Powerhouse Playbooks that Dominated Their Divisions
We had class, we had tenacity, we were a cohesive group.
Following in the footsteps of the great Howard ’59 and ’60 teams, the 1961 Hustlin’ Tigers earned their perfect 11-0-0 season with discipline, hard work, and Tiger pride. “We had class, we had tenacity, we were a cohesive group,” shares Kirkland Robinson, a junior offensive guard and team captain on the ’61 team. “Every time we had control of the ball, it was inevitable that we would score a touchdown in four or five plays.”
The Tiger offense, led by quarterback Johnny Moore, scored 382 points during their time on the field. Moore was a tremendous athlete known for his accurate passing ability, completing three scoring tosses in the 89-0 season-ending victory over Holloway. Other key offensive players included Noel Thompson, Major Bowles, Forrest Green, Napoleon Thomas, and Arthur Mastin. These fleet-footed running backs used their explosive speed to decimate opposing defenses.
In the showdown between Howard and Stephens-Lee on October 19th, Howard was trailing in the first half by 14 points for the first time that season. But defeat was never an option for the Tigers. Two quarters later, Bowles had made scoring runs of 85 and 90 yards for a comeback win of 24-14. Other high-scoring games for the Tigers included a 44-6 win against Nashville Pearl and a 53-13 Homecoming triumph over Austin High (where Moore set the tone early with an opening kickoff return of 90 yards for a touchdown). “Throughout the season, we were asked not to outshine the defense by outscoring so much on our opposition!” Robinson laughs.
Head coach George “Chubby” James and offensive coordinator Theodore Thompson called the shots for the Tiger offense, and the pair motivated their players to be great. Robinson says, “In my opinion, we had the best coaching staff ever to be assembled in football history. They knew what it took to make us successful athletes.” James’ success as a head coach continued with another powerful offense, and championship-winning season, for Howard in 1962.
In what has been hailed “The Greatest Year Ever” for Chattanooga high school football, 1962 was a shining moment for the Brained Rebels. Coach Ray Coleman’s senior-heavy team won all of their games by an average of 30 points, defeating every team but one by multiple touchdowns.
Offensive end Dr. DeWayne McCamish was one of five All-City players that year, and he remembers the coaches taking advantage of the Rebels’ strong offensive line. McCamish shares, “An offensive team is only as good as its offensive line, and we had a great line that allowed us to run an option-based offense.”
In the backfield, E.G. Cline and Richard Denney shared quarterback responsibilities. “The key was that each contributed in their own way when called upon,” McCamish says. “Richard was a long passer for post routes, and E.G. was good on the shorter down and out or over the middle.” Gary Tucker, an All-State running back, was the state’s top scorer with 150 points in the ’62 season. “Tucker had tremendous leg drive and leg strength,” shares McCamish. “That, plus his speed and gut-it-out attitude, made him so successful.” The backfield also featured Larry Reese, Wesley Puckett, Jim McCoy, and Jim Verhey.
Brainerd inaugurated their new football stadium on August 31st with a 20-0 shutout against Marion County, followed by another at-home shutout versus Lakeview two weeks later. But their third shutout, against City High School, proved the most memorable. “We had beaten City High as an all-junior team, but the opposing team’s coach was quick to call the win a ‘fluke’ in the local paper,” McCamish relates. “Coach Coleman kept the article and posted it in the locker room prior to the game. It may have been the only game that the starting varsity was kept in until the fourth quarter.” The final score was 53-0.
The Rebels finished their 11-0 campaign with a 13-7 victory over Madison in the Clinic Bowl. In perhaps the hardest fought game of the season, Brainerd pulled ahead in the last 53 seconds thanks to a 13-yard touchdown run by Tucker. To celebrate the team’s success, the Brainerd Booster Club sent members of the Rebels to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. “That is a memory forever,” McCamish says. “The community involvement made winning special.”
In 1967, the Dalton Catamounts achieved their first – and only – state football title. But the celebrated team, commanded by a loaded offensive line, opened their season with disappointment: a 7-6 loss to West Rome.
