Longevity is Secret of Rivalry Between Devils and W-W Tigers

October 22, 2009

(Updated version of article that appeared in October 15, 2009, edition of The Lincoln Journal.)

In 2009 Lincoln County and Washington-Wilkes held their annual Homecoming events on the Friday before the big rivalry game. However, in many ways, the Red Devils vs. Tigers clash is the real homecoming for this area.

If fans of either team live a good distance away and can only make it to one game each year, it's the annual classic. Seats are expected to be full long before then for what has become one of the legendary rivalry games in the state of Georgia.

The Red Devils finally took the lead in the series in 2008, 33-32-6, with a come-from-behind 14-6 win. There have been blowouts, ties, controversies, and even a state title game in this storied series.

Those from other parts of the state ask what is so special about this series. It's hard to put into words, but one of the keys to a great rivalry is longevity. The key to longevity is having families involved over the generations. While there are many good examples of sons, fathers, grandfathers, and other family members participating during the 87-year history of this feud, we will use one Lincolnton family to prove the point.

The Red Devils went undefeated in 1923, and one of the players was Harvey Guillebeau. While he may not have played against the Tigers during those first two Washington games in 1922, you can bet he was on the sidelines cheering on the Lincolnton team. (Lincolnton and Washington didn't play between 1923 and 1938 due to the rivalry being too intense!) Harvey would be a co-captain on the 1924 team, and played end. Here's an interesting story provided by one of his grandson Guil: "Another interesting story is that he was naturally left-handed, but in the first grade his teacher suggested that he change over to do everything right-handed. He did, but during a game he scooped up a fumble with his left hand and ran down the field. His coach [Tutt Dunaway] fussed about him using the left hand, but that was his natural instinct."

Harvey's son Bob (named for Harvey's brother that died as a World War II fighter pilot) would play on the 1961, 1962, and 1963 teams. The Devils won state the last 2 years, including wins over the Tigers to start the year. Bob's daughters would be Lincoln County cheerleaders.

Harvey's daughter Jane was a Red Devil cheerleader. She married Butch Mattison, and they had two sons and a daughter. Butch would have an insurance business in both Lincolnton and Washington, and they moved to Lincolnton in 1979 where they built a house on Guillebeau Avenue. Both sons (Jim and Guil) played for the Red Devils, and daughter Britt was a cheerleader. All competed against those Tigers from up 378.

Before we get to the current day, let's jump back to Harvey's older brother Frank. One of Frank's sons, Tommy, played for the Devils and become a high school coach. He was 63-49-4 in 11 seasons from 1958 to 1968 at Ware County and Tift County. He later served as the GHSA Executive Director for many years. Tommy married Gail Pitts of Lincolnton, whose brother Dan played for the Devils and then became the winningest coach in Georgia with 346 wins at Mary Persons High, where the field is named in his honor.

Frank became one of the most ardent Red Devil fans ever. He served as President of the Booster Club on several occasions, and later showed his spirit with "Mr. Frank's car", decorated with Red Devil slogans. For a few years the car would lead the Devils onto the field for the opening kickoff. Each year a Red Devil player is honored with the Frank Guillebeau Award.

And now to 2009. The generations continue to support our Red Devils. Butch and Jim Mattison carry the chains at Buddy Bufford Field. (They even take them home when not in use!) Britt Mattison is the CheerDevil coach. And the Devils' public address announcer is Harvey Guillebeau Mattison. And another generation is on the way, with Jim's son Cole now playing midget-mite.

The years may come and go, but one constant is the undying passion fans have for their Red Devils - rain or shine, win or lose. That's what gives the Lincoln County-Washington-Wilkes rivalry its added kick!