Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

November 21, 2012

Pigskin once as common as turkey

TIFTON — While prep teams today associate Thanksgiving games with state playoffs, a Turkey Day game used to be on the plate of most schools in the area. It was one of the most profitable games for teams and the bigger rivalry games were usually reserved for this day or Veterans Day.

Tifton High’s first season of 1914 saw them play their first Thanksgiving game, losing at the then-Valdosta High Tigers, 38-0. Valdosta would be their most common opponent in the early days, but in 1925, the Blue Devils found a lasting opponent: Fitzgerald. The first game saw the Devils fall, 6-0, but they would win the next two by shutout scores. The Purple Hurricanes would roll over them in 1930, 46-13, en route to a perfect 9-0-0 season and it would be the only game that was not close until 1939, when Tifton won a 54-6 blowout.

The schools kept up the Thanksgiving Day rivalry through war-shortened seasons and continue on after.  In 1949, the Canes nearly became the first blemish of the year for the Devils, who escaped 13-7 and would not be stopped until they were edged by Decatur in the Class A finals. The series and Thanksgiving games for Tifton would end after 1951, with the blue winning the final one, 18-13, and taking the overall series, 17-10.

Thanksgiving games halted for Tifton as the prep landscape had changed. The Georgia High School Association began regulating football playoffs in 1948. While previously Tift might play a conference championship game in the South Georgia Football Association (SGFA) and a “Class B” state title game if they won, playoffs now took more weeks to play, especially as their region, 1-A, was subdivided and required a region title game as well.

For others, the tradition died later as the GHSA did not outlaw regular season Thanksgiving contests until 1960. By this time, only a handful of teams were still playing them as the playoffs cut deeper and deeper into November. During the last season they were permitted, only two regular season games took place — Savannah against Benedictine and Irwin County battling Fitzgerald. For as big a rivalry game as the two would be, only twice would they meet on Thanksgiving, 1958 being the only other year.

For the other two schools still playing on this day in 1959, it was the final Thanksgiving battle in a long series. Benedictine’s and Savannah’s rivalry stretches way back to 1903 and the games on the holiday began in 1920. They were possibly the state’s most heated battle on this day and no doubt the most regular.

Valdosta and Moultrie played a series from 1928-41, which usually led to implications into the SGFA, though the results were thoroughly dominated by the Wildcats. The Packers would only capture the inaugural 1928 game. Before then, neither team could settle on the right opponent. Valdosta would play Thomasville in 1923 and 1924, Glynn Academy in 1925 and the Lanier Poets of Macon in 1926. Moultrie did not regularly play on the day before they found the Cats, with only a pair of games with Bainbridge and LaGrange on their slate.

Albany was another school playing a larger amount of Thanksgiving opponents in the early days.  The Poets filled the void for a few seasons before they were replaced by LaGrange, then a year with Americus before they established a holiday game with Thomasville. With the exception of 1939, they would play each other from 1928 to 1949. The Indians, then one of the state’s powerhouses, won most of the games in that span, going 13-6-1.

Smaller schools generally ended their seasons before Thanksgiving, but Ashburn is known to have scheduled a couple with Sylvester in the 1930s. Ocilla went into action against Douglas in 1928-29 and again with Baxley in 1947 when football was resumed after World War II. Nashville, too played that year, losing their lone Thanksgiving battle to Sylvester.

The Georgia Interscholastic Association, the league for African-American schools in the days of segregation, appears to have had no steadfast rule regarding games played on this day. In fact, the state’s last prep battle on Thanksgiving was one between GIA Savannah schools Beach and Tompkins in 1963. Their big game on this day, known as the Azalea Bowl, stretched back to 1953, when Tompkins was known as Woodville.

Locally, Tift County Industrial is only known to have played a handful of games. On their way to the Class B state championship in 1952, they defeated Holsey-Cobb Institute of Cordele, 46-0 at the old Tifton stadium. In 1950, a game on the Thursday resulted in another win, when they caged the Tigers from Washington High of Cairo,  21-7. While their Thanksgiving battles seem to have ended in 1952, the day after the holiday would be a lucky one. In 1965, they shutout Thomson’s R.L. Norris, 20-0 in a Class A semifinal game and in 1969, they would get Norris again, 16-2, in the Class AA semifinals. Unfortunately, luck would end there as both times, they would meet defeat in the finals: 1965 to Trinity of Decatur and in 1969 in the GIA’s final ever gridiron game, to Houston County Training.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • Devils to dine on Coffee and Crisp

    Big games and a big trip. Life takes an exciting turn over the next few days for the Diamond Devils of Tift County High. They start with a doubleheader this afternoon at 4:30 with the Coffee Trojans. Two days later, they will sliding into bases at Turner Field.

    April 16, 2014

  • Lady Panthers gouge GCS, 7-1

    The Tiftarea Academy soccer teams had a windy Tuesday night for Senior Night but they didn’t let the chill in the air stop them from keeping the scoreboard heated up. Seniors Neeli Fortson, Lauren Goforth, Ali Rippy, Britton Robitzsch and Austin Tenneson were recognized after the Lady Panthers sealed a 7-1 victory against the Georgia Christian Lady Generals. The Panthers had to settle for a 1-1 tie.

    April 16, 2014

  • Nashville hosts 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon

    The 5th annual Tyler Carter Memorial Duathlon will be held on Saturday, May 3  at the Berrien County Parks and Recreation Department.  The Duathlon Race course will consist of a 2.3-mile run into an 18.5-mile bike ride and end with a 2.3-mile run.

    April 16, 2014

  • McMinn, Beier shut down Glenwood

    The Tiftarea Academy Panthers mustered only five hits Monday night, but that would be enough for them. Behind the arm of Noah McMinn, clutch hitting from Zach Beier and a big trick play, they bested the Glenwood (Ala.) Gators by a 2-1 score.

    April 15, 2014

  • Panthers ready for region track championships

    Through early Tuesday, the track team at Tiftarea Academy knew they would be participating at a region track meet today. They just were not sure where.
    Coach Ryan Branch said Monday that the meet was scheduled for Hugh Mills Stadium in Albany, but if the event it was hosting was rained out Tuesday, TIftarea would be the hosts. The rains came, but it was not enough to change plans. Branch confirmed Tuesday afternoon that they would be on the road.

    April 15, 2014

  • Tift wins Lady Trojan tourney

    April 15, 2014

  • Jackson named to MaxPreps squad

    April 15, 2014

  • Blue Devils to host region track meet

    Tift County High will be abuzz Thursday. There will be the normal ringing of school bells and student vehicles in and out. Over at the track, there will be a flurry of colors and several extra buses. The Region 1-AAAAAA track meet is happening and the Blue Devils are the host.

    April 14, 2014

  • Winners of Team Fitness & Wellness Challenge announced

    Rehabilitation Services of Tifton and Tifton Fitness & Wellness Center recently put on the 1st annual Team Fitness & Wellness Challenge.  The team weight loss competition was held to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Tift County, raising $2,025.

    April 14, 2014

  • 20140411 ABAC men's tennis.JPG ABAC tennis wins region title

    April 12, 2014 2 Photos

Business Marquee
House Ads
Weather Radar

Do you plan to watch any of the Republican National Convention?

     View Results