Musing With Cecil Buffington . . . The Jefferson Dragons Return To Gainesville!

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MUSING WITH CECIL BUFFINGTON

The Jefferson Dragons return to Gainesville ???

Last season there was a much ballyhooed football game played in Jefferson that was billed as the first game ever played against the Gainesville Red Elephants. While this could be construed as technically correct, it would actually be only half-truth.

The Jefferson varsity football squad had played a Gainesville football team before 2016.

It was Thursday afternoon; October 2, 1947, at 3:00 pm . . .  when the Jefferson "Locals" ( as the Jackson Herald called them ) loaded up their ragged 28 man team, climbed on a school bus; and headed for the Gainesville High School football field.

I say "ragged" because the new Jefferson uniforms had not arrived for the season opener. Coach Frank Snyder managed to scrape up enough discarded practice equipment from the University of Georgia to outfit his team about two weeks before that first game. The practice equipment was torn and broken to the point of having to tape into place various pads and to repair many torn places in the pants and jerseys. In many instances, a simple string was used as a belt or to keep almost worn-out or damaged shoulder and hip pads in place.

The new Jefferson uniforms would arrive in time for the Jefferson home opener on October 31 against Cornelia. The local team lost that game 7 - 0 in a driving rainstorm that turned the field into almost a red mud lake.

Back to the Gainesville-Jefferson story . . .

About 150 Jefferson fans made that trek to Gainesville to watch their home team's first football game. The price of admission was 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults.

But wait . . . Jefferson had never played Gainesville before the 2016 season in football.

That is where the half-truth comes into play. You see, Jefferson had never faced the Gainesville varsity football team before.

The new Jefferson team was to make their debut against the Gainesville B-team. The 1947 Jefferson Dragons.

The 1947 varsity Gainesville Red Elephants were a tremendous high school football team. They finished the season with a record of 10 - 1 - 2. Their only loss in the AAA state football finals to Valdosta by a 24 - 12 score. For the season, Gainesville had shut out eleven opponents and surrendered only 30 points for the entire season, with 24 of those points coming against Valdosta. The 1947 Gainesville Red Elephants. 

It made sense that the Gainesville B-team would be a very good team also, since it consisted of players in grades 9 - 11 that probably didn't play much on the varsity squad due to depth and numbers.

It also made sense that Coach Snyder of Jefferson would want to open the season with a B-team game instead of an experienced varsity squad. He obviously felt it would be a more competitive contest for his young and inexperienced squad.

The Gainesville B-team trounced the Jefferson team 39 - 0 in that first game. Jefferson now had a high school football team and its tradition building was underway.

On November 12 in Jefferson, a rematch was held with Gainesville winning 33 - 0. It was a rainy, muddy quagmire beside the high school where the "Locals" played that first two seasons home football games.

Many people speak of the "mud turtles" as being a team nickname during those first two years of Jefferson football. That was also not a total truth. Jackson Herald beat writer Jimmy Williams mentioned in an article on a Jefferson game that the team played so many games in the rain they were like a team of mud turtles. He started to refer to them by that name over the course of the season. Jefferson supporters also began to call their team the "mud turtles."

Coach Frank Snyder reportedly did not like the name. He felt it implied slowness and held his team up to redicule. He preferred calling them the "locals." He strongly advocated coming up with a 'nickname" for his team before the 1949 season began. Hence, the high school mascot name contest was initiated at the high school that gave the Jefferson Dragons their name.

The summation of this story is that the Jefferson varsity had, indeed, met Gainesville before on the football field before 2016, It was just not the Gainesville varsity they went up against.

The 2016 game was monumental, in that Gainesville is a long-standing Georgia football powerhouse with outstanding tradition and respect.

The Jefferson 31 - 28 win in 2016 was one of the greatest wins in the history of Jefferson football just because of whom they were playing.

Now the Jefferson team will once again make that trip up 129 to Gainesville to meet the Red Elephants. No B-team awaits them on this occasion. It'll be the real deal.

Two things are for sure, this time there will be more than 150 fans in the stands for Jefferson, and you will pay more than 25 or 50 cents to see the game. 

You can also count on the game being much more competitive.

This will be big-time high school football at it's best . . .

 The 1947 Jefferson High School football team.

Jefferson's FIRST football team ~ The 1947 season.

First Row - L-R: Sidney Johnson, C. B. Lord, Carol Dadisman, Dickie Copas, Eugene Toney (Captain), James Falkner, Billy Sailors, Donald White, and Bobby Loggins. Second Row - Left-Right; Coach Frank Snyder, Wylie McEver, Paul Ferguson, Quillian Garrison, L, G, Jackson, Joe Glosson, Garnett Parks, Nathan Woodall, M. C. Simmons, Lloyd Craven and Wilson Phillips. Third Row - Left - Right; George Davis, Junior Lloyd, James Medlin, Claudius Thurmon, C. L. Potts, Roy Smith, Harry Bryan, Curtis Segars and Raymond Adams.

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