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County Champions

1949 – Jonesboro

Coached by W.J. “Doc” Kirksey, the 1949 Jonesboro Team won Region 3-C to become Clayton County’s first football champion. The Cardinals beat defending region champion Eatonton, Mary Persons, Gray, Sparta, Monticello, and Cochran on the way to a perfect 6-0 region slate (9-1 overall). The only regular season loss was to Class B power Manchester.

Jonesboro defeated Lincolnton 41-6 in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Gordon Lee 14-7 in the North Georgia title game. The abbreviated playoff schedule was due to the fact that only 22 teams in the state played Class C football.
The 1949 Cardinals were led by star halfback Bill Dunford who scored 26 touchdowns and received a football scholarship to UGA. Other key players were linemen Harold Smith and J.D. Gamble, and backs Roland Toney and Reese Sanders. Their ten wins are the most ever at Jonesboro in a season.

1951 – Forest Park

Playing its first official season of varsity football, Forest Park won Region 3-C, North Georgia, and Georgia C crowns. The Panthers had played a “B” schedule the previous year. The Panthers were coached by Al Jeffrey.

After opening the campaign with an impressive victory over Class A Fulton High, the Panthers defeated defending state champion Fort Valley, Buford, Henry County, Fayette County, Monticello, and Hawkinsville and finished the regular season 9-0-1. The only blemish was a 20-20 tie in a rematch with Hawkinsville. The team did not have a home field and had to host games at College Park or Hapeville.

Forest Park defeated Calhoun for the North Georgia title and Cuthbert for state. With a final record of 11-0-1, the 1951 Panthers are the only undefeated team in county history.

1957 – Forest Park

Forest Park captured Region 3-A and North Georgia championships before falling short in the state title game. Former assistant Albert “Pat” Patterson was in his first year as head coach.

The Panthers defeated North Clayton, Jonesboro, Milton, Henry County, Campbell, and Sprayberry to set up a season finale with Carrollton for the 3-A title. Forest Park won the game 22-12 to earn the right to host North Habersham for the North Georgia title. A 14-7 win put the Panthers in the state championship game at Statesboro.

Statesboro had been ranked first in the state all year and proved their status with a 27-0 victory on a near-freezing night in early December. The final record was 8-3-1. With the best back (Donald Cook) and the best linemen (Larry Foster and Jack Aaron) returning, the prospects were excellent for a return trip to the playoffs.

1958 – Forest Park

Forest Park, with a veteran team and coach, won Region 1-A and South Georgia Championships on the way to a 10-1-1 season slate. The Panthers rolled up 9 straight wins by impressive tallies including three consecutive games with 60 or more points. Nevertheless, the region title was still up for grabs when the Panthers faced Carrollton in the last game of the regular season. Carrollton needed a win and a Jonesboro victory over Campbell to create a three-way tie for the title. The 0-0 tie was enough to send Forest Park to the postseason.

The Panthers defeated Sandersville 39-20 for the South Georgia title to advance to the state final opposite Stephens County. Coach Herb Amick’s team won the game 13-6. Amick would later become the Forest Park principal.

1962 – North Clayton

North Clayton, with legendary coach Max Dowis at the lead, got the school’s first taste of success by taking Region 2-AA and South Georgia Championships on the way to a 12-1 record. The only loss was a 28-6 decision at #1-ranked Rossville in the state title game. North Clayton’s first six victories of the year, including a strange 2-0 win over Forest Park, were all against opponents that they had never beaten.

The Eagles defeated Headland 18-6 for the region and Wayne County 7-6 for the right to play Rossville. Both games were played at North Clayton. The Eagles were led by all-state back Frank Oliver, Millard Brannen, Doug Jenkins, Thurston Taylor, and Ronnie Huggins. A Taylor-to-Jenkins 55-yard pass play and Huggins’ extra point won the Wayne County game in dramatic style. The defense only allowed 43 points in the regular season.

1963 – North Clayton

North Clayton repeated as Region 2-AA and South Georgia champions before falling to Cedartown in the state final. Dowis’ team defeated College Park 13-7 for the region title and Cairo 21-7 for the South Georgia crown.

Senior quarterback Thurston Taylor and junior running backs Larry Short, Terry Short, Larry Nelson, and Millard Brannen were the offensive stars. Classmate Ronnie Huggins made first team all-state as a defensive lineman and was the AJC’s Greater Atlanta Lineman of the Year. Brannen gained over 1000 yards rushing. With a majority of the team underclassmen, North Clayton was the preseason favorite to take it all in 1964.