“I called a Saturday morning practice the next day,” head coach Bill Chappell recalls. “We blocked, we tackled – it was a wake-up call for those guys. We were better than that. And we didn’t have another tough game until the playoffs.” Dalton beat longtime rival Rossville 44-0 and thrashed North Whitfield 57-0 in the regular season, later facing West Rome in the state quarterfinals for a second time – crushing the Chieftains 33-0.
According to Chappell, the Catamount offense had a good passing game when they wanted to use it, but their real strength was in their speed. All-State running backs Forrest Starks, Ricky Lake, and Keith Whitworth were an unstoppable force: Starks rushed for 777 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Lake accumulated 706 yards (215 in the North Whitfield shutout alone). Whitworth, a freshman standout, led the team in rushing with 907 yards.
Despite their tendency to run the ball, senior quarterback Steve Norris still managed to pass for 550 yards and 10 touchdowns that season. “Steve was an outstanding quarterback, and it truly was a team effort with these guys,” Chappell shares. “We were fortunate with a great group of young men who played for each other and with each other.”
Dalton’s season culminated in the Class AA state championship game against Carver High School in Atlanta. Chappell remembers the tremendous talent of the opposition that night in Grady Stadium, but the Catamounts ultimately prevailed 14-12 and took the trophy home. Chappell says, “The ’67 group gave each team after that a very specific goal. We were runners-up six times after that, but never did earn another state title.”
The ’73 Red Raider offense was a dominant force on the Chattanooga football scene. Under the leadership of legendary coach E.B. “Red” Etter, Baylor rampaged through the regular season and straight to the championship game against Memphis Hillcrest, ending the season with a 13-0 record. Senior quarterback Bob Worthington says, “The year before, we fell short in the championship game. For the seniors, having an off-season to think about how painful it was to come so close gave us all a little motivation. We truly were on a mission to finish what we started our junior year.”
In addition to Worthington, key players who formed this mighty offense included Andy Rutledge (FB), Clay Gibson (TB), and Mike Shuford (WB). “Bob was a great leader,” shares Gene Etter, coach Etter’s son and defensive coordinator at the time. “The Raiders were a running team, so Bob didn’t have huge passing numbers – but he was a great passer, and he threw the winning pass in the state championship game.” Worthington finished his senior season with 888 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Rutledge and Gibson made headlines every Friday night for their running game. Rutledge, who was named “Player of the Year” in Chattanooga, had 90 carries for 989 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Gibson added 813 yards on 157 carries. The versatile Shuford secured 13 receptions for 315 yards and five touchdowns. According to Worthington, “What really helped us was that back then, at Baylor, we had almost 100 players – and no one played both offense and defense. As a result, 100% of practice time was dedicated to our positions. We had a very mature group on the offense and a team chemistry that’s hard to describe.”
Baylor played many memorable games in 1973, but no win was quite as sweet as the victory over City High School on September 21st – avenging a one-point loss from the previous year. Worthington remembers how lopsided the game was, as the Red Raiders were able to effortlessly claim a 33-0 halftime lead; Gibson, Rutledge, and Shuford all scored touchdowns. Coach Etter pulled the starters from the field in the second half, allowing the second string to wrap up the game 33-14. “Coach Etter told us that we had played a perfect half of football,” Worthington recalls. “He said that in all his years, he had never seen it, but he believed we had.”
“Nothing offensively ever matched the 1993 team,” recalls head coach Benny Monroe.
And the 14-0 record shows it – Cleveland scored a total of 623 points throughout the season, averaging 44.5 points per game. The Blue Raiders scored 70 points twice, with their first game ending in a 70-0 shutout against Hixson. “I was an attention-to-detail coach, and I always had a game plan for every opponent. But most of the time, I wouldn’t have a chance to use it because we were up so much in the first quarter,” Monroe says.
