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Athletics History

Mt. Zion High School Football History

MOUNT ZION
B
ULLDOGS

Unlike most beginning programs, Mount Zion got off to a fast start in the 1990’s.  After an undefeated (8-0) junior varsity campaign in 1989, the first varsity team was expected to do better than most neophyte programs.  Taking advantage of a favorable schedule, the Bulldogs won four of their first five games in their inaugural campaign and ten of their first twenty.  By winning the contests they were supposed to and playing favored opponents tough, Mount Zion was seldom considered an easy team on anyone’s schedule.  In fact, the Bulldogs posted a winning record in just their second year of varsity play and made the playoffs in their fourth season. 

Coach Jackie Green moved to Mount Zion from Riverdale when the school opened and has led the team through the 2004 season.  Just as Bill Kennedy had done at Riverdale, Green based his team’s success on the running game, utilizing a seemingly endless series of large offensive linemen and strong running backs.  Mount Zion had some down years in the 1990’s (2-8 in 1994 and 1-9 in 1996), but each fall was short-lived.  This was especially true of the one-win season in 1996.  The Bulldogs bounced back to win the region the following year.  Green stepped down after the 2004 campaign with 92 career varsity wins (100 total), good for second place on the all-time county list.

Ricky Nuckles was the first big back for the Bulldogs.  He ran for 779 yards as a junior in 1990 and added 1070 his senior year on the way to two all-county nods.  Tackle Marty Cosper led the offensive charge both years.  Shawn Crabb and Joel Cale did the damage in 1992 and 1993.  Crabb ran for 199 yards against Southwest Macon in 1992.  Cale gained 934 yards for the 1993 playoff team behind the blocking of Matt Dickie and Mark Mortimer.  Damien Smith was the next featured runner, carrying the ball for 216 yards against Griffin in 1995.  Marshall Thornton, an all-county choice at linebacker in 1996, led the rushing attack for the 1997 region champions.  He ran for 1358 yards and 13 touchdowns behind a huge line which included Jamie Aull and Art Wilkerson.  Thornton was chosen Clayton Offensive Player of the Year.  However, the most prolific ground game the county has ever seen was yet to come.

Football fans in the area knew that Mount Zion would be good in 1999 and probably win the region.  Few expected the team to go all the way to Christmas vacation without losing a game.  The ground game was, again, the formula for a region crown.  Both J.R. McNair and Rowan Jeffers broke Marshall Thornton’s school record for rushing yards.  McNair finished with 1691 and Jeffers chipped in 1420 along with a team-high 24 touchdowns.  Ronnie Holloway added 845 yards and 12 scores.  The team rushed for a season total of 4834 yards (322 per game), the most ever by a Clayton team.

The passing game was not featured at Mount Zion in the 1990’s as a rule, but there were some notable accomplishments.  Quarterback Jeremy Clements teamed with all-county wide receiver Brian St. Jacques in 1994 and 1995 to keep defenses from overplaying the run.  St. Jacques caught 28 passes for 435 yards in 1994.  Kirk Wells made the all-county team as a tight end in 1995 and 1996 before an injury limited his play to defense as a senior.  He returned to offense, however, at the University of Florida where he became a four-year letterman.

The 2000’s saw Mount Zion continue to implement its successful formula.  Moving up to Region 4-AAAAA in 2000, the team earned a repeat trip to the state playoffs where they again made considerable noise.  The season began, however, with the Bulldogs in the unfamiliar role of underdog.  After a season-opening loss to Lovejoy, few gave the team a chance to make the cut in the 16-team region.  A brutally efficient ground game, featuring record-breaking Ronnie Holloway, brought another ten wins, including memorable victories at Camden County and Valdosta.

Several players put their names in the school record book in 2000.  Holloway finished his career as the all-time leading rusher with 2583 yards and scorer with 31 touchdowns.  Lightning quick defensive back Tony Mitchell had an incredible 11 interceptions, claiming a spot on the AJC all-state team as a junior.  David Rankin finished his stint as a Bulldog with 87 points including a record 47-yard field goal.  Quarterback Tyrone Pinder completed his final season with a 24-4 record as a starter.

