Tag: Villa Rica Wildcats

Friday Flashback: My Football “Glory” Days

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My football playing days at Villa Rica High School.  I am pictured on the right watching an Oklahoma drill as Head Coach Mac McWhorter (far left) watches intensely.

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.

“Who me?”

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.

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Standing on the sidelines (#48) here watching our team play Bremen

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.

 

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Georgia High School Football Kickoff Weekend

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Warner Robins, Villa Rica and Clinch County kick off new season

It’s is hard to believe that the 2018 Georgia High School Football season kicks off this weekend.  I’m not sure I have fully recovered from last year’s Class 5A championship game but I have to shake it off and turn the page to a new season.  For the past two seasons I have had a weekly feature on Georgia High School football.  I’m going to do it a little differently this year but I’m defintely going to be tuned in to high school football games on Friday nights again this fall; however, I will have a few weeks that I will miss here in the early part of the season due to personal reasons.

With each season there are three teams I always follow.  They are Warner Robins, Villa Rica and Clinch County.  Why these three teams?

I’ll start with the first one in my personal timeline – Clinch County.  My father used to play football for the Panthers.  The first football game he took me too was a Clinch County game and that’s something special to me.  Homerville is that typical small, rural Georgia town where they close down the town on Friday Nights to go to the football games.  It is a great atmosphere.  When I started high school, I attended Villa Rica High School where I attempted to play on the football team.  (There may be a blog about this later)   Then, years later, I ended up in Warner Robins and from 1984 – 2010 I spent many Friday nights in the fall at International City (now McConnell-Talbert) Stadium in Warner Robins.  I adopted Warner Robins as my team and I still follow them today.

So, here’s a little preview of the three teams I follow:

Warner Robins Demons

The Demons’ were my surprise team last season as they rebounded from a 3-8 season in 2016 to 14-1 and an appearance in the Class 5A State Championship game.  Warner Robins returns experienced quarterback Dylan Fromm (Yes, his older brother is Jake).  Dylan made his own mark on the high school field last season with a school record 3,505 yards and 35 touchdowns.  His favorite target is his brother – Tyler Fromm – who had 43 receptions for 529 yards and five touchdowns.  The only question mark for the Demons is how they will replace seven starters on defense.  The schedule is going to be interesting as well.  The Demons open tonight against Tift County as well as Colquitt County on September 14.  My gut tells me that the Demons might go 7-3 this season.

Villa Rica Wildcats

The Wildcats finished 5-5 last season and if not for two Paulding County schools (East Paulding and Paulding County), they would have made the playoffs.  In fact, the Wildcats started 4-1 but the second half was brutal with losses to Carrollton, Kell and Rome.  Villa Rica opens the season tonight at Campbell and they still have Carrollton, Rome and Kell to contend with.  Friday Night Football magazine lists Villa Rica as a team on the rise in Class 5A.  I’d like to agree with that but this is a tough region.  I’m thinking a 6-4 record for the ‘cats in 2018.

Clinch County Panthers

The Panthers are looking to repeat as Class A Public school champions this season and they have a pretty good shot at it with All-State Trezmen Marshall in his senior season.  Marshall is the first Clinch County player to be named Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Preseason Super 11.  The Georgia commit can do it all – kickoff specialist, inside linebacker, nose guard, punter, quarterback and tailback.  The Panthers finished second in the region but defeated region champion Irwin County for the state title last season.  The Panthers open at home tonight against Hebron Christian Academy before a challenging three weeks with games against Brooks County, Dooly County and Irwin County but playing these heavyweights at home will help.  I’m expecting the Panthers to roll to a 10-0 record.

As we embark on another high school football season, let me share with you some of my resources I use throughout the season:

  • Georgia High School Football Historians Assocation
    • This is absolutely the best-ever resource for team records, histories and statistical information
  • Georgia High School Football Daily
    • This has been an amazing resource of information.  It is produced and owned by Todd Holcomb and Chip Saye.  I’m not sure what’s going on with it this year as it hasn’t been updated since August 1st.
  • Score Atlanta
    • Another good source of information and stories as well as game reports.  I am usually constantly checking the High School Scoreboard on Friday nights.
  • Tommy Palmer Media Group
    • Tommy Palmer is a legend and I consider him THE expert in Georgia High School football.  He does the Georgia High School Scoreboard Radio Show starting around 10 pm on Friday nights.  Palmer also does a couple of other podcasts such as “This Week’s Top Ten” and “This Week’s Top Games”.
  • GPB Football App
    • Georgia Public Broadcasting has improved this app over the years and it is a good place to go.
  • Sportsmic App
    • This is another app on my iPhone and one I use to listen to Warner Robins broadcasts.

