THE GOLDEN AGE OF JEFFERSON DRAGON FOOTBALL
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` Chapter 16
1958: A Win Over Washington-Wilkes
The fall football youth leagues opened in mid-September with two midget teams. They were called the “Bulldogs” and the “Yellow Jackets.” Team members were;
Bulldogs - Donald Skelton, Sandy Hicks, Paddy Williams, Jack Wilson, Carl Brewer, Danny Glenn, Johnny Colvard, Bobby Aaron, Cecil Buffington and Lynn Bledsoe.
The Yellow Jacket team members were;
I. H. Sealy, Tommy Whitmire, Roger Jackson, Johnny Pruitt, Richard Gearin, John Davis, John Ellington, Ronnie Faulkner, Larry Morgan and Billy Carithers.
There were enough participants for four mite teams.
Those teams were the;
Blue Birds - Thomas Bond, Mike Cotton, Bobby Gailey, Billy Mitchell, John Bryant, Henry Hicks, Richard Motes and Terry Beatty.
Georgia Tech - Terry Cotton, Ricky Taylor, David Hancock, Stevie Berryman, Doyle Healan, Bobby Ray, Southworth Bryan, Stevie Hayne and James Stovall.
Redskins - Buck Tolbert, Terry Couch, Tony Beatty, Ostell Anglin, Billy Duke, Henry Bowles, Al Westmoreland, Larry Stewart and Bill Bledsoe.
Junior Dragons - George Kesler, Jimmy Williams, Jerry Gearin, Gene Stewart, Bobby Freeman, Joe Williams, Cary Carter, Ronnie Stover and Claude Godfrey.
Region 4-B had been divided into three sub-regions for the 1958 season.
Jefferson would be in the south section of the East Division with Oglethorpe County, Morgan County, Thomson, and Washington-Wilkes.
Commerce would move up to Class A.
The North section of the sub-region would consist of Rabun County, Tallulah Falls, Lavonia, Royston, and Cleveland.
The West section of the sub-region would have Central Gwinnett, Clarkston, Tucker, Lithonia, South Gwinnett, West Gwinnett, Stone Mountain and Rockdale County.
The winners of the North and South would play to determine who would play the champs of the West sub-region.
1958 Dragon Football review.
Winder-Barrow-13-0-Friday-September 12, 1958 in Winder.
For the eight time in the last nine years the Dragons left the field victorious after a battle with Winder-Barrow.
The Dragon defense held the larger Bulldogs to 76 yards of total offense in the rainy night shutout win.
This game saw a bizarre officials error that could have swayed momentum in the Winder direction. It happened when Winder had the ball on the Dragon 18-yard line with six yards needed for the first down. Winder drew a 15-yard penalty. The chain crew moved the chains back 15 yards as the penalty was being marked off against the Bulldogs.
It should have been second down and 21 yards for the first down. With the chain crew error the Bulldogs had a second and 10 yards needed for the first down from the Jefferson 32.
On the next play they competed a 12-yard pass to the Jefferson 20. This gave them a first down at that point. It should have been third and about nine yards.
On the second down of the series, Buddy Tolbert intercepted a Bulldog pass and returned it out to the Dragon 26-yard line effectively stopping the Bulldog drive. His heads-up play saved the officials from great embarrassment should the Bulldogs have scored on this drive.
The Dragons picked up 10 first downs to the Bulldogs four and out gained them 177 yards to 76 for the game.
Jefferson passed for 25 yards in the game.
Six Dragons carried the ball for Jefferson.
Sophomore Quarterback Jeff Davis picked up 85 yards in 12 carries while senior fullback Gary Duke ran 10 times for 62 yards.
Jefferson scored first after a Davis 40-yard punt return to the Winder 30-yard line.
Davis kept the drive alive with an eight-yard run for a first down on fourth down to the Winder 11-yard line.
Duke scored on the next play running between two defensive players.
On the second Dragon touchdown drive, Davis started it with a 19-yard run to the Winder 35. A Tolbert pass to the same back went for 12 yards. A five-yard penalty moved the ball to the Winder 12. Davis was tripped up at the eight before Duke darted into the end zone for the second Dragon score. Lynn Brothers took a Tolbert pass for the extra point and the final 13-0 score was on the board.
Oglethorpe County-53-6-Friday-September 19, 1958 in Jefferson.
Going into the season Coach Davis had made it clear that in order for Jefferson to have a representative season, some younger players would have to step up. The Oglethorpe game gave him the opportunity to see just who some of their young players might be.
The game was close only in the first quarter.
Jefferson had seven players to score points in the game.
Quarterback Jeff Davis scored 12 points; fullback Gary Duke, eight points; halfback Lynn Brothers, eight Points; fullback Don Tompkins 12 points, end John Kesler six points, and halfback Richard Langford scored one point. Brothers had been moved to a halfback slot when Mays Venable displayed strong capabilities at the defensive and offensive end position.
