1982 state champions return Friday

Published 6:23 am Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The highlight of my 42-year journalistic sports writing career with this fine newspaper came in 1982, when I covered coach Ralph Jones’s Bainbridge High School Bearcats State Class AAA football championship season.

Coach Jones and his 1982 players and fellow coaches will be honored at Friday night’s 7:30 p.m. Region 1-AAAAA game between coach Ed Pilcher’s Bearcats and the Hardaway High School Golden Hawks, at Centennial Field.

Prior to the game, they will be honored with a 30th anniversary reception, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Elcan-King Elementary School cafeteria, across from Centennial Field.

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The 1982 Bearcats went 14-1 overall, shut out Cook County 14-0 in the first round of the Region 1-AAA playoffs, and defeated Mitchell-Baker, 35-22, for the Region 1-AAA championship.

The region championship game win by the Bearcats in Camilla avenged a 19-7 Mitchell-Baker win over the Bearcats in the third game of the regular season.

In the first round of the State Class AAA playoffs, the Bearcats defeated Americus 21-14 in overtime in Amricus. They then returned home to defeat Glenn Hills, 28-7, for the South Georgia Class AAA championship at Centennial Field.

They nailed down the state championship with a 7-6 victory over the North Georgia Class AAA champion, Gainesville, on a rain soaked City Park Stadium Field in Gainesville.

The joyous memories I and the rest of The Post-Searchlight crew had of that rainy night in Gainesville were many.

There was a puddle on the 50-yard-line, and after the game, while making my way to the locker room to interview coaches and players, I witnessed several Bearcats in full uniform jumping in the puddle and sliding with great joy.

Former Post-Searchlight photographer and friend Bing Cruz got many great photos of the game and the post game celebration.

After leaving the stadium, we returned to the Gainesville Holiday Inn, where former Post-Searclight publisher, and my dear friend, Sam Griffin had secured rooms for The Post-Searchlight’s staff. It was there that we celebrated the Bearcats’ great triumph.

At the Bearcats football banquet following that great state championship season, Sam and I presented the page plates from our state championship edition to Bainbridge High School, and they had them framed.

Elseswhere in today’s sports section is a story, in which coach Jones and several of his 1982 Bearcats reminisce about their memories of that historic state championship season, the only state football championship in Bainbridge High School history.

My dear friend Bobby Trawick, Bainbridge High School principal from 1982 to 1988, recently summed up his feelings, which mirrored those of many others, about that special 1982 football season.

“Due to the hard work and dedication of a group of gifted student athletes and coaching staff, Bainbridge High School was able to win its first and only state football championship,” Trawick said. “The state championship win over Gainesville was the result of a lot of long hours and preparation.

“The 1982 state champions epitomized their motto of ‘Courage, Character and Commitment.’

“Their team will always be a part of the proud history of Bainbridge High School and Decatur County.”