Much of Cleveland’s success is credited to its talented offensive lineup. With senior running backs Chris Whaley, Keith Cobb, and Kevin Cobb – all 1,000-plus-yard rushers – at the helm, running the ball was the offense’s strength. Junior Dante Hickey, a wide receiver, was another major playmaker for the team. “The hardest part was trying to figure out how to get the ball to everybody!” Kevin Cobb laughs. Monroe adds, “Our quarterback, Cory Prigmore, didn’t throw the ball very much until the championship game, because he didn’t have to.”
Whether the ball was given to Whaley, one of the Cobbs, or Hickey, the rest of the players were blocking and cheering their teammate on. “Everyone was unselfish,” Cobb says. “It didn’t matter who did what on offense; we just wanted to win the ball game. And it all started with the offensive line. Without those guys across the front, there’s no way we would have gotten those yards.”
While the Blue Raiders cruised through most of their season, the sixth game against Maryville offered the players a chance to prove their grit and mental toughness. “I remember specifically the Maryville game,” shares Cobb. “It was a rough game in the first half. But in the second half, we scored five back-to-back touchdowns on five plays. There were four of us with over 100 yards and two touchdowns each by the end of the game.”
Monroe remembers well the hard-earned state championship win against Brentwood Academy. “We got the ball back with two minutes left in the game on our 20-yard line and had to go the length of the field. That winning touchdown was something to see – Keith Cobb caught a pass from Cory, got hit, but still managed to reach over the goal line with the ball for a touchdown. I just thought, ‘What a tremendous play for an athlete to make.’”
After a grueling loss to Memphis Melrose in the ’96 state championship game, the Tyner Rams were looking to make a statement in 1997 – so they decimated Boyd Buchanan in the season opener 95-3. The Rams continued to barrel through the competition, scoring 76 on City High School, 60+ on Polk County, Whitwell, and Harriman, and ending the season with a total of 670 points (averaging 45 points per game).
Tyner’s massive leads in the first half would cause head coach Wayne Turner to shift strategy midway through the game. Quarterback Rory Hinton remembers, “Coach T would find me during halftime and say, ‘Rory, you aren’t going to be passing the ball very much. I’m only going to give you two or three attempts, so you better make the best of them.’” Hinton ended the ’97 season with over 2,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns.
Along with Hinton, running back Windarek “Squiggy” Stewart, wide receiver Anthony Jones, and fullback Kelvin Hughley formed the core group of offensive players for the Rams. Stewart and Hughley were 1,000-yard rushers, while Jones was the leading receiver in Chattanooga at the time. According to Turner, those players could do anything. “I don’t think they practiced more than anyone else or spent extra time in the weight room. We were just blessed with a lot of talent, and they truly enjoyed playing the game.”
Hinton believes that Turner had one of the toughest jobs that season. “I guess he didn’t have to, but Coach T tried to distribute the ball to as many different players as possible – there were just that many good players on the team. Even up to today, his offense is solid. Coach T is a football genius.”
Of their championship matchup against Union City, Turner and Hinton recall the big throw that earned Tyner the win in the game’s final minutes. Hinton shares, “In the huddle, Squiggy looked at me and said, ‘Rory, throw me the ball. I’m going to catch this ball.’ We’d been best friends since we were four, and I trusted him to do what he said he would do.” Despite Union City’s pervasive defense, the 29-yard pass connected with Stewart, and the Rams walked off Vanderbilt’s Dudley Field as champions.
With the graduation of star player Eddie Moore, Vic Grider’s 1999 Pirates had some big shoes to fill. The previous season had seen one loss – a devastating defeat at the hands of Trousdale – and for this senior-heavy team, it was now or never to claim a championship title.
The offense was stacked with 11 starting seniors, including quarterback Tim Starkey, running backs Sam Pickett and Ronnie Griffith, and fullbacks Matt Stone and Michael Griffith. “Sam was the fastest player on the field, no matter who he played,” recalls Stone. “He rushed for over 2,000 yards over the course of the season. Ronnie gave it 100% on every run, and he and Tim both rushed for more than 1,500 yards. Tim was silky smooth as quarterback; he