On defense, Duke had 17 tackles while Davis, Foster, and Damon Gause had seven tackles each.
On offense the Dragons rushed for 254 yards on the ground and passed for another 97 yards.
Jefferson had two touchdown passes in the game. Buddy Tolbert threw to John Kesler on a beautiful play that covered 50 yards on the Dragons first pass attempt early in the second quarter. Later in the game, Gary Duke threw to Jeff Davis for a 47- yard touchdown.
The leading ground gainer was Davis. He picked up 119 yards
on only eight carries.
Duke ran for 90 yards, also on eight carries.
Brothers carried twice for 10 yards with Tolbert, Foster, Langford, and Kenneth Mize also carrying the football during the game.
Davis scored on a dazzling 67-yard run that gave Jefferson a 14-6 lead after the first quarter before the Tolbert to Kesler touchdown pass made it 20-6 at halftime.
Duke had his 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Richard Langford set up the next Dragon score with a 54-yard jaunt to the Oglethorpe County four. Don Tompkins scored the touchdown and would later add a 10-yard touchdown run to his nights work.
Wayne Foster scored on a 10-yard run midway through the fourth quarter right before Tompkins cashed his second touchdown run of the night.
Jefferson had played two exceptional games and appeared to be ready for those Commerce Tigers waiting just down the road.
Commerce-6-13-Friday-September 26, 1958 in Jefferson.
A fired-up bunch of Tigers from Commerce literally put the clamps on the heralded Jefferson offense on this night in Memorial Stadium.
The Dragons simply never got their offense to execute until the game was out of reach.
Commerce had a large experienced line with center Tom Pittman, 170 pounds; guard Tommy McClure, 176 pounds; guard Lanier Savage, 234 pounds; tackle Robert Ellis, 232 pounds and tackle Tommy Arial, 253 pounds.
They contained the fleet of Dragon backs until quarterback Jeff Davis hit streaking end John Kesler for a 25-yard touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game.
The Dragons failed to advance past their own 36-yard line in the first half and failed to pick up a first down. They managed only four for the entire game.
Halfback Benny Love, one of the long line of Love brothers’ and cousins’ that carried the ball for the Tigers over those early years ran 60 yards early in the second quarter for the Tigers first score.
Commerce actually dominated the game as they netted 14 first downs to the Dragons four.
They rushed for 236 yards while the Dragons could gain only 12 yards. The Dragons threw for 56 yards while Commerce passed for only 21 yards.
Duke continued his torrid punting with six kicks for 247 yards. A 41.1 average per boot.
Commerce punted only three times in the game.
Coach Davis told the team in the locker room that their “youth had shown on the field tonight. Now inexperience was no longer an excuse for playing poorly.”
The team had experienced a close win, a lopsided win and now a loss. They had to travel to Rockdale County the next week and then meet the mighty Morgan County Bulldogs in Jefferson the week after that.
Coach Davis was concerned about a Dragon losing streak looming on the horizon.
Rockdale County-13-7-Friday-October 3, 1958 in Conyers.
Call it grit, spunk, determination, a never-say-die attitude ~ or whatever you will. The Dragons of Jefferson High School simply would not be beaten on the wet Rockdale County turf on this night.
After a seesaw battle for most of the first half, the Dragons scored just before intermission.
Jeff Davis set up the touchdown with a 40-yard run from his own 32 to the Bulldog 28. On first down he and Gary Duke collaborated on a 28-yard pass that Gary caught with Bulldogs all around him. A pass for the extra point was batted down.
Jefferson led 6-0.
Coach Davis would later say it was the best pass his young Jefferson quarterback had ever thrown.
The Bulldogs stormed right back and unleashed a passing attack that tied the score after ten plays. They added the extra point and led 7-6 until the last moments of the game.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Davis took a Bulldog punt at his midfield strip and was knocked out of bounds at the 40-yard line. Halfback Buddy Tolbert took a pitchout on the halfback pass option that Jefferson was so prone to use in passing situations. He started to his right and fired the ball to John Kesler at the Rockdale 15-yard line. John broke at least two tackles and scored. He then made a remarkable catch of a fluttering throw from Davis for the extra point.
Jefferson had picked up 14 first downs to six for Rockdale County. They gained 301 yards to 112 for the Bulldogs.
Gary Duke was in on 22 tackles. Jeff Davis, Mays Venable and Don Tompkins had 10 tackles each.
Up next was the Morgan County Bulldogs from Madison.
Morgan had won the state title in Class B in 1955 and 1956 only to lose out the previous year to a strong Tucker squad.
This year they were playing like the Morgan County of those two state championship years.
Morgan County-7-32-Friday-October 19, 1958 in Jefferson.
