, Georgia a few weeks into the next school year. My dad was a preacher and he was appointed to a church there to fill a sudden vacancy. The football season had already started so I didn’t bother with it. Villa Rica was your typical small town Georgia and they had a passion for their football team although they weren’t very successful when I had arrived. It seemed that the whole town showed up on Friday Nights. It was also the first time I had ever been exposed to something called pep rallies. I thought they were pretty awesome.
I finally talked my dad into allowing me to play again. I joined the Villa Rica Wildcats’ B-Team in my sophomore year. Now don’t be impressed that I was on the team because everybody made the team. Here I was barely 100 pounds trying to play football. I wasn’t the smallest player but I was definitely in the bottom three on the size list.
So I tried to play – more accurately said, I practiced. I hated running laps at the end of practice. That alone nearly killed me. My body took a beating too. I came home everyday with bruises on my arms and many places on my body. I tried to hide them from my mother because she didn’t want me playing anyway and she would have worried even more.
What position did I play? Running back. Yes I realize how funny that sounds now. Can you imagine a 100 pound running back? I still tried. In one practice, a play called for the quarterback to fake the ball to me then pitch it to another back. After the fake I was leveled and I could swear I landed on a rock on the practice field because that’s how hard it felt to be leveled by someone twice my size. It took me a while to get up.
The coaches always preached to us about volunteering for positions. One day at practice the coach asked for a volunteer to return punts. I am not sure why, in that moment that my hand wasn’t connected to my brain; however, I raised my skinny hand and the coach put me in. The punter booted the football high in the air and I positioned myself under hoping not to drop it. The moment the football touched my hands I was steamrolled. My helmet was spun around where I was now looking out of the ear hole and fluids came out nose and mouth rather involuntarily.
My dad wasn’t always able to attend practice but when he did it seemed I played my worst in practice. Each time he was watching I ended up fumbling the ball a lot and getting yelled at by the coaches.
I still tried.
When our B-Team schedule started I watched from the sidelines. I knew I wasn’t going to stand a chance to play unless our team had a huge lead or way behind in the game. During the middle of the season I got my chance.
“Hooper” the coach yelled out.
I couldn’t believe it. He was actually putting me in. We were playing Central of Carrollton and we were well ahead. The coach put me in on defense. I joined in on one tackle before I was back on the sideline again.
My next chance came a couple of weeks later when we played at Bremen. I suppose I was some sort of novelty or they felt sorry for me but the coaches had planned to put me in late in the game when our offense was close to scoring but we scored before I had the chance. When we got the ball back again on offense, they put me in and called a running play. It was a counter play where I faked one way and the went the other way into the line. I got the ball and followed the lineman before a mound of players converged on me. After the bodies had been cleared I had gained three yards. The coaches took me out.
I think for me just being on the team was the best experience. Sure, I wanted to play but I believe the reality of my size was too much to overcome. On Fridays we were allowed to wear our football jerseys to school. I loved that although the jersey swallowed me up and could have been a dress. I didn’t care. I still tried. The next spring I did it again.
Our varsity team got a new coach, Mac Mcwhorter. He gave the football team a renewed shot of enthusiasm and got the players motivated. I joined the team again for spring practice. I changed positions from running back to receiver and defensive back. I did pretty well catching the ball but those darn pads still limited me. It’s a hard life being short and lightweight. That weakness was made even more evident when we were scrimmaging in practice. On another occasional I was on defense and the quarterback sprinted around the end. I cut the angle and grabbed his jersey. I didn’t bring him down. Instead he airlifted me. I felt like I was holding onto Superman’s cape. When I finally let go, I was flung like a rag doll into the fence on the sidelines behind the bench.
I still tried.
We had a drill that was called “Oklahoma” where two players, usually a lineman and a back, would go head-to-head against two other players. The coach asked for volunteers.