After posting 24 wins in the two previous seasons (an all-time high for Clayton teams), the Bulldogs slipped to an 8-2 finish in 2001.  Donta Smith and Michael Rosidor assumed the rushing load vacated by Holloway and Ken Pless without missing a beat.  The line continued to be strong with David Fisher, Roger Stewart, and Ryan Coggins leading the attack.  Tony Mitchell was a two-way star, leading the team in receiving with 202 yards and interceptions with five.  He was a repeat all-state selection in the AJC and also dubbed the Southern Crescent Athlete of the Year. 

The playoff scenario in 2001 came down to a must-win game at Newnan in early November.  The Cougars claimed the victory 31-15 to eliminate the Bulldogs.  In an unforeseen circumstance, Newnan was later required to forfeit the game due to use of an ineligible player.  Had the game been reversed in a more timely fashion, Mount Zion’s season-ending upset of Riverdale would have clinched a playoff spot.  Nevertheless, the 17-14 overtime win over playoff-bound Riverdale was a pleasant way to end the campaign.

The 2002 team made the transition to Region 2-AAAAA, facing Warner Robins, Northside, Houston County, and rising power Westside Macon for the first time.  The Bulldogs peaked early with a monumental effort in the season-opener, and then faded late on the way to a 5-5 finish.  Rosidor and Smith returned to man the backfield positions while Fisher, Stewart and Coggins provided the bulk up front.  An impressive 20-18 win over highly-touted Lovejoy, followed by expected wins over Stockbridge and Morrow, had the team ranked in the top ten.  From there, an upset loss to Jonesboro and a heartbreaking setback to Warner Robins in overtime led to a break-even record.

The 2003 was expected to be a repeat of the previous campaign.  Considering the teams from Houston and Bibb counties were almost guaranteed the top four spots, it appeared that the Bulldogs would have to be satisfied with fifth place.  A huge upset of Warner Robins allowed Mount Zion to crash the post season party.  The team featured a strong running game led by senior back Josh Chapman who led the team with 831 yards and eight touchdowns.  Linebackers Jamaal Clark and Chris Coggins and defensive backs Maurice and Valin Leggett were the mainstays of the defense.

Mount Zion dropped down a classification in 2004, playing in Region 5-AAAA.  The Bulldogs won five of seven league games to finish second in their subregion behind Washington.  One of the biggest games of the year took place on a Monday night at Tara against undefeated North Clayton.  Ninth-ranked Mount Zion led 6-0 at the half before suffering the 7-6 loss to the Eagles.  The next two weeks saw the emergence of senior running back Aubrey Dorsey.  The unheralded transfer ran for 588 yards and eight touchdowns in consecutive wins over Stone Mountain and Columbia.  His 314 yards in the Stone Mountain game set a new county mark and his five scoring runs the next week tied a school record.  Dorsey eventually would top the 1100 plateau for the season and be selected all-county.  Other key players were linemen Tyrone Billingsley and Derek Slaughter, linebacker Jamaal Clark, and defensive back Keon Montgomery.


GREATEST BULLDOG WINS

Mount Zion 14, Henry County 7 (Oct. 4, 1991) away:
Quarterback Edwin Turnipseed scored on a one-yard run with 16 seconds remaining in the game to break a 7-7 tie and give Mount Zion a 5-0 record.  Seconee Brown scored in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.  Henry’s Kim Braswell passed to Clay Collins from 35 yards on the opening play of the second half.

Mount Zion 20, Forest Park 7 (Oct. 9, 1993) at Tara:
The Bulldog defense slowed the Hines Ward offensive show to a trickle in a game that would eventually cost the Panthers a playoff spot.  Peyton Daughtry kicked a 32-yard field goal and Joel Cale ran from 9 to give Mount Zion a 10-7 lead at the half.  Daughtry added another boot and Jeremy Clements threw to Zack Stewart from 17 for the clinching points.  Cale ran for 167 yards on 25 carries.  The win prevented Ward from ever seeing high school playoff action.