The Morgan County Bulldogs came to Jefferson sporting a five win and one loss record. They had been beaten by AAA power Newton County in their season opener by a 6-0 score.
No one had come close to beating them after that game.
Jefferson Coach John Davis had said earlier in the week if his team would play at maximum potential and eliminate mistakes they could be very competitive with the Bulldogs of Coach Bill Corry. It just wasn’t to be on this night.
After holding the Dragons on the games first series, it took the Madison team three plays to put their first score on the board.
Morgan County Halfback Felton Jenkins ran for 13 yards on their first play. All-State quarterback Jake Saye picked up 33 yards before he went the remaining 19 yards to put the Dogs out front to stay. Jenkins scored again several moments later after a fumble recovery at the Dragon 20. He ran in from the 12-yard line.
During the first half Morgan County had not thrown the ball as they sat on their 13-0 half-time lead. It was a shocked Dragon team when Saye fired to Marvin Hunnicutt from his own 35-yard line on a play that covered 65 yards for a 19-0 lead.
An interception of a Davis pass led to another score for Morgan County as they scored in two plays on a Jenkins 22-yard run.
Gary Duke scored for the Dragons in the fourth quarter to cut the score to 25-7.
Saye ran in from the four to make it 31-7 with three minutes left in the game. Jenkins crashed off tackle for the extra point and the final 32-7 score was on the board.
Jefferson had been manhandled throughout the game by the quicker Morgan County team.
Stone Mountain-26-0-Friday-October 17, 1958 in Stone Mountain.
During the week an Atlanta television station had interviewed several of the Stone Mountain team during a high school football feature presentation.
In this interview the Dragons were ridiculed as a lightweight squad that the larger Pirates would use “fly swatters” to stop.
Coach Davis called the team the Jefferson “Flies” all week in practice and the cheerleaders had a large banner prepared that read, “Go Flies,” for the team to run through as they entered the playing field. This was indeed a bunch of fired up Dragons by game time.
Jefferson gained 14 first downs for the game while rushing for 218 yards. They held the Pirates to four first downs and 42 total yards.
It was an absolutely dominating Dragon performance.
Gary Duke led the onslaught with 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one a 48-yard run.
Jeff Davis scored on a 63-yard pass from Duke and Don Tompkins ran five yards for the final Dragon tally.
The Dragons were now ready for a strong Thompson team.
Thomson-46-19-Friday-October 24, 1958 in Jefferson.
The Dragons threw the playbook at the Thomson Bulldogs on a cold, windy night in Jefferson.
Outweighed as usual, the Dragons scored on running plays, pass plays, pass interceptions, punt returns and even threw in a safety.
Gary Duke, the 170-pound senior, had a field day. He scored five touch-downs and threw for another. Three of his scores came on rushes, one on a pass interception, and the other on a 63-yard punt return.
It was shades of Curtis Segars and 1950 with his tremendous scoring outburst.
The Dragons ran for 247 yards, threw for 36 and picked up 14 first downs.
On the Dragons first possession, Duke led a 65-yard drive to put the Dragons on the board. He had two runs of 24 yards in the drive.
After a Jeff Davis 26-yard scamper to the Bulldog two-yard line, Duke bulled in for his first score.
With the Dragons up 13-0 in the second quarter, lineman Steve Jackson, pulled a Bulldog runner down in the end zone for a safety.
On the next series for the Dragons, Jeff Davis took a screen pass from Duke and ran 36 yards for a 21-0 Jefferson lead.
A Duke 60-yard pass interception return for a touchdown made it 27-0 four plays later.
After two Thompson scores, Davis closed out the Dragons scoring with a one-yard touchdown plunge mid-way of the fourth quarter.
Thompson added a meaningless score against some younger Jefferson players as the game wound down with the surprising 46-19 score flashing on the scoreboard.
Madison County-38-0-Friday-October 31, 1958 in Danielsville.
The Madison County team provided very little opposition for the Dragons on their home field.
Duke and Davis rushed for over 300 yards between them and scored five touchdowns in the Jefferson victory.
All attention turned to the single-wing offense of Washington-Wilkes the following Friday night on the Tigers home field.
Washington Wilkes-13-0-Friday-November 7, 1958 in Washington.
The Tigers came off a 13-12 loss to strong Morgan County—the same team that had defeated the Dragons 32-7 earlier in the season.
Many in Jefferson were hoping Washington-Wilkes could pull off the upset against Morgan County giving the trio of Jefferson,
Morgan County and Washington-Wilkes one loss each and tying up the sub-region race.
It was not to be.
Morgan County had scored late and won the game, regulating the Jefferson-Washington-Wilkes game to a battle for second place in the sub-region.
Washington-Wilkes came in rated as the number four team in the state with the Dragons rated number eight.
