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Opinion

Former 1979 State Runner-up Player recounts historic run of Rebel Football


web posted September 16, 2009
OPINION – Our STHS football season began with a group of coaches and players that were determined to win. A fan base of students, band members, teachers, young and old  from Edgefield County that filled the stands at home or away. Our first week of practice was at the school. We practiced at seven in the morning, showered, ate in the lunch room, napped on cots in the gym, studied schemes in a class room, had our afternoon practice and then went home.

Our second week of practice was held at Athens Y Camp in Georgia. We slept in cabins not far from the practice field and ate in a screened building. I know that cook was glad when we left. His inventory had to be low when we departed. A small lake with ice cold water graced the bottom of this tract that was filled with rolling hills. It seemed to be a good place to hunt in the fall.

At sunrise we ate breakfast. The mornings were cool and it warmed up fast. Not from the sun, but from a practice that possessed some tough physical contact. Coach McAlister had brought the Oakland Raider's mentality with him and it was rubbing off.

Some of those mornings were tougher than some Friday nights we played.

The level of competition at camp was high. We all wore red jerseys. I was playing LB and RB. On Tuesday myself and Curtis Burton were the first to earn our blue jerseys which meant we could dress in the Blue Room at the school. It has blue carpet, clean as a whistle and it better be or we would run extra for it. Coach McAlister started that tradition and the legacy holds to this day.

When we returned it was about a dozen or a few more players that had earned that privilege. A hand-full of us had transferred and were working hard to contribute and fit in. I had worked during the summer for several years with players, Coach Triplett, and Coach Heflin from the '78 team and became close friends with many of them.

We seemed to be accepted by not just the players,but by everyone else at STHS. The camaraderie on the team continued to grow as time passed. We were a team that openly showed our Christian Faith during team meetings and settled in to hear comments about our performance and what we could do to improve. We observed another team at camp that would line up in the trenches and yell at each other "make me better". It was joked about from time to time. But in a sense it subconsciously instilled a vision for our improvement each day. That is what practice is all about. You work to get better each day no matter how good you are.

We got off to a bad start, but turned it around and were 2-1 going into Conference IV AAA. We lost to Abbeville and we beat  Ninety-Six 40-0. Burton had 282 yds. on 19 carries. Mike Miller recovered a fumble on the 28 and Hillary hit Joe Thurmond for a 28 yd. T.D. Burton had 18, 39 and 80 yd.T.D. runs. Hillary to Griffin for 39 yd. T.D. We beat our rival Saluda 19-0. I had a 3 yd. T.D. run. Burton a 61 and 45 yd. T.D. run. O line blocked for 294 yds. rushing. D was hard hitting allowing only 54 yds. Our Conference (now Region) record was 6-0.  

ST 24 C.A. Johnson 18    We were in a struggle on the road. At halftime Coach Triplitt told us " Don't get frustrated they are doing some things on offense that we did not see on film". He went to the board and made adjustments . After this game, I think it would be fair to say that we were playing for a staff that could coach on a higher level. With the score tied at the end of the fourth quarter overtime was set to play. Time ran out of the first overtime with no score. C.A. had the ball first to start the second one. On third and ten they threw a pass into the back of the end zone and I jumped, and intercepted it to give the offense the ball. Coach Mak. told our QB Ira to run option and to not pitch it and hit the corner. Ira sprinted for a 10 yd. T.D. Rebels win in double overtime.

 ST 36   LBC  8  James Miles returned two fumbles for a total of 138 yds. One for a 89 T.D. Freeman, Curry, and Abney had one interception each. L.D. Anthony sacks QB on third and four. Hillary to Griffin for two T.D. catches. One for 47 and one for 52 yds. Burton on 2 yd T.D. Jenkins on 62 yd T.D. Griffin 2 pt. run.  We win at home.

ST 27  A.C. Flora 7 
Second trip to Columbia for a win on the road and five in a row. Burton with a 87 yd. T.D. run. Hillary had a 80 and 57 yd. T.D. run. Burton was hit and pitched to Hillary for a fourth quarter T.D. Miles had 45 yd. int. T.D. Hillary had a 25 yd. field goal.

280 pound John Seawright records sack. Wayne Freeman starts second half with a 33 yd. kick return. Jimmie Lawrence, a great blocker had two runs for 15 yds. Larry Abney with two interceptions. 366 total yds. for Rebs.

