Looking back on my favorite Bearcat memory from the last 45 years

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I have many fond memories of outstanding sporting events I have covered during my 45 years as sports editor of this fine newspaper, but there is one that tops my list.

It was Bearcats’ head coach Ralph Jones’s 7-6 1982 State Class AAA football championship victory over the Gainesville High School Red Elephants on a rain soaked City Park Stadium Field in Gainesville.

The 1982 Bearcats, who went 14-1 overall, shut out Adel’s Cook County High School Hornets 14-0 in the first round of the Region 1-AAA playoffs and defeated Camilla’s Mitchell-Baker High School Eagles 35-22 for the Region 1-AAA championship game. The Region 1-AAA win over the Eagles revenged a 19-7 Mitchell-Baker win over the Bearcats in the third game of the regular season.

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

The win over Glenn Hills set up the Bearcats’ showdown with North Georgia Class AAA champion Gainesville for the State Class AAA championship the following Saturday night in Gainesville.

Bearcats fullback Scott Carroll, a team captain, ran in for the winning touchdown from five-yards out after defensive back Kenneth Howard recovered a fumble by Gainesville running back Sammy Williams at the five-yard line. Carroll and Howard are both medical doctors today.

The winning touchdown drive included a 15 yard pass from quarterback Bobby Walden to split end David Sykes from the Bearcats’ 32 to the Bearcats’ 17. 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 happily sliding with great joy.

Former Post-Searchlight photographer and my dear 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-Searchlight publisher, and my dear late friend Sam Griffin had secured rooms for The Post-Searchlight staff. It was there that we celebrated the Bearcats’ great triumph.

At the Bearcats football awards banquet following that great state championship season Sam and I presented the page plates from our state championship edition, which, by the way, we wrote on type writers, to Bainbridge High School and they had them framed.

Three players from the Bearcats1982 State Class AAA championship team earned scholarships with outstanding Division 1 college football programs. Quarterback Bobby Walden went to Auburn, offensive tackle Jimmy Holton went to Georgia and wide receiver Phillip Bryant went to Florida State.