1964 – North Clayton

North Clayton captured the Sub-region 2-AA (South) title for a third straight year with an undefeated league record. The Eagles won an early season showdown with College Park 13-6 and coasted from there. The only setback of the regular season was a controversial 3-0 loss to Griffin in the season finale. Douglas County was the opponent in the Region 2-AA title game where the Eagles fell 19-7. North Clayton’s Millard Brannen was out with an injury. Douglas County went on to win the state title.

1968 – Forest Park

Forest Park was the surprise story of the state, going 12-1 on the heels of a mediocre 4-5-1 campaign the previous season. Carl Madison’s Panthers won Region 7-AAA and North Georgia titles before falling to mighty Valdosta 37-12 in the state final at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field.

Only Avondale and R.E. Lee provided much competition during the regular season. The 14-7 win over Avondale was the first home loss for Calvin Ramsey’s team in the ten-year history of their stadium. The 10-7 win at R.E. Lee in the last regular season outing clinched the region title. The Panthers got by Athens 26-3 on the road and Dalton 28-7 at Tara before succumbing to Valdosta at icy Grant Field. The Wildcats had allowed only 19 points coming into the game.

The 1968 Panther offense was led by quarterback Randy Kidd, running back Dennis Sullivan, and linemen Barry Jones and Eddie Pollard. The defense, which held opponents to less than a touchdown per game, featured Fred Cash, Doug Burnett, Jimmy Farmer, Terry Peeples, and Jim Lyle.

1971 – Forest Park

Forest Park claimed the 6-AAA title even though their first win did not come until the third week of the season. A 10-10 tie with R.E. Lee was followed by a 13-7 loss to Newton County as T. McFerrin got off to an inauspicious start as head coach. Forest Park then ran off eight straight wins. The passing combination of Chris Jackson to Carey Thompson and the running of Kiney Sexton proved to be unstoppable in the second half of the season.

Both playoff games were played at Tara. A 38-6 rout of South Cobb set up an encounter with Avondale for the North Georgia title. Forest Park led 10-7 in the third, but Avondale scored twice in the fourth for a 19-10 victory. Senior Chris Jackson, a three-year starter, was named Clayton Player of the Year by the News/Daily.

1987 – Morrow

Morrow, led by veteran coach Bud Theodocion, captured the 6-AAAA, North Georgia, and Georgia championships. The Mustangs (14-1) were ranked #19 in the nation by USA Today at season’s end. After a last-minute win over Northside Warner Robins and a 7-0 loss to McIntosh, Morrow rolled to 13 straight victories. The most exciting win of the regular season came on October 30 over Griffin. The Bears were ranked #2 in the state until the 17-14 Morrow win.

Griffin was the 23-7 loser in the region title game at Tara and Southwest DeKalb was the 14-7 victim in the North Georgia Championship at DeKalb Memorial. Tara hosted the state championship game for the first (and only) time on December 19 with Effingham County going home disappointed by the 21-0 score.

Quarterback Jeff Howard, a Georgia Tech signee, threw for over 2000 yards to be named the AJC Offensive Player of the Year for Georgia. He led a balanced offensive, posting 24 touchdowns rushing and another 24 via the pass. Sophomore sensation Andre Hastings was the favorite receiver. Danny Williams and Ray Doran both ran for 1000-yards. The key linemen were Rusty Wright (Georgia Tech), Jimmy Newnan, William Moody, and Peanut Fuller.

Defensive standouts for the Mustangs included Walter McDaniel, Ronnie McKinney, Mike Gaskins, Seth Jones, Simon Martin, and Glenn Hill. The latter was selected Clayton Defensive Player of the Year by the CND.

1988 – Riverdale

Riverdale was the surprise 4-AAAA champion, finishing the regular season in fourth place before upsetting the higher seeds in the playoffs. Bill Kennedy’s Raiders went 7-3 in the regular season with losses to Morrow, Griffin, and Newnan. They shocked third-ranked and undefeated Griffin in the region semi-final, then topped Morrow for the region crown at Tara.

