Notebook: 50th anniversary of first integrated game

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

FootballToday is the 50th anniversary of the first integrated high school football game in Georgia.

It took place Sept. 2, 1966, at Atlanta’s Grady Stadium. Archer, which joined the GHSA with seven other historically black Atlanta schools that summer, defeated Dykes 28-0.

“It was one of those games you’ll never forget,” said John Kenneth Grant, a sophomore starting running back and defensive back for Archer. “Our coach, R.A. Wainwright, brought us together before the game. We got a lecture. ‘Be on your best behavior. If anybody wants to start anything, you’re going to be on the bench. You’re not going to embarrass me or this school. Everybody is going to be watching.’”

The game went without incident on either side except for the decisive outcome that surprised some. Archer was 8-2 the season before, one of its losses to GIA state champion Price. Dykes was 4-4-2 in the GHSA and two years removed from a region championship. But the old GIA, the association for black schools during segregation, was deemed inferior by many.

“The day before, they had articles saying how Dykes had the best coaches, the best facilities and the best of everything,” Grant said. “So they should beat the stew out of us.”

Archer scored on its first two plays from scrimmage, but the plays were were waived off with penalties, Grant said. Another penalty came when Wainwright stepped on the field to protest. “Coach told us to score every time,” Grant said. “They can’t call them all back.”

Atlanta’s black schools – Archer, Carver, Harper, Howard, Price, South Fulton, Turner and Washington – went on to win 20 of 24 games against white teams that year. Late in the season, Archer lost to all-white Southwest Atlanta (which a few short years later became a predominantly black school), ruining its playoff hopes. Carver, which played in Class AA below the other seven, went 8-2 but finished third in its subregion behind Brown and Northside.

The next year, Carver reached the Class AA championship game. Price won its subregion. Black schools from Augusta and Savannah were on board. Macon and Columbus came in 1968. By 1970, the old GIA had folded.

Grant went on to bigger things in football. His jersey is retired at Morehouse, and he spent time in a Dallas Cowboys training camp. He retired recently after 33 years with General Motors. and lives in Atlanta.

Grant said he appreciates the history more as time has passed.

“I remember times when you used to get on the bus and they’d tell us to go to the back, and if you didn’t, they’d put you off,” Grant said. “I could go to downtown Atlanta, but I couldn’t drink at the water fountain at Rich’s. I experienced that. Times were changing. We were making history, but at the time, you really didn’t think about it.”

Stephenson’s Gartrell expects to return soon

Stephenson head coach Ron Gartrell, on medical leave since July, said he expects to return to the Jaguars’ practices next week, albeit in a still-limited capacity. He hopes to be at full strength by Stephenson’s region opener at Lovejoy on Sept. 16.

Complications from hip-replacement surgery forced Gartrell off the sidelines. Don Sellers has been the acting head coach.

Gartrell attended the Aug. 19 season opener against Cedar Grove at Hallford Stadium but watched from his truck beyond the end zone. He missed last week’s Mill Creek game in what he figures was his first absence in more than 30 years.

“It’s been tough because I started playing football in the eighth grade, and I hadn’t missed a football game from middle school through coaching,” said Gartrell, whose record is 205-110 in 29 seasons as a head coach. “I’m doing well; it’s just a matter of getting stamina back.”

School system dominance: Avondale set standard

Westside’s 28-0 record against its fellow Bibb County rivals was blemished last week when Southwest defeated the Seminoles 8-3.

The record for in-district domination was set by Avondale, which won 46 consecutive games against DeKalb County opponents from 1957 to 1966 under coach Calvin Ramsey. Avondale was actually 55-0 during that time against all DeKalb opponents, including Decatur, Marist and St. Pius, but 46-0 against those in the school system. The streak ended when Avondale lost 41-40 in the Class AAA quarterfinals to Tucker, a team that Avondale had beaten 35-7 seven weeks earlier. Avondale closed in 2011.

The current longest streak belongs to Carver of Columbus, which has won 40 straight against Muscogee County schools. Carver’s most recent defeat against a Muscogee opponent came in 2006, when Shaw defeated Carver 16-14 in the Class AAA semifinals. Carver won the state title the next year.

There are other streaks of note. McEachern won 42 straight games against Cobb County schools from 1991 to 2001. Parkview won 29 straight games against Gwinnett County schools from 1999 to 2003, about the time the Panthers won a state-record 46 consecutive games overall.

Region 1-AAAAAA makes rankings history

Region 1-AAAAAA can say it is the most highly regarded region at a moment in time in state history. Region 1’s five teams are ranked 1-5 in the composite Class AAAAAA rankings published Wednesday.

They are No. 1 Houston County (2-0), No. 2 Northside (2-0), No. 3 Valdosta (2-0), No. 4 Lee County (2-0) and No. 5 Coffee (2-0). The AJC rankings, produced by GHSF Daily, have Dacula at No. 4.

Several readers have asked if Region 1-AAAAAA’s accomplishment of having all of its teams in the Top 10 is unprecedented. According to Loren Maxwell of the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, it has occurred once before.

In the Nov. 6, 1979, all three Region 2-A teams were ranked by The Atlanta Journal. They were No. 7 Charlton County, No. 8 Clinch County and No. 10 Patterson.

In 2006, all seven Region 1-AAAAA teams were ranked, but never at the same time. Valdosta was in the preseason poll and promptly fell out and finished 1-9. The others were Tift County (12-2), Warner Robins (9-5), Houston County (8-5), Coffee (9-3), Lowndes (6-4) and Colquitt County (6-4).

It has happened four times that all the teams in one subregion were ranked at some point (but never simultaneously). The most recent was 2006, when subregion A of Region 2-A had Turner County, Wilcox County, Hawkinsville, Irwin County and Dooly County in the Top 10 at least once each.

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