History of Lamar County H.S. Football
August 15, 2013By Calvin Scandrett of Lamar County Trojans
History of Lamar County H.S. Football
According to an excerpt from the 1993 Valdosta High School football media guide, the game of football was introduced to the citizens of the Peach State on January 30, 1892 when the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Bears of Mercer at Herty Field in Athens, 50-0.
The exciting and colorful sport was an immediate success and it was a scant five years later that the pastime filtered down to the high school level. In 1896, the Cadets of R.E. Lee Institute in Thomaston fielded the first ever high school team in the state losing to the sub-varsity of Gordon Institute in Barnesville, 54-0.
The following is an account of this first ever prep gridiron battle from the Thursday, December 17, 1896 edition of The Barnesville Gazette. ‘Saturday (December 12, 1896) afternoon at 3 o’clock the second team of Gordon Institute and the R.E. Lee Institute team of Thomaston played a game on the campus of Gordon Institute and Barnesville won easily. Fully as large a crowd was in attendance and the games were full of interest. The score in favor of Barnesville was 54-0.
Dexter Blount (right halfback) and Lamar Hunt (quarterback) did some playing that created wild enthusiasm.’ Gordon Institute was located where the Barnesville Library presently sits on Thomaston Street and, according to local historian and Lamar County Old Jail Museum curator Shanna English, the field the game was played on that day was located behind the school located on land now occupied by the old Carnegie Library at the corner of Holmes and Greenwood Streets.
Eight years after that first ever high school game in the state, Gordon Institute claimed the first ever state high school football championship with a 39-0 win over Georgia Military Academy of College Park in 1904. It would be the first of eight state championships for Gordon, the last coming in 1920 when the Institute beat Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, 21-14, on November 25 for the Georgia Interscholastic Athletic Association title.
In 1928, Gordon Institute was the last school from Barnesville to play for a state championship losing to Tech High at Grant Field in Atlanta, 26-6, on December 15. Through the years, Barnesville has had its share of football tradition with teams from Gordon Military College, Gordon Military High School, Booker High School, Barnesville Academy and now Lamar County Comprehensive High School.
In 1970, segregation brought about the creation of the Lamar County school system and the Trojan mascot was chosen by a vote of the prospective student body narrowly beating out the alternative – the Lions.
The Trojans played their first game on Saturday, September 5, 1970 beating Morrow High School 6-0 in the rain at Tara Stadium in Clayton County. Willie Lockett scored the first touchdown in school history on a one-yard run with 2:23 to go in the third quarter.
Under the school's first head coach Oscar Wimberly, who had been the head football coach at Booker, the county's black high school, the Trojans would win one other game in their inaugural season but went winless in 1971. Home games were played those first two seasons at Tiger Field on the campus of Booker which had become the home of Lamar County High School on Forsyth Road.
Following the '71 season, Coach Wimberly stepped down as football coach and took over the boys’ basketball program where he became a Lamar County legend coaching for the next 20-plus years.
Former Gordon Military All-State quarterback Eddie Smith coached the Trojans in 1972 and Lamar went 2-7-1, moving their home games to historic Summers Field Memorial Stadium after Gordon Military dropped prep football.
The Trojans enjoyed their first winning season in 1973 as Gene Swantic led the team to a 7-3 record. Sophomore Bobby Barkley set the school rushing record with 281 yards against Central Carrollton and lineman Randy Holland became the school's first All-State player earning first team honors. Holland went on to play collegiately at the University of Georgia.
In 1974, racial tension raised its ugly head as many players boycotted football leaving Coach Swantic with a skeleton team that went 1-9. Swantic stepped down as head coach.
In Richard Plagge's only season at the helm of Trojan football, Lamar went 5-5 in 1975 and Bobby Barkley was named honorable mention All-Sate and went on to run track at Georgia Tech.
Ken Upton took over in 1976 and the Trojans raced out of the gate winning their first five games before falling to Jackson at Red Devil Hill. Two weeks later they took a 6-1 record to Forsyth to face fifth ranked Mary Persons and shocked the Bulldogs winning 7-6 on a late touchdown plunge from fullback Levi Whatley and the PAT kick by Paul Boggs. The Trojans, however, missed out on a chance to make the post season losing a heart breaker at Harris County the next week and falling to Troup County in the season finale to finish 7-3.