ST 27  Winnsboro 24  Jones had a 50 yd. interception T.D. and a 85 yd. kickoff  T.D. return. James Miles blocks his third punt of the year and George Thurmond scoops it up and races 41 yds. for a T.D. Hillary pass to Griffin for PAT.Winnsboro went 1-4 for passing.

They ran 65 running plays . We had 23 running plays and went 0-3 passing. At that time it was believed that the 65 plays was the most ever run on our field and 23 was the least by us or opponent.

Winnsboro had four scoring drives for 71, 53, 94, and 80 yards. The Rebels had answered to a fourth quarter score by Jones taking the kickoff 85 yds. Winnsboro was stopped on a three play drive in the fourth quarter by the Blue Steel and had to punt. Wayne Freeman set up to receive and did and ran toward the scoreboard end. Instead of trying to block as usual we pealed out right in front of our bench and set up a wall.

Mike (Mutt) Miller hit a man in the chest and sent him airborne into another and taking him out too. I was still running to get to my position and saw it as I advanced. I hit a tackle in the numbers and they were picked off on down the line by the rest of the D. It looked like domino's on film and I remember it like yesterday.

Wayne ran for the winning T.D. and I believe he was untouched. They had 323 rushing yards . We had 61 and 283 return yds. On Monday Coach T had us looking at film on the next team and studying punt units. He had the snap seconds figured and we worked on blocking them from outside angles as well as setting up walls for returns.

We won our Conference.  ST 36  Keenan 8  There was a lot of gang tackling in this game. We had 352 yds. of offense. Hillary on a 29 yd. T.D. strike to Jasper Griffin. Hillary on a 43 yd. T.D. run. Hillary to Eric Griffin for 22 yd. T.D. pass. I caught a 31 yd. T.D. pass from Hillary in the second quarter. Burton 1 yd. T.D. run. L.D. Anthony played end that night. Merriweather,Curry,and Freeman had one Interception . ST 51  Allendale-Fairfax 8  Our ninth strait win. Burton had a 14, 34,and 11 yard T.D runs. I had a 6 yd. T.D. run. Johnny Lott had a 7 yd. T.D. pass to Jasper Griffin and a 6 yd. T.D. pass to Joe Thurmond. James miles had a 29 yd. T.D. run just for fun.

The first round of the playoffs were at home. ST 30  Hillcrest 7  Eric Griffin caught a 2 and a 45 yd. T.D. pass from Hillary. L. D. Anthony had a 50 yd.  fumble return for a T.D. Hillary had a 3 yd. T.D. run. Hillary with a 10 yard T.D. to Thurmond. Abney had a interception. Solid play by the D. line stopped Hillcrest .

They are Thurmond, Miles, Korrek, Seawright, Dukes,Miller,Culbreath and Merriweather. Charles Johnson,Randy Mathis and myself were in on much of the defensive action. John Wayne Raiford was injured the first play of the game and Barfield filled in to move the offense.

The others on the O line were Brazell, Myers, Lott, Mohorn,and Bibbs. ST 13  Clinton 8  We had to travel up to Clinton for the second of playoffs. We were all saddened at the death of Jasper Griffins father. Jasper racked up some yds. that night. He and Lawrence ran plays in to the offense. Coach Mak. would call a play and a little shove out and sometime would say "Tell Curtis to break it".

The whole team attended the funeral On Sunday before the Clinton game. There was a long line of traffic between Edgefield County and Clinton. Coach T said "I remember coming out of our locker room and feet were pounding the stands. It made me nervous. Then I realized that it was our fans. It made me feel a whole lot better". 10,000 people attended as well as Senator Strom Thurmond and he sat beside Mr. Howard Moody.

We gang tackled all night. Hillary connected to Eric on a 41 yard T.D. bomb. in the first quarter. In the second, Clinton broke a 66 yd. run and was forced out of bounds by Jones on our 11. They were faced with a fourth and fifteen and  kicked a field goal that was blocked. 12 men on the field gave them another shot and it sailed wide right. I never will forget that. 7-0 at half. At the end of the third quarter the Rebels had marched 77 yds. in 14 plays and eaten up 6:30 on the clock.