In a game Coach Davis called the best his Dragons had played since his coming to Jefferson, the Dragons won a shocker, 13-0.
It was a defensive game that saw Jefferson make only eight first downs while holding the vaunted Tiger single-wing offense to three first downs. The Dragons rushed for 179 yards and passed for 16 more. Washington-Wilkes could muster only 61 yards on the ground and 32 through the air for 93 total yards.
Fullback Gary Duke carried the ball 21 times for 117 yards.
Jeff Davis gained 42 yards and Buddy Tolbert rushed for 15 yards. Lynn Brothers picked up seven yards in two carries.
Jefferson Guards Steve Jackson and Burton Riddle were named by Coach Davis as having played outstanding on offense and defense.
Jefferson took an early 6-0 lead after Riddle knocked the ball loose from a sophomore Tiger tailback named Johnny Gresham.
Keep that name in mind as it would come back to haunt the Dragons for the next two seasons. Steve Jackson recovered the ball for Jefferson on the Tiger 24.
Duke and Davis carried the ball to the three from where Duke scored the touchdown.
The final Dragon score came on a Davis eight-yard run after a 55-yard drive.
Morgan County clinched the region title on this night with a 19-0 win over Rabun County.
Lavonia-68-0-Friday-November 14, 1958 in Jefferson.
When Jefferson met Lavonia for homecoming at Memorial Stadium on a cool, crisp night they held a number five ranking in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution weekly high school football poll.
After this win they moved up to number four.
It was the largest margin of victory in Dragon history.
It was a night of the long ball with the shortest touchdown run for Jefferson at 13 yards.
This is the way the Dragon touchdowns were scored; Gary Duke on runs of 61 and 53 yards; Jeff Davis on runs of 54 and 56 yards; John Kesler on a 45-yard pass from Duke and a 25-yard pass from Davis; Buddy Tolbert on a 13-yard run; Kenneth Mize on a 20-yard run; Donald Wise on a 56-yard pass from Wayne Foster, and Tommy Carithers on a 33-yard run after picking up a blocked punt.
The Dragons scored eight of ten extra points with Gary Duke kicking five of them through the uprights. Lynn Brothers, Richard Langford and Tommy Carithers scored the remaining three extra points.
The Dragon picked up 15 first downs while Lavonia made only three. Jefferson rushed for 327 yards and passed for 162 yards.
Their total offense was 489 yards.
Lavonia was minus-seven yards rushing, but gained 48 yards through the air.
The Dragons scored 14 points in the first quarter, 21 in the second quarter, 21 in the third quarter and 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The 1958 Dragons had scored 284 points for the season, while surrendering only 77. Take away the 32 points Morgan County put on the boards and Jefferson allowed only 45 points for the season.
This was a team that dressed only 21 boys most of the season, less than two full teams. Virtually every team they faced during the season outweighed them.
Eight seniors were prominent on the squad. Gary Duke, Lynn Brothers, John Kesler, Sammy Scott, James Aaron, Wayne Foster, Kenneth Mize, and Tommy Carithers closed out their Dragon football careers with this game. Duke, Brothers, Scott, Kesler and Aaron were starters.
At halftime of the Lavonia game Ms. Linda Clark, daughter of Mrs. Clara Clark of Talmo was named Homecoming Queen.
Dickie Storey, son of Mr. And Mrs. T. Dickson Storey of Jefferson was named Homecoming King.
Anna Bolton, Polly Berryman and Judy Burch were football sponsors.
The Jefferson B-Team beat Madison County by a 12-0 score as Franklin Nichols scored two touchdowns.
This was the team that featured Herbert Wilson and Franklin Nichols. Both were academically ineligible for varsity competition this season, but would return to varsity competition with a bang in 1959.
Musing with Cecil Buffington
The Lavonia game . . .
I watched this game standing behind the wire on the Jefferson sideline. I remember almost every play as clearly as if it happened yesterday. This game cemented in me the desire to be a part of the Dragon football program later in my high school life.
I had also, by riding the student bus for away games, seen all the games the 1958 team had played.
This was the first time I had seen all the Dragon games during a season. I was rapidly becoming a football junkie.
I really believe that the inexperience of the ’58 team and fatigue was their downfall against Morgan County. They went into that game intimidated and lacking a sense of confidence to win that game.
The Commerce game was simply the Commerce game where anything can, and during this period of time, usually did happen.
I believe that if we had played Commerce again, we would have easily defeated them.
I also believe that if we played Morgan County again, it would have been a very close game.
Jeff Davis was only a sophomore. His career would blossom, but he never again had the explosiveness in the backfield with him that Gary “Fireball” Duke provided during the ’58 season.
I honestly believe this was the best coaching job Coach Davis would display as head football coach during his career at Jefferson High School.
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