A Story of Traditions

September 16, 2013

(This article is dedicated to the late Elizabeth "Lib" Estes.)

Playing high school football on Friday night is a tradition in most of the country. There are a few areas where many schools play during Saturday afternoon, but here in the south most games are Friday. Of course there are reasons to deviate from that tradition, including bad weather, shared stadiums, long travel distances, and the rare scheduling issue.

It's that last reason that has our Devils traveling to Ninety Six this Thursday night for their first game in the Greenwood town. The Wildcats had inadvertently scheduled two games for last Friday. Lincoln County High agreed to move the game to this Thursday. Kickoff will be at 7:00, earlier than usual.

While high school football looks to continue as a Friday night tradition, some traditions do end and new ones are started.

Do you remember the little cannon that Lincoln County would shoot before games? Coach Larry Campbell's brother-in-law built the noise-maker in the early 1980s. It may have been little, but it would shake the windows all around town. Unfortunately, before one game, a referee wandered a little too close when the cannon was fired. That was the last appearance for that tradition.

Before that, one of the Red Devil traditions for a few years was players being led onto Buddy Bufford Field by the Devil-mobile, a creation by Mr. Frank Guillebeau. The car from the fifties was painted with slogans urging on the Red Devils to another win. That tradition ended about the time the field was reconfigured, with the concrete home stands built in 1982.

With those new stands came a new tradition that still happens today. Lincoln County players enter the field for warmups through the tunnel at the midpoint of the home stands. One visiting coach thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing; after the boos subsided, the Devils took care of business and had the game well-in-hand by halftime. No visitors have tried that stunt since.

Some things Red Devil fans have tried over the years could have become traditions, had they not failed in their first try. For one game in Greensboro in the 1960s, Lincolnton fans organized a caravan to the game against the Tigers. The Devils lost. No one has suggested a caravan since.

Another good tradition is the chartering of buses for playoff games and other big far-off contests. William "Coot" Ivey is credited with starting that activity in the early 1960s.

Some things might be considered more superstition than tradition. Some insist on wearing the same hat, or shirt, or pants, or socks, or underwear, to every game. There's one fan that always sits near the 40 yard line on the left side of the Devil stands.

Another tradition nearing the 50-year mark is Jerry Power keeping the game play-by-play. The only thing more impressive than that is his attendance at Georgia Bulldog games, home and away, during that same period.

And then you have the things that start with no thought of it becoming somewhat of a tradition. In 1976, unable to participate in PE classes, this writer found himself in a journalism class taught by Elizabeth Estes. Along with another person, this writer was assigned to cover sports, although sports (yes, even Red Devil football) had never been a major interest for him. The other person moved away after covering one game, leaving this writer to cover the football season.

Something clicked. Coach Campbell allowed this writer to ride the player bus. Feeling a part of the team, the "fever" of Red Devil football caught this writer. Of course it may have helped that the Devils' 38-game winning streak had just started.

With Mrs. Estes' tutelage, this writer would go on to be co-editor of the Pitchfork Press, write for The Lincoln Journal and The Anderson Independent, and earn a state award for high school journalists. Mrs. Estes' husband Charles had covered the Devils for the Independent for many years, and it was an honor for this writer to follow his work there.

But that journalist class assignment as a sophomore in high school became a hobby. That led to a lot of research, the Red Devil website, and more Georgia and national high school football websites.

This writer's efforts have, hopefully in some meaningful way, led to the documentation and remembrance of the great Red Devil accomplishments and traditions.

And that is all thanks to Elizabeth Estes and her encouragement. If you the reader have enjoyed any of this writer's efforts over the past 38 years, your thanks should go to "Lib" Estes. This writer's only regret is that this "thank you" is too late, like an overdue paper for one of her classes.