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February 7, 2013

Tiftarea schools won many titles in Georgia Interscholastic Association

TIFTON — Part 2 of 2

The Georgia Interscholastic Association was the high school league for African-American schools and existed from 1948 until 1970, when integration forced nearly all of its schools to close. While short-lived, schools located in the Tiftarea made an impact in basketball and football.

Outside of Tift County Industrial and Wilson, the Eureka Tigers ruled the roost. They won two football championships in Class B, the second being played at their very own lighted field, Camilla Jones Memorial Stadium. Eureka was the third area school to suit up, their first season being 1953. Eureka's run at glory took place over four years, 1963-66.

John Dye was the program's only head coach and his team made their first semifinal appearance in 1963. Wayne County Training, who seemed to always be an obstacle for area schools in all sports, was again a roadblock, keeping them from the title game with a 13-7 defeat. The next year, Dye and company fell to Evans County in the semis by a heartbreaking 2-0 in a contest played on neutral ground in Reidsville. Both losses would be avenged. Wayne County went down in 1965, giving way for the Tigers to play Boggs Academy all the way up in Waynesboro for the title. Boggs battled them to a tie, 6-6, but the ultimate luck remained with Eureka. By virtue of a coin flip, the trophy went back with them to Ashburn. It would be Boggs again in 1966, but no coin flip would be needed as this time Eureka had it all to themselves, 13-0. To get there, they knocked off Evans in the semis.

Eureka is currently known to have one state basketball tournament appearance. The boys made it to the semis in 1957, when they were defeated by Boggs. Their consolation game result is currently unknown, they were slated to go against Cedar Hill.

Cook County Training is the only school known to have won a girls basketball championship.  The Ewes, coached by Avan T. Adams, took home their crown in 1956, defeating Lee Street of Blackshear in the Class B finals, though the score varies based on the source. Adel records it as 62-49 and while Blackshear does not dispute it was a 13-point loss, they have it as 64-51. Cook’s girls also made it to the tournament as a semifinalist in 1953, losing to eventual state champions Fair Street of Gainesville, and in 1955 and 1958, but failed to make it out of the first round. Their boys would have similar luck when they made a string of appearances a decade later. In 1966, 1967 and 1969, they were tripped up in the first round by J.L. Bozeman (Hawkinsville), Alma Consolidated and Liberty County, respectively.

The CCT Rams also made their mark in football. Cook advanced to the semifinals in Class B six times and made it to the championship game twice. The teams of Polk County would be their undoing. In 1955, Cedar Hill in Cedartown took the championship, 27-0 from Nathaniel Thomas’ team and in 1960, under a Coach Bachelor, Elm Street from Rockmart defeated them by an unknown score. Their semifinal bids in 1956, 1959, 1962 and 1967 were foiled by Evans County (1956, 1967) and Wayne County Training (1959, 1962).

Ocilla High and Industrial did not field football teams and were resigned to show their prowess on the court. They were possibly the first area school to advance to the state basketball tournament, their boys losing in the first round of the B tournament in 1950. They are known to have returned to deep postseason play twice more. In 1964, the boys lost in the second round to East Baker and in 1961, the girls brought home some glory. After defeating Colbert’s Southside in the semifinals, they came up two points short in the finals, falling to Wheeler County Training, 40-38, at the Waycross City Auditorium.

Nashville High and Elementary likewise was too small to attempt football, but could boast of having a future professional basketball player in Mack Daughtry, who briefly suited up for the ABA’s Carolina Cougars and had a long career in the Continental Basketball Association, but never could make it beyond the second round. In 1965, the Falcons lost by four to Alma Consolidated in Class B after stomping Shellman Vocational in the first round. Nashville’s boys also made an appearance in 1958 and the girls in 1966, both opening round defeats.

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