Lamar opened the '77 season ranked tenth in the state and moved up to number eight after winning their first two games but dropped a one-point decision at Taylor County and the season spiraled downward to a 6-4 finish. The highlight of the year came in the season's final game at Troup County when junior quarterback Ron Hinson set the school and state record for yards passing in a single game throwing for 524 yards in a 48-28 win.
Hinson and junior wide receiver Ronnie Barkley, Bobby's younger brother, were both named first team All-State for their efforts in 1977.
Hinson's record stood for 32 years until Lassiter quarterback Hutson Mason tossed for 545 yards in a game against Milton in 2009.
Hinson was also named first team All-State in 1978 despite the team going 3-7. Barkley was injured in the first game of the season and played only one more play the rest of the year. Hinson went on to play at Georgia Tech, Jacksonville State and Georgia Southwestern.
The Trojans suffered through some lean years under Al Guy, brother of NFL All-Pro punter Ray Guy, winning just four games in 1979-81.
The '79 team produced offensive lineman Kenny Green who went on to play at West Georgia College where he earned a NCAA Division III National Championship ring with the Braves in 1982.
Lamar County returned to respectable football under Charley Brown in 1982 going 5-5 and 6-4 in '83 losing to Mary Persons in a region playoff game, the school's first ever post-season appearance. Running back Frankie Phillips was named All-State honorable mention in '83 and went on to play at East Tennessee State University.
In 1984, the Trojans enjoyed their most successful season to date with a 9-1 regular season finish including a 7-0 win over Mary Persons. Lamar went on to beat R.E. Lee in the region playoffs for their tenth win but lost a rematch with Mary Persons in the region championship.
Three Trojans garnered All-State honors in '84 as senior wide receiver Derrick Jackson, junior lineman Craig Ogletree and junior quarterback Rodney Fletcher were all named honorable mention.
Ogletree (first team) and Fletcher (honorable mention) would repeat as All-State players the next year as the Trojans opened 1985 as the pre-season number two team in the state. Lamar dropped two of their first four games but rebounded to finish the regular season 7-3 including another win over Mary Persons but, once again, fell to the 'Dogs in the region playoffs.
Ogletree went on to play at Auburn where he was an All-Southeastern Conference player at defensive end and went on to become Lamar County's lone NFL player spending one season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Fletcher played quarterback at a junior college in California before finishing his football career as a wide receiver for Clemson.
The '85 team also produced Junior Jackson who went on to become an all-conference linebacker at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
In 1986, the Trojans fell to 1-9 and Coach Brown resigned giving way to Jeff Conley who also went 1-9 in his first season before rebounding for a 5-5 record in 1988. Lamar went 3-7 in '89 and Conley resigned.
Mike Pack took the reins in 1990 and went 1-9 in his first season before the team began to steadily improve going 5-5 in '91. An 8-2 regular season in '92 propelled the Trojans into the post season where they beat Heard County in a region playoff game before falling to Monticello in the school's first appearance in the state playoffs.
Lamar was ranked ninth in the state in the final Class A polls.
The Trojans went 5-4-1 in the regular season in 1993 and lost to Brookstone in the region playoffs. Offensive lineman Scott Smith (first team) and running back Terrell Smith (honorable mention) were both named All-State.
Lamar would improve to 7-3 in '94 falling to Central Talbotton in the region playoffs. Terrell Smith was again named All-State honorable mention and went on to play at Troy State. Alex Richardson was named honorable mention as a running back and first team as a kicker.
The Trojans fell to 3-7 in '95 under Coach Pack who left andMark Wilson was hired to take over the head coaching duties going 2-8 in his first campaign before improving to 6-4 in '97 and earning a berth in the state playoffs where the Trojans fell to Jeff Davis in the first round.
Lamar went backwards in '98 going 2-8 with running back Toreico O'Neal, who played college ball at Furman, making All-State honorable mention but improved vastly in 1999 finishing the regular season with a 7-2-1 record and winning their first ever state playoff game over Jeff Davis in the first round before falling to Swainsboro in the second round.
Quarterback Danny Williams and wide receiver Jerrell Murphy were both named All-State honorable mention in '99.
Williams repeated as honorable mention All-State in 2000 as he led the Trojans back to the state playoffs despite a 6-4 finish in the regular season. Lamar became road warriors in the post season winning at Chattooga in the first round and shocking Greater Atlanta Christian in the second before falling to Cook in the quarterfinals by one point after falling behind 27-0 at the half.
