THE STRANGEST GAME IN JEFFERSON DRAGON HISTORY
MUSING WITH CECIL BUFFINGTON
The Strangest Game in Jefferson Dragons History.
On September 2nd of 2016 at Jefferson Memorial Stadium the Dragons will welcome the Thomson Bulldogs to Jefferson for what could be one of the better games of the week statewide. The Dragons have not faced Thomson since 1963. That was 53 long, long years ago. That just happened to be my senior year of high school at Jefferson. Yes, I played in the game the last time we faced Thomson.
Over the years the Dragons have not had the greatest of success with this particular pack of Bulldogs. Our record against the team from "almost to Augusta" is 2 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties. Last season the Thomson team posted a record of 11 wins and only 2 losses, being eliminated in the state quarterfinals by perennial state-power Buford. They have a program that is recognized as one of the better football programs in the state of Georgia. They play in region 3-AAAA, where they are the pre-season region title favorites. The Thomson team could very well be the best team on the Dragons 10-game regular season schedule.
Most of the games over the years have not been close. Back in 1949 the Bulldogs smashed the Dragons 33 - 7. The 1950 Dragons pounded the Bulldogs 35 - 7 behind the running of all-time Jefferson Legend Curtis Segars. In 1953 and 1954, Thomson beat the Dragons 26 - 6 and 39 - 7. In 1958 the Gary Duke and Jeff Davis led Dragons pounded the Bulldogs 44 - 19 in Jefferson. A 19 - 19 tie in 1959 was followed by a 33 - 19 Thomson win in 1960. The Bulldogs won 13 - 0 in 1961 before a terribly cold night in 1962 when the Dragons and Bulldogs fought to a 0 - 0 tie in Jefferson on parents night.
It was in 1963, the last time the old rivals met, that a very strange game was played in Thomson. It may have been the "strangest" game ever played by a Jefferson football team.
I remember that day and game well. We had our pre-game meal in the Jefferson cafeteria around 3:00 P.M. that afternoon. Our 32 man squad then climbed on a beautiful commercial Trailways bus for the long trip to Thomson. The rain had not started as we left Jefferson, but started to get stronger as we moved through Washington, Georgia. The last thirty to forty miles saw some of the hardest rain I had ever seen up to that time. It was on the bus that Coach John Davis told his assistant coaches Charles White and Paul Knight that he wanted the game-plan to be a "play for a break" scheme if the rain continued. We were not to play on offense unless we were well into Thomson territory. We would keep them on offense and play for a break. ( fumble, bad snap, bad punt, etc; )
Well, the rain did continue. It rained so hard and was so windy the pre-game warmups were shortened to just a few moments to get the team back into the dressing room and out of the terrible weather conditions. By the time we took the field to play the game, the winds had died down tremendously, but the rain remained a downpour. There was not one player that didn't hate to throw off that big blue hooded Dragon raincoat and step out onto the field.
It was homecoming for the Bulldogs, but all festivities had to be canceled as the rain continued to pour.
We won the coin toss and chose to play defense. Thomson managed a first down, then punted. We ran a dive into the line on our first offensive play for one-yard. We punted on second down to the Bulldogs. On the next two occassions we punted on first down. Thomson was having trouble moving the ball with some noticeable slips and slides as they ran their offense. Our defense managed to hold the Bulldog team scoreless for 23 minutes and 53 seconds. The Jefferson team ran only 3 plays in the first quarter and 7 for the entire half. Our net offense was seven total yards without any first downs during that sloppy first half.
With seven seconds left on the first half clock from the Jefferson 24 yard line, Thomson quarterback Fred Blackmon threw a pass to halfback Dan Willis at the Jefferson 15 yard-line, He carried it in for a score and a 7 - 0 lead at intermission. Thomson would add another touchdown on a Blackmon scramble with 14 minutes left in the game and put the final points of the game on the scoreboard.
The second half saw us punt on first down on two more series before we went to a traditional four downs on offense. We picked up our first first-down with under three minutes left in the third period on a three-yard rush on third down by Damon West. We would get our last first down with seven minutes left in the game on a 15-yard face-mask penalty. This penalty took us to the Thomson 49. The only time we crossed mid-field in the game. Three plays netted four yards and resulted in a punt back to the Bulldogs.