On the first play of the fourth quarter Hillary faked in the middle and rolled to his left and had his tear-away jersey ripped off at the eight and sprung loose for a T.D. Our side rocked! Clinton drove and Miles had sacks of 11 and 7 yds. eating time off the clock. They scored and had 2:42 left to play. We recovered the on-side kick. Jasper ran for 15 yds. and had a face mask call.

That nailed the lid on the coffin.We had 235 yds. total offense and they had 239. We beat Carolina High to play Cheraw in the state and lost.

There was more that one opportunity to spring into and keep a lead in that game. The Rebels had won in a thriller the week before.

The Upper State Championship was played at home on November 23, 1979.

Thanksgiving was the day before and that was opening day of rabbit season and we had practice. I always enjoyed Thursday practice. It was all mental preparation and the excitement would build. We practiced on the game field and we could hear the Band a lot better. The drums still drive me to want to touch the goal post at the home games. That is a tradition at STHS. When I was playing we came out at the goal post toward highway 23.

We would exit at half, touch that goal post and meet opposing teams behind our stands. ST 29  Carolina High 28  CLASS, COURAGE and the WILL TO WIN. We fell behind 28-10 at half. Touched the goal post and met Carolina behind our stands. They were talking trash and we all had the CLASS to not utter a word. We had the COURAGE to believe that we were not beaten and could make a come back. We had the WILL TO WIN late in the game and never quit on each other or our coaches and neither did they.

Coach Woolsey cranked up his offense the second half. He was a great O line coach. He coached last year and still had it. The Rebels took the lead on a Hillary field goal but fell behind 21-3 in the first quarter. In the second quarter we ran a reverse to Jasper and he pitched back to Hillary on a 78 yd. T.D. run.

Burton was out with an ankle injury and Ronnie Jones filled in. Carolina had a long run and passed for a T.D. 28-10 at half. In the third quarter Ronnie ran for 22 yds. to the Trojan 31. Ira hit Eric on a T.D. pass. Hillary kick made it 28-17. We had new life.

The Blue Steel held and we took over on our 30 yard line. Hillary ran for 14,Jasper for 16  Ira passed to Eric for 16. Three first downs to 24. Hillary passed to Joe Thurmond for a T.D. and the 2 pointer failed. 28- 23. With 4:42 to go Freeman pulled in a punt on our 6 yard line and returned to the 21. Jenkins caries on three plays 7,9,and 3 yds. to the 40. Hillary pass to Thurmond for 20 yds. and a first down. Hillary ran for 5.

Incomplete pass on the 35. Jones for 2 yds. 33 yd. line, 4th down, Hillary runs for 3. First down. With 44 seconds left on 30 yd. line, Jones no gain. 2nd down, incomplete pass. 3rd down, Hillary loss of 2. 4th down from the 32, Jasper Griffin for a 22 yd. gain. 1st down with 11 seconds left. 1st down on the 10 yd. line, incomplete pass with 5 seconds left. 2nd down with 5 seconds left Eric Griffin runs a rout to the corner of the end zone toward the concession stand and was covered.

I think Ira had scrambled left and started back to his right. Eric sprinted across the end zone and was wide open. Ira planted and fired to hit Eric right in front of our goal post.We win 29-28. Our bench cleared. The field was covered in seconds. I remember yelling and could not hear myself. Many of the Carolina players fell on the ground face down and put their hands over their ear holes.

I could not help but stop and think of the greatness that year.

We won twelve straight. The Upper State Championship game is one for the books. At some point in time there may be a game to match it. But, I do not believe that there will be one to surpass it at home. I do not know if one more person could have squeezed in that stadium. I would like to thank Robert Brazell for the material and programs with articles in them. Ken (Foots) Korrek for the use of the scrap book that his mother pasted  in 1979.

It has articles, photos, and programs in it. STHS is a great place to play football. I would like to thank Coach Triplett and Coach Sawyer for the opportunity to coach where I played. I saw them come into a tough situation and their efforts started to re-build a program that demanded discipline. When a player is in the red, white and blue I know that he been taught to be a good citizen.

Come out to the game for our thirty year reunion September,18 2009.
  
This letter is written to commemorate the lives of John Wayne Raiford and James Miles.
 
Past Player and Fan,
#32 Marshall White

 




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