Yep, you guessed it. My scrawny arm went up once again and I was put in this drill. I was on defense and on the other side was our starting varsity running back, Keith Glanton. Even back then, I think one of Keith’s legs was bigger than me. My job in this drill was to tackle him. When the whistle blew Keith picked his direction to run. I guessed right and attempted to grab something – anything – as I was bulldozed and felt Keith’s cleat imprint into my chest.
I was mad. I pounded the ground.
The coach apparently thought I wanted to do it again so he lined me up with another back but it was sadly the same result.
Our spring practice culminated in a game against the Carrollton Trojans. The Trojans were our county rivals. On the night of the game, there was a terrible storm so the game was moved to the following night. At some point in the game, the coaches put me in the defensive back position. I had no involvement in any plays and then on the last play I would ever play, the opposing quarterback attempted a pass which went over the receiver. I sprinted as best as I could on the muddy field to the ball but it landed in the muck at my feet. I tossed the ball to the referee and returned to the sideline.
That would be the end of my football playing experience. We moved to Savannah, Georgia during the summer before my junior year.
I learned that playing football was hard. I also learned that you can only do what your body will let you do. Football players were big then but they are giants now. I was very fortunate to avoid any serious injuries.
You won’t see my name in any record book or any stats reflecting the three yards I gained in a B-Team game in 1979. In fact, you won’t even see my picture with the football team in the high school yearbook. I think I was absent that day the photo was taken.
It the end, my body couldn’t do what my mind thought it could do but – I tried.
We take the time machine back 34 years ago when a new professional football league called the United States Football League (USFL) kicked off their first season. This was the first successful professional spring/summer football league. The league kicked off on March 6, 1983 and played an 18-game schedule with 12 teams: New Jersey Generals, Washington Federals, Boston Breakers, Philadelphia Stars, Michigan Panthers, Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers, Birmingham Stallions, Tampa Bay Bandits, Denver Gold, Los Angeles Express and Oakland Invaders.
The league started out not wishing to compete with the NFL but quickly changed as the USFL began signing top college athletes. Perhaps the biggest signing was when the league signed Herschel Walker from the University of Georgia to the New Jersey Generals. New Jersey’s first game at Los Angeles, was quickly the top-billing for ABC’s television coverage of the league’s opening weekend. Walker finished the season with 1,812 yards and 17 touchdowns but the Generals could only win six games.
The Michigan Panthers emerged as the first champions when they defeated the Philadelphia Stars 24-22 in the USFL Championship Game.
Several big name coaches and players played in the USFL. George Allen was the first coach for the Chicago Blitz and led them to the playoffs in 1983. Allen also added NFL veteran quarterback Greg Landry to his team. Another NFL veteran, John Reaves, landed in Tampa Bay as quarterback for the Bandits. Steve Spurrier was the head coach for the Bandits. The leading quarterback for the USFL in 1983 was Bobby Hebert of the Michigan Panthers. Herbert would later play for New Orleans and Atlanta in the NFL.
The Denver Gold (hate the singular nickname) led the league in attendance with an average of 41,736 fans per game.
The Philadelphia Stars finished with the league’s best record at 15-3. They were coached by Jim Mora. Quarterback Chuck Fusina, running back Kelvin Bryant and linebacker Sam Mills were key players for the Stars.
The league played for three seasons before it folded. There are several reasons that the league but the main thing that doomed the league was when the owners voted to move from spring to fall in 1986. Most of the teams folded with the prospect of competing head-to-head with the NFL. The USFL filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming it had established a monopoly. The USFL sought $567 million dollars. A jury ruled in favor of the USFL but only awarded them $1.00.