For the game, Thomson had picked up 15 first downs to our 2. They had rushed for 143 yards to our 27 yards. Thomson threw the ball 14 times, completing 10, for 126 yards and one score. We had not attempted a single pass in the game. We had punted eleven times for a 31.4 average. Thomson punted 6 times for a 27.4 average. We had ran our full compliment of four plays only four times in the game. Three in the fourth quarter. Each team had one fumble without a fumble loss. We totaled 24 plays for the game while Thomson ran 64 plays. The final score was Thomson 14, Jefferson 0.
Coach Davis talked to us as a team while standing in the front of the bus before leaving the field. He reiterated to us that he felt with conditions as they were, the decision to play it so conservatively had been our best option to win the game. Never-the-less, it was a silent trip back from Thomson that night. The "Strangest" game in Jefferson history became just a memory in Jefferson Dragon football lore.
After 53 years that game still haunts me!
It was not a lot of fun, being a receiver on a team that never threw a pass, but I never questioned the coaches decision that night. He was our leader and mentor so we, to the man, accepted his decision. We put the loss behind us and started to mentally prepare for Royston the next week.
I'll be in the stands when the Dragons take on the Thomson Bulldogs this season. I hope all our current players get to read this story. I'd like for them to put a whooping on the Thomson Bulldogs for all of us old Dragons from 1963 that were sort of humilated that rainy night 'way back in that long ago football season. I feel like we owe the Thomson Bulldogs a really good lickin'. We sure didn't give them much competition on that miserable, wind-blown, rainy night long ago down in Thomson, Georgia.
Oh, I sure hope it doesn't rain!!!
1963 Dragons ~ Front Row ~Right; L. Stewart, D. Foster, J. Parks, D. West, B. Duke, B. Tolbert, T. Cotton, T. Bond, H. Sauls, B. Ray. Second Row ~ Left to Right; D. Beatty, J. Stovall, G. Foster, T. Nabors, R. Johnson, W. Storey, D. Glenn, G. Kesler, D. Hancock, S. Pethel. Third Row ~ Left to Right; Manager Tommy Riddle, T. Marlow, J. Davis, G, Brooks, J. Elrod, J. Gearin, E. Tompkins, S. Wilson, J. C. McEver, B. Martin, C. Hooper, E. Watson, Manager R. Gearin. Not pictured C. Buffington.
Cecil Buffington - Split End/Wide Receiver on the 1962-63 Jefferson Dragons.
Damon West carries the ball for the 1963 Jefferson Dragons.
1963 Majorettes ~ Left to Right; Joyce Beatty, Judy Marlow, Sandra Blackstock and Mildred Bryan.
Cecil Buffington and 1963 Dragon captain Earle Tompkins
Ada Ellen Potter Morris ( 1963-64 Class President ) with 1963 Dragon end Thomas Bond. Thomas Bond still holds the record for the longest blocked punt return for a Dragon touchdown ~ 42 yards against East Hall in 1963.
Coach Paul Knight was an assistant football coach for the Dragons in that 1963 Thomson game. He now resides in Dahlonega, Georgia with wife, Judy. Coach Knight later became one of the most respected basketball coaches in the state of Georgia at Jefferson, Elbert County and Buford.
Alternate Captain Earle Tompkins, Coach Charles White, Coach John W. Davis, Coach Paul Knight and Captain Damon West.
Cheering on the Dragons~ Left to Right; Guy Dean Parks, Susan Ethridge and Mary McElhannon.
Front Row ~ Left to Eight; J. Marlow, J. McEver, B. Roberts, M. Bryan, K. Ray, J. Stovall. Second Row ~ Left to Right; S. Thorne, K. Bryan, J. Moore, A. Parks, V. Ray, M. Underwood, S. Blackstock, G. Brooks. Third Row ~ Left to Right; S. Massey, C. Frix, J. Beatty, P. Daves, V. Pardue, G. Evans, J. Bridges, N. Payne, G. Spence. Fourth Row ~ Left to Right; T. Purcell, D. McEver, B. McCreery, N. Thomas, J. Shaw, D. Watson, J. Cole, V. Martin, D. Gurley. Fifth Row ~ Left to Right; P. McCreery, V. Murphy, P. Head, T. Waller.
Cecil Buffington pictured with the player that scored the first touchdown in Jefferson Memorial Stadium in 1962 - Gary Brooks.
Cecil Buffington pictured with 1963 Jefferson Band Captain Gloria Spence Henderson.
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