So here are my preseason picks to win state titles in 2018:

  • Class 7A:  McEachern
  • Class 6A: Tucker
  • Class 5A:  Rome
  • Class 4A:  Cairo
  • Class 3A: Peach County
  • Class 2A: Thomasville
  • Class 1A (Private): Eagle’s Landing Christian
  • Class 1A (Public):  Clinch County

Friday Flashback: Tuning Into High School Football Games

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Last Friday night I had to laugh at myself.  I had retreated to another room to listen to a high school football game on my iPhone app.  In addition to that, I also pulled up video streaming of another game on my computer as well as frequently checking the scores on my iPAD.  I glanced in the corner to see my radio sitting there in silence.  I remembered that the radio was my only source of coverage before all of this technology came into existence.

What’s even more amazing is that I’m listening to Georgia high school football games while sitting in my room in Nashville, Tennessee.   This wasn’t something I could have done 10 years ago.  The technology just hadn’t gotten to where it is today.

I thought back to a game I tuned into on my old transistor radio in 1979 in my room of our mobile home in Villa Rica, Georgia.  It was the Class 7AA region semifinal playoff game between Villa Rica and East Rome.  The weather outside was nasty which was one reason I wasn’t at them game and the fact it was being played at Barron Stadium in Rome, Georgia.  My bedroom was located at the rear of the mobile home and I carefully placed my radio and tilted the antenna so I could pick up the coverage of the game.  At times the signal was strong but it would waver.  I had to intently listen next to the radio.  Yes, this was before wifi and Bluetooth headphones.  Villa Rica kicked a field goal in the game and held on to defeat the two-time defending Class AA state champions 3-0.

Through the years I have huddled next to the best radio and reception I could find for games I could not attend in person.  I remember many times listening in the car parked in the driveway because that was the best reception I could get.

Unlike today, I couldn’t get scores from other games.  I remember waiting impatiently on Saturday mornings to go to the nearest newspaper machines and buying the Saturday paper so I can see the scores.  Sometimes I could only see the scores listed in the header of the front page through the machine.  If I wanted more details I would have to go to the library to find a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Yes, the media report wasn’t like it is today.

Today I can stream almost any game that a school is doing.  There are so many options now.  If I want to know how Villa Rica is doing now, I can go to the local newspaper’s website.  If I want to check on how my cousins alma mater in Columbia County, Florida is doing, I can search for information on Google.  If I want to know if my dad is celebrating a win with his Clinch County Panthers, I can subscribe to a Twitter feed on my iPhone.  It’s a lot different time than it used to be.

Years ago, I discovered the Georgia High School Football Scoreboard show and now I catch it most every Friday night and listen to who I call THE voice of Georgia High School Football, Tommy Palmer.  Although I live in Tennessee now, his South Georgia voice brings me back home.

When they play the state championship games in Atlanta they will now be in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.  In the past when they started in the Georgia Dome, all the games started being broadcast on Georgia Public Television.  One year I bought a handheld TV and took it to my work and watched/listened to the games while working.  Now the games are streamed live.

When I lived in Warner Robins, Georgia, I would watch Football Friday Night on WMAZ Channel 13 on Friday Nights after the late news.  I rarely missed a show.  While I can’t catch the live broadcast now, I can still watch the highlights on the station’s app on my Roku device.

Having lived in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, I will scan the various news apps and check up on local high school highlights on Saturday mornings.  Although I’m not much into Tennessee High School Football games as I am with Georgia, I still check the highlights to see how the local teams are doing.  Crazy, maybe.  It’s just my thing.  I grew up as Georgia High School football games being my only entertainment outlet in a strict religious environment.  At least at the time, high school football games were one of the few enjoyments that wasn’t a sin.

So as I think ahead to tonight’s games, I know my first team has the week off after a thrilling 38-35 win last week so I’ll have a rare week where I will stream another team into my “listening” room.

It’s still funny to me that with all the devices I use to listen to high school football games, the radio is the only one silent on Friday nights.   Perhaps I will go old school tonight and see what I find on the radio.

