Over a Half-Century Makes Many Red Devil Memories

September 10, 2014

For over 50 years, in the heat, the cold, and the rain, Jerry Power has recorded the play-by-play exploits of the Red Devils. This article contains his recollections from those years and his high school years. You can reach Jerry, a devoted Georgia Bulldog fan, on Facebook. -- Tradition)

By Jerry Power

Nothing can be more sentimental than 57 years (1957-2013) of great football in Lincolnton.

We had only 3 coaches during those years. Buddy Bufford, Thomas Bunch, and Larry Campbell were not only fantastic coaches, but also great people.

The earliest play I remember during this period was in Greensboro when my classmate Mack Matthews raced 80 yards to a touchdown in 1958. He went from our right to our left and nobody was close to him when he crossed their goal. I personally was standing outside a short fence beside a light pole on about the 25-yard line and was able to climb several feet up the pole to see the whole run. Doesn't seem too long ago. Mack is still my favorite Red Devil player of all these years.

This was Buddy Bufford's second season and we played a great Waynesboro team down there in the last game of the season for the region championship. Led by one of the best players we ever faced, Gary Glover, we were edged in a great game. We hadn't been contenders in many years but now we were on our way.

In 1959 we finished second in the region to Wrightsville (led by great running back Bill Mayo); however we did beat Waynesboro. Full speed ahead.

[Then] 1960 - the first of many, many, many state championships. We knocked off Washington-Wilkes at home in the opening game. To their credit they recovered with their great coach Charlie Davidson and great running back Johnny Gresham to win the state in their classification. Obviously that made us state champs in two classes (C & B).

A Red Devil highlight in this game was when Buddy Freeman took a short screen pass from Bobby Freeman and went about 50 yards towards the gym for a late TD. Buddy could really run for a big boy. No losses this year and only a couple of close games along the way.

The state championship was settled on a very cold night in Alpharetta against Dade County. Not a fun game if you were from Dade County. One of the most outstanding plays of the game occurred on the second half kickoff when Louis Miller received and passed (lateralled) back across the field to our great running back Franklin Banks. 7 quick points. 33-6. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Our great coach Buddy Bufford was rightly honored as state coach of the year.

Certainly the darkest moment in our proud history was when Coach Bufford went to heaven in February 1961.

Coach Thomas Bunch career started with a trip to the state championship game against Coosa. The game was played in Sanford Stadium in Athens (where the Bulldogs play). The final score wasn't what we wanted but it was a great season. This was 1961 and we didn't lose again until 1964.

In the 1962 and 1963 football seasons we really didn't have any close games as we only worried if someone scored on us. Seriously, in 1963, in our final regular season game Warren County scored the first six points we allowed to anyone. No one from Lincoln County thinks their runner crossed the goal line. Those kind of calls happened often in Warrenton.

Our great linebacker Randall Edmunds was state defensive player of the year both in 1962 and 1963. Hard to believe a nice kid like Randall headed to Atlanta to play college ball when new UGA coach Vince Dooley was begging him to come to Athens.

Our great and beloved Coach Bunch won 114 games and 2 state championships before retiring in 1971.

Coach Larry Campbell came in in 1972 and hung around for 42 years and 11 state championships. He won 477 games which represented 85% of the games he coached. This really happened in Lincoln County. You can look it up in black & white record books. [Of course it would] take a sizable book to list all of the game and individual highlights during his years.

By the way, Larry split in two games against the second greatest coach in Georgia high school history, Dan Pitts, who learned his tricks growing up in Lincolnton. Coach Pitts [owned the record for most wins in state history before Larry passed him.] Yes, that's right, the whole state of Georgia, from forever.

Let's not worry about numbers any more because they all run together. Everyone remembers when they, their brothers, their son, their grandson, their cousin, their friend played on whichever great team.

First state champs came in 1976 on a rainy night in Buford with state Back of the Year Roy Norman leading the way with an outstanding game. The great defensive team only allowed 5 TDs all year and pitched a shutout in state championship game.

I might remember wrong, but I think we began playoffs in Folkston against Charlton County and had problems with lightning storm delays. We really showed speed that night and really turned their lights out for the season.

Jerry Hearst was a great break-away runner in 1977 and we never figured we would see another Hearst.

The 1978 (12-1) and 1979 (14-1) teams were among the greatest we ever had and lost heartbreakers a long way from home at Mitchell County and Model in Rome. Our fans will never forget the hard hitting of great Barney Bussey and Mike Jones.

Our great linebacker Curt Douglas played on 3 consecutive state champs (1985, 1986, 1987) and this nice young man did go to UGA. Curt made several individual tackles that are easy to remember. He actually tackled a Florida player in a Georgia-Florida all-star game in Orlando, knocking him out. While the stadium became deathly quiet, a small section in red shirts spontaneously cheered. We caught on and shut up real quick although we got some hard stares.

Garrison Hearst - does anyone remember him? He played back around 1987, 1988, and 1989 and his teams won two state championships. Garrison helped them win. If Coach Campbell had had Garrison all 42 years he might have won 40 state championships. No way I should make such a comment, but Garrison was special. The problem I have with distinguishing between Garrison's greatest runs was because he had so many. The teams he played on in 1987 and 1989 were 15-0. Garrison became a great Georgia Bulldog and NFL player.

With no Hearst in 1990 Lincoln County still went 15-0 and won the state title in Folkston (Charlton County) led by players like Carl Leverett and Anthony Parks.

The 1991 Red Devils went 14-1 and didn't lose until a heartbreaker at home to Clinch County.

The 1993 team was another 15-0 and led by 3-time all-state player Gabriel Elam.

The 1995 Red Devils went 15-0 and were led by 2-time all-state player Cherard Freeman.

1997 went 13-1 and didn't lose until the semifinal game. Highlight of the season was going down to Miller County and facing their super team (averaging 50+ points per game) and super player Charles Grant. They were heavy favorites but we pulled upset. I believe Grant is still playing in the NFL.

The 1998 and 1999 teams were both state runnerups.

The 2003 team was undefeated until the championship game against Hawkinsville. They were led by longtime pro player Charles Johnson but we played them a very tough game.

In 2005 the Red Devils defeated Washington-Wilkes 25-0 in one of the most enjoyable games ever. State Champs.

In 2006 the Devils defeated Clinch County for the state title. Brandon Barden was an outstanding player in 2005 and 2006 and then played for Vanderbilt and now in the NFL.

[Our thanks to Jerry for the above. This Friday, the Red Devils do something they've never done in their long history - play Westside of Augusta in football. The 7:30 kickoff is at Patriot Stadium, behind the school; turn off Washington Road between the Mercedes dealership and Rhinehart's. Due to school construction, there is limited parking adjacent to the stadium, with more closer to the street. -- Tradition]