The Raiders of 1988 were known for their ball-control offense and strong defense. Chris Nash, who rushed for 1092 yards to become the school’s first thousand-yard rusher, was joined in the backfield by Jon Alford and Shawn Ledford. Leon Dillard, Kevin Capers, and David Horn were the key receivers. Chris Roberts, Chad Wilson, and Scott Eachman were the defensive stars. Roberts was the CND Defensive Player of the Year. The season ended in the first round of the state playoffs with a 33-12 loss to Warner Robins.

1990 – Morrow

Morrow won Region 4-AAAA by recording a string of miraculous upsets, then getting a vote of confidence by the other member schools in a tie-breaker with Griffin. A 17-10 loss to Forest Park on September 29 all but eliminated the Mustangs from the playoffs. With road trips to #1-ranked LaGrange and #3-ranked Newnan on the horizon, prospects for the post season were bleak.

Morrow shocked LaGrange 14-7 and Newnan 9-6 in overtime to take control of their own destiny. The Mustangs went to Fayetteville in the opening playoff game and defeated the Tigers 20-10 to go 9-2 on the season. Griffin upset LaGrange to also go 9-2, but Morrow got the nod to host the first round of state. Statesboro spoiled the Mustang title hopes by the score of 14-7 at Tara.

Defense carried the day for the 1990 Mustangs. Sophomore linebacker Albert Barber, Michael Worley, Jimmy Johnson, and Jason Bryant held every opponent to two touchdowns or less.

1993 – North Clayton

North Clayton exploded onto the AA scene with an undefeated regular season and the Region 5 title. The Eagles topped the 50-point mark four times, scoring quickly from any place on the field. In one three-game stretch, North Clayton scored 25 touchdowns, including five kickoff and punt returns. They destroyed Fulton 72-0, Cedar Grove 50-14, and Avondale 50-6 in consecutive weeks.

Duke Cooper was the leading rusher and scorer with 17 touchdowns. The Mareno Philyaw to Corey Allen passing combo was almost impossible to stop. The Eagles squeaked by Cedar Grove 15-14 in overtime for the region title, and then fell to East Hall in the first round of state.

1993 – Morrow

Morrow won the 4-AAAA North sub-region title with an 8-2 record. The Mustangs defeated East Coweta in the playoffs, but were denied the region title by Upson-Lee’s victory over Mount Zion. Defense was the key factor to Morrow’s success. Izell McGill, the county defensive MVP, led a defensive backfield corps that intercepted an amazing 28 passes for the year. Taris Clark and Keith Moody were the key offensive linemen while John Nickson anchored the defense.

1994 – Forest Park

Forest Park captured the 4-AAAA championship with a perfect regular season. Junior Todd Wells took over as quarterback for the graduated Hines Ward and threw for 2329 yards and 21 touchdowns. He completed 164 of 294 attempts. The balanced attack utilized the strong running of Telly Clark who rushed for 1240 yards and 14 scores.

The Panthers got the attention of every fan in the state with a two-point win over seventh-ranked Parkview. They followed that with a 24-7 drubbing of top-ranked Upson-Lee on the road the next week. A victory over East Coweta gave the Panthers three straight wins over ranked opponents. Forest Park faced Upson-Lee for the region title and won 35-31 on a Wells run with six seconds remaining in the game.

Northside Warner Robins got 27 points in the third quarter to oust Forest Park 41-21 from the state playoffs. The Panthers finished 11-1.

1995 – Forest Park

Forest Park, with quarterback Todd Wells and a trio of talented receivers returning, was the preseason favorite to repeat as region champion. A newcomer to offense, Brandon Walker, replaced Telly Clark at the featured back position and had a monster year. The 1995 Panthers proved that teams can win championships (at least region crowns) with offense. Surrendering almost 300 points on the year, the offense had to score at a prolific rate to win games.

Forest Park went 8-2 during the regular season with losses to Parkview and East Coweta. They defeated Riverdale, Evans, and Valdosta before losing again to Parkview in the state semi-final. Wells passed for 2553 yards and 22 touchdowns and Walker ran for 2149 yards and scored 34 times.

1997 – North Clayton

North Clayton won Region 5-AA with a 9-1 regular season. The only loss came at the hands of Jess Lanier (Birmingham) in overtime. Unlike the region championship team of 1993, the Eagles had their share of nail-biters in 1997. They trailed Douglas County by seven at the half, then got a 99-yard kickoff return from Marcus Stinson to win the game by six. Cedar Grove led 20-0 after the first quarter only to lose 29-26 on a field goal by Donnay Young at the horn. North Clayton beat Franklin County and Villa Rica in the playoffs before falling to Carrollton to finish the year at 11-2. Cap Burnett was named the Clayton Defensive Player of the Year and signed with Georgia. Quarterback Tyrone Keith, Brian Henderson, and Olton Woodley were the offensive leaders.

1997 – Mount Zion

Mount Zion completed a “worst to first” scenario by winning the 7-AAAA title after posting a 1-9 mark the previous season. The Bulldogs were a ball-control team reminiscent of the 1988 Riverdale champions. A huge offensive line opened holes for Marshall Thornton who ran for 1358 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The season began with a thrilling 21-13 win over third-ranked Douglass at Twelve Oaks. A 21-14 victory over Dunwoody in the season finale clinched the region top seeding for the state playoffs. A loss to Marietta in the mud at Tara ended the season at 8-3.

1998 – Riverdale

Riverdale claimed the county’s seventh region title of the decade with a perfect 10-0 regular season in Region 4-AAA. With a host of four-year starters returning, the Raiders were not tested through the first 13 games of the campaign. Peach County got two long scoring drives in the second half to come from behind, ending Riverdale’s season at the Dome. The running of Michael Leslie (2129 yards) and the passing of Andreco Hines produced a county-record 34.5 points per game. The defense allowed just eight points per contest with much of the opposition scoring done late against substitutes.

1999 – Mount Zion

Mount Zion ran its way to a second region crown in three years, using its huge offensive line to amass over 4000 yards on the ground. Rowan Jeffers (24 touchdowns), Ronnie Holloway, and J.R. McNair (1691 yards) became the most prolific rushing three-some in county history. At season’s end, Mount Zion had scored 69 touchdowns and 500 points, both all-time county highs. The Bulldogs were undefeated through the regular season and won four playoff games before falling to Oconee County in the state AAA championship.

1999 – Lovejoy

Lovejoy used a balanced offense and a stingy defense to join the Clayton championship parade with a 4-AAAA crown. The offensive produced 51 touchdowns and the defense held opponents to a touchdown or less in seven games. Jason McNeill, a junior, led the team in scoring with 17 touchdowns while Keith Staple and Gary Higgins paced the defense. A two-way star, McNeill was selected Clayton Defensive Player of the Year by the CND.

2003 – Lovejoy

Lovejoy, behind the brilliant play of quarterback Kisan Flakes, streaked to a perfect regular season and claimed the Region 4-AAAAA title. The senior leader amassed some of the best offensive statistics in county history, throwing for 2356 yards and a county-record 24 touchdowns. The AJC Offensive Player of the Year added 677 yards rushing. Offensive lineman Anthony Parker also made the all-state team while defensive end Jeremy Lomax was honorable mention. Ninth-ranked Newnan, led by all-state quarterback Tyler Horne, was the main challenger for the region crown. Lovejoy defeated the Cougars 28-18 in a televised game in late October to secure the top seed.

2004 – Lovejoy

Lovejoy began the season ranked ninth in the state. The Wildcats fell quickly, however, with non-region losses to Mount Zion and North Clayton. Then, they rallied for six straight wins to earn a second straight 4-AAAAA title. A strong line, led by all-state tackle Chris Scott and Jonathan Battle, gave Lovejoy a strong rushing attack. Quarterback Mario Fannin and tailback Octavius Edge produced the bulk of the offense. The biggest game of the year came in late September against Starrs Mill. Entering the game 2-2, the Wildcats upset the state’s seventh-ranked team 27-26 in overtime. A loss to East Coweta late in the season proved meaningless.

2004 – North Clayton

North Clayton won Region 5-AAAA (East) and claimed a share of the overall region championship with an undefeated regular season. Sophomore quarterback Morgan Burnett had a break-out season, accounting for over 20 touchdowns. He was a consensus choice for Clayton Offensive Player of the Year. His main target was senior all-county receiver Dirk Engram. North Clayton shocked the football world by blasting Lovejoy 47-0 in the second week of the season. The biggest win of the year came against Mount Zion by the score of 7-6. Mays was the only other team able to stay close to the Eagles in the regular season. The postseason proved cruel. Leading by 12 with six minutes remaining, North Clayton misplayed two onside kicks and allowed Northwest Whitfield to rally for a 28-27 victory.

 

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