Georgia High School Football Weekly (9/6/17)

 

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Eli Mashburn kicks game winning 34-yard field goal as time expires to give Warner Robins 38-35 win over Peach County

 

Here’s how the top-ranked teams in each classification fared last week:

  • Class 7A – Grayson (2-0) defeated McEachern 12-7.  Ronald Thompkins had 111 yards rushing and scored a touchdown for the Rams.  Grayson jumped out to a 12-0 lead and held off the Indians.  Grayson will travel to Louisiana to tangle with top-ranked John Curtis (1-0) this week.
  • Class 6A – Tucker (2-1) lost to Colquitt County 35-21.  The Tigers led 14-7 at halftime but could not withstand the Packer’s passing attack in the second half.  Tucker is off this week.
  • Class 5A – Rome (2-0) beat Drew 56-0.  Rome had 430 yards of total offense in the first half as they built a 42-0 lead in the first half.  Rome will host Kell (0-2) this week.  Kell beat Rome 33-30 last year.
  • Class 4A – Cartersville (3-0) defeated Calhoun 58-6.  Trevor Lawrence passed for 317 yards and four touchdowns.  It was the second year in a row that the Purple Hurricanes have blown away the Yellow Jackets.   Cartersville will play at Westlake (1-1) this week.  Cartersville won last year’s meeting 31-0.
  • Class 3A – Greater Atlanta Christian (2-0) was off, they will host Valor Christian (2-0) from Colorado this week.  Valor Christian is the defending Colorado 5A state champions.
  • Class 2A – Benedictine (2-0) beat St. Pius 41-13.  Rico Powers had 103 yards in receptions and three touchdowns for the Cadets.  Benedictine will play at Southeast Bulloch (0-2) this week.  Benedictine won last year’s game, 33-6.
  • Class 1A (public) – Clinch County (2-1) lost to Brooks County 17-14.  The Panthers lead at one point 14-0 in this game but turnovers were too much to overcome.  Quarterback Charles McClelland was held to 38 yards rushing and 61 yards passing in the game.  Clinch County is off this week.
  • Class 1A (private) – Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (3-0) beat Knoxville Catholic 55-10.  Khaleb Hood had a big game with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 78 yards on two punt returns.  The Chargers will travel to Hart County (0-2) this week.  ELCA won last year’s contest, 45-0.

Here’s how the teams on my personal watch list performed this week:

  • Warner Robins 38, Peach County 35
    • This was one of the best games I have listened to in a very long time.  Peach County jumped out to a 10-0 lead but the Demons came back behind Quarterback Dylan Fromm who was 30-of-40 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.  Warner Robins connected on a 34-yard game-winning field goal from Eli Mashburn as time expired.    Warner Robins is off this week.
  • Brooks County 17, Clinch County 14
    • Clinch County always has a battle with Brooks County and this was nothing new or unexpected.  The Panthers looked good early as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead but three fumbles kept the Trojans in the game.  Clinch County is off this week.
  • Villa Rica was off
    • The Wildcats are 2-0 for the first time since 2010.   Villa Rica will play East Paulding (0-2) this week.  East Paulding leads the all-time series 4-2.

Blowout of the week

  • Cedartown 63, Gilmer 0

Upsets of the week

  • Wayne County 23, Valdosta 13 – This one kinda flew under the radar since it was a Thursday night game.  Wayne County was a 29-point underdog but won for only the 8th time in the 34-year history of the series and first win since 1954.
  • SW DeKalb 28, Creekside 0 – The Panthers were underdogs in this one but came away with a convincing win against Creekside which appears to be in a rebuilding process after several winning seasons .
  • Tift County 27, Glynn Academy 7 – This one surprised me as Glynn Academy has come off deep postseason runs in the past few seasons.

Notable News of the week

  • Montgomery County was the last team to play their first game last week.  They opened with a 26-6 win over East Laurens.
  • Hephzibah ended a 15-game losing streak with a 39-7 win over Westside-Augusta.

Top Players In Georgia

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence (Cartersville)
  2. QB Michael Barrett (Lowndes)
  3. DL Adam Anderson (Rome)
  4. QB Justin Fields (Harrison)
  5. QB Bailey Fisher (Rabun County)

Playoffs?  We’re taking about playoff already?

Would you believe the computer has updated their playoff and champions for each classification after only week 3?  Here are the current state champion projections:

  • 7A – Grayson over Colquitt County
  • 6A – Tucker over Lee County
  • 5A – Buford over Carrollton
  • 4A – Cartersville over Woodward Academy
  • 3A – Greater Atlanta Christian over Cedar Grove
  • 2A – Benedictine over Fitzgerald
  • 1A (public) – Clinch County over Irwin County
  • 1A (private) – Eagle’s Landing Christian over Prince Avenue Christian