1983 Final Standings:
Philadelphia Stars (15-3)
Boston Breakers (11-7)
New Jersey Generals (6-12)
Washington Federals (4-14)
Michigan Panthers (12-6)
Chicago Blitz (12-6)
Tampa Bay Bandits (11-7)
Birmingham Stallions (9-9)
Oakland Invaders (9-9)
Los Angeles Express (8-10)
Denver Gold (7-11)
Arizona Wranglers (4-14)
Playoffs: Philadelphia 44, Chicago 38 (ot), Michigan Panthers 37, Oakland Invaders 21
Today, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, will be meeting with Major League Soccer (MLS) officials in New York City to support the cities’ bid for an expansion franchise.
Okay, I already jumped on the fact that she more important things to do than go to New York for a soccer meeting but apparently she had already planned to be in New York for some economic development trip. Whatever that is. I guess it’s a big thing that our mayor is not only supporting Nashville’s bid but also has plans for a stadium at the fairgrounds. She will be joined today by John Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. who is said to be the lead investor in the Nashville group trying to get an MLS team for the Music City.
Today is the deadline for Nashville and 12 other cities to submit applications for four of the league’s expansion slots. MLS is planning to add four teams and remain at that number for several years. Other cities competing for an MLS expansion team are: Sacramento, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida; San Diego, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Miami, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana and San Antonio, Texas.
The favorites seem to be San Diego and St. Louis which have lost their National Football League (NFL) teams. Nashville’s chances is probably in the upper half of the group; however, Nashville’s metro population is the smallest of all the cities under consideration.
Can Nashville support an MLS team? Absolutely.
Nashville has a solid support for soccer.
In the last major soccer event that was hosted in Nashville, a match between Mexico and New Zealand in October drew over 40,000 fans. In December, Nashville was named one of 14 cities that will host matches in next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
A Nashville MLS team would also have no Major League Baseball (MLB) team to compete with but the same is true for other expansion hopefuls as well.
Nashville’s bid can only be strengthened by Mayor Barry’s presence and support for Nashville’s quest to become Music Soccer City.
I have been a football fan for as long as I can remember and watched many National Football League (NFL) games on television. From my very first memories of watching Joe Namath to the first season that the Atlanta Falcons made the playoffs, I always wanted to go to a game in person but it never happened until Sunday. My wife got us two tickets to the Tennessee Titans’ final regular season game against the Houston Texans for Christmas. Although there were no playoff issues to play for on either side, it was still an awesome game and experience. The Titans jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held on for a 24-17 win and their first winning season since 2011.
So why had it taken me this long to go to my first game?
I grew up in a strict religious home so it was not allowed to go to events where alcohol was sold. Other times either I didn’t live near a team or it was just too expensive or some other reasons. It is always difficult to pay a lot of money to go and risk sitting in the wrong place where people have no regard for anyone else. This can really ruin the whole experience. There’s also the logistics of getting to the game, parking and navigating through the crowds.
I have been to two NFL games before but I was working as a writer/reporter then and it’s not quite the same when you are working. It’s just a whole new experience when you go to a game as a fan. You don’t have to worry about keeping stats or writing a game story, you can just enjoy the game.
Here are a few observations about going to an NFL game:
Everything is much smaller than you think. On television the stadium seems a lot bigger.
You don’t have television commentary. You don’t know any of the back stories of the players or inside scoops about what is going on down on the field.
I had to remember to watch that I could watch the action on the field and didn’t have to watch the game on the jumbotron.
It’s not as easy to take a bathroom break like you can watching at home.
You get to experience the elements and energy in the stadium. It’s like you are part of the game.
You see what happens during commercials. They have contests with fans doing different things to win prizes.
You get free stuff. We got Titans’ calendars for 2017!
Witnessing the guy sitting next to you chew tobacco and spit in a pizza box the entire game. (It is the personalized Nashville experience)
Instead of changing the channel, you have to be forced out by stadium personnel and join the herd of people leaving the stadium.
Now my wife and I have experienced the professional teams in the Music City. We loved going to see the Predators (hockey), not so much the Sounds (baseball) and wasted our money watching the Venom (indoor football). We will be back to a Titans game in the future.