Lineman Clarence Respress was named first team All-State and went on to play for 2003 NJCAA national champion Butler (OK) Community College before joining his brother Earnest at Alabama-Birmingham where he played in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in 2004.
In 2001, the Trojans won the first region championship in school history going 8-2 in the regular season before beating Chattooga in the first round of the state playoffs and bowing out to Washington-Wilkes.
Lamar again won the region in '02 with the school's first unbeaten regular season at 9-0. But the Trojans were shocked in the first round of the state playoffs falling to Albany at home. Quarterback Travis McCall was named All-State honorable mention and went on to play at Presbyterian (SC) before transferring to West Georgia where he played baseball.
Calvin Scandrett took over in 2003 and the Trojans finished 5-5. Led by honorable mention All-State quarterback Tristen Buckner, Lamar shocked seventh ranked Jackson 26-17 at home and the scoreboard stayed lit throughout the Buggy Days weekend, a tradition that continued with home wins until Memorial Stadium closed after the 2008 season.
Although only 3-7, the 2004 team offered several highlights including the first female player in school history as sophomore Brittany Giles played defensive back. Senior kicker Noah Huggins set the school record for longest field goal with a 44-yarder in a win over Rutland. And defensive lineman Clifford Respress was name All-State honorable mention and went on to play at Duke University.
Scandrett's Trojans went 2-8 in '05, 6-4 in '06 and 1-9 in '07 and he decided to step aside and take over as the school's athletic/activities director. The '06 team produced offensive lineman J.T. Sutton and defensive lineman Isaiah Banks who both went on to play at Rochester (MN) Tech and earned a NJCAA and Minnesota state championship rings.
Jason Strickland was hired from prestigious Charlton County to take Lamar to the next level. The Trojans went 1-9 in Coach Strickland's first year, the final season of football at historic Summers Field Memorial Stadium which opened in 1936 and had been home to the Trojans for 36 years.
The Trojans opened the 2009 season on the field turf of their brand new home, Trojan Field, against Spalding and Devin Couch returned an interception for the first touchdown in the new stadium as Lamar went on to pummel the Jaguars 31-0 on their way to a 7-3 regular season and second place finish in the region.
The Trojans earned the right to host a first round state playoff game falling to North Oconee 34-14 to close out the year.
Senior quarterback Mike Bloodser was lauded as an AP All-State honorable mention selection and signed a letter-of-intent to further his academic and athletic career at Holmes Community College in Mississippi.
In 2010, Lamar went 7-4 finishing second in the region for the second consecutive year falling to McIntosh County Academy 22-14 in the first round of the state playoffs at Trojan Field. Junior quarterback Maurice Bloodser became the first player in Trojan history to run and pass for over a thousand yard each in the same season and was named Region 4AA Player of the Year.
Offensive linemen Lekevious Lyons (Georgia Military College) and Joshua Blocker (Virginia Southern) and linebacker Rodnique Brown (Albany State University) signed letters-of-intent to continue their academic and athletic careers.
The highlight of the season was a thrilling, come from behind 20-17 win over then unbeaten Pike County at home in what was dubbed “The Battle of Potato Creek”.
The 2012 season turned out to be the best in school history as the Trojans went undefeated during the regular season and beat Bleckley County and Blessed Trinity in the state playoffs before falling to Appling County in four overtimes in a heartbreaking thriller in the quarterfinal round to finish 12-1 and ranked sixth in the state.
The Trojans were led by All-State players Frederick Walker, Denarius Rutherford, Nicolas Heminger and Qua Searcy. Walker (Colorado State), Rutherford (Reinhardt), Maurice Bloodser (Shorter) and Jarvis Merritt (Point) all signed college scholarships. Strickland left Lamar County to take the head job at Fitzgerald.
Dr. Franklin D. Stephens, Jr. to kickoff the Trojans 2012-2012 season. Stephens comes from Tucker where he accumulated a 64-6 record and won two state championships in five years (2008 & 2011).
To date, Lamar County has an overall record of 193 wins, 242 losses and four ties. 106-116-2 at home, 83-125-2 on the road and 4-1 at neutral sites. The overall post season record for Lamar County is 8-14.
The Trojans have won four region championships and produced 36 all-state players including 12 first teamers.
The Trojans have had 12 different head coaches and played 81 different opponents.
During the 2012-2013 season the Trojans finished 14-1-1 with the best record in school history by earning a semi-final appearance for the first time in school history against the Calhoun Yellow Jackets.