Mount Zion 20, Lovejoy 11 (Oct. 25, 1996) at Twelve Oaks:
The Bulldogs got their only win of the year, effectively ruining Lovejoy’s chances of making the post season field.  Two weeks later, Lovejoy would upset number-one ranked Southwest DeKalb.  Mount Zion scored first on a three-yard Marshall Thornton run.  Chris Ray responded with a field goal to cut the lead in half.  Lovejoy then took the lead on a Qwen Williams to Peco Stinson pass play.  Cornell Kirk’s 80-yard run put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.

Mount Zion 21, Douglass 13 (Sept. 5, 1997) at Twelve Oaks:
This season-opener sent shock waves throughout the state.  Douglass, with future NFL star Jamal Lewis at tailback, was ranked #3 in the state.  Mount Zion went on to win the region.  A loss here, however, and the Bulldogs would have finished fifth and out of the playoffs.  Cornell Kirk scored from seven and Marshall Thornton added two touchdowns.

Mount Zion 22, Starrs Mill 21 (Oct. 15, 1999) away:
The Bulldogs won this battle of the undefeated, coming from behind to force overtime.  Starrs Mill led 14-0 at the half on a 78-yard run by Brad McLaren and a 3-yard effort from Reuben Houston.  Ronnie Holloway got Mount Zion on the board with two scoring runs in the second half.  Starrs Mill took the lead 21-14 after one extra period.  J.R. McNair answered on the Bulldog possession.  The game was then decided by penetration on non-scoring drives. 

Mount Zion 10, Marist 7 (Dec. 10, 1999) at the Georgia Dome:
Phil Tullar’s 44-yard field goal split the uprights to give Mount Zion the state semi-final victory.  Tullar had missed from 43 with five minutes remaining, then got a second chance after a controversial fumble call went against Marist.  Bulldog defender Antomius Wise stripped Robbie Beck at the Marist 41 to give Tullar a second chance.

Marist carried a 7-0 advantage into halftime, only the second time the Bulldogs had been shut out in the first half all year.  Mount Zion then dominated the second stanza behind the running of Rowan Jeffers (100 yards, 72 in second half) and J.R. McNair (72 yards, 67 in second half).  Jeffers scored the tying touchdown on a six-yard run midway through the third.

Mount Zion 30, Newnan 19 (Nov. 4, 2000) at Tara:
The stakes were high with the winners extending their season and the losers going home after ten.  Mount Zion trailed 19-17 in the fourth when Tyrone Pinder hit Lee Hatfield from 25 for the lead.  A fourth down conversion on a pass to Travis Nichols kept the drive alive.  Ronnie Holloway’s second touchdown of the night, a 53-yard run in the fourth, added insurance.  It was his 29th career touchdown to top Rowan Jeffers on the school’s all-time list.

Mount Zion 28, Camden County 16 (Nov. 17, 2000) away:
The playoffs opened in Camden County with the Bulldogs a decided underdog.  The lead went back and forth with the home team claiming a 10-7 lead on a short scoring run with under six minutes to play.  Tony Mitchell returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards and Mount Zion never trailed again.  Ken Pless and Ronnie Holloway added touchdown runs late.

Mount Zion 34, Valdosta 14 (Nov. 24, 2000) away:
The Bulldogs were again expected to lose as they had to travel to one of the least hospitable sites in the nation for a visiting football team.  Not to be deterred, Ken Pless had three touchdown runs to give Mount Zion the playoff victory.  The defense held Valdosta to just 23 yards rushing in the second half.

Mount Zion 27, Warner Robins 16 (Oct. 9, 2003) away:
This was the game that would eventually give Mount Zion the fourth playoff position from Region 2-AAAAA and deny the Demons a post season berth for the first time in years. 

Mount Zion 25, Stone Mountain 21 (Sept. 25, 2004) at Tara:
Senior running back Aubrey Dorsey set a new Clayton rushing record with 314 yards on 30 carries.  He scored on runs of 8, 10, and 32 yards.  The old record was held by Brandon Walker of Forest Park who ran for 290 against Griffin in 1995.  Stone Mountain rallied for two touchdowns in the fourth.

 

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