Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

January 3, 2013

Nicknames were once not the same

TIFTON — Tiftarea sports fans are used to the long-standing nicknames of their schools. Blue Devils, Panthers, Rebels, Hornets, Purple Hurricanes, Indians and Rams. These have been established so long that nickname newcomers are Tiftarea Academy, who have been using Panthers for over 40 years. Once upon a time, this was not the case and most cheerleaders established rhythms and rhymes for much different mascots.

Tifton, which changed over to Tift County in 1965, was one of the few exceptions. Tifton’s only nickname appears to be Blue Devils, which they adopted in the 1920s. Tiftarea has likewise only been the Panthers. During segregation, Tift County Industrial and later Wilson High both used Tigers as their mascot.

Another school that stayed true while others were changing was Fitzgerald, who has only used Purple Hurricanes, though initially the nickname was a singular Purple Hurricane. Cook High has always preferred Hornets, as well, from the original school of Sparks-Adel in Sparks to old location in Adel to the new school on the east side of town.

In other counties, it seemed as if the nicknames were ever-changing and took a variety of forms. Before Turner County High opened in 1957, three county schools were anything but Rebels. Ashburn had the Bearcats, outfitted in blue and gold. The other schools wore their colors not only on their sleeves, but in their mascots. Rebecca was the Red Devils while Sycamore had the Yellow Jackets.

The schools of Berrien County ranged from traditional mascots to the unusual. Alapaha had the Tigers, Enigma were Eagles and Ray City had the Beavers. Poplar Springs, on the eastern side of the county, which grew to be as large as to briefly have a two-year high school, sometimes used Purple Wasps. Nashville High had the Tigers before briefly using Swampers, whose appearance has never been seen in logo form, so it is unknown whether it was man or beast or a cross between.  They finally settled on Hornets, which made headlines confusing when they played archrival Sparks-Adel. A vote among the county’s students determined that the consolidated Berrien would be Rebels in 1954.

Omega broke Tift County’s tradition of having stable and common mascots. Over the years, they used both Blue Jays and Planters, in a callback to the area’s agricultural background. They would not be the only ones who honored the local heritage.

The county high schools in Irwin each had a nickname indicative of the area. Mystic’s brief venture into organized football saw their team go by Cornhuskers. Irwinville’s basketball coach, WC “Country” Childs labeled his teams as the Farmers, which they rode to three Class C state basketball championships before the high school closed in 1952. Before Ocilla became known as the Indians, which was transferred to Irwin County High, they went through a variety of unique nicknames. In the 1920s, the football team was known as the Orphans. Lore states that they lacked a field of their own, though contemporary records do show them playing home games every season. The Orphans were apparently masters as their next nickname was Aces. Perhaps Aces was a bit too strong of a description as that soon changed to Terrapins.

Though the nicknames of area high schools has remained stable since consolidation, there have been a few changes in the way girls teams are labeled. For years, every girls team had their own semi-unique nickname, compared with the boys teams. Irwin County had the Squaws, who are now Lady Indians. Turner County and Berrien each used Rebelettes. Turner has since switched to Lady Rebels, a version Berrien briefly used before going back to the old form. Tiftarea had the Pantherettes, now Lady Panthers. Until recently, Cook’s girls were the Wasps, but they have since switched to Lady Hornets. The Lady Devils of Tift were once the direct opposites of their sinister Blue Devil partners. They were the Angels, but their saintly label was in name only as the girls basketball program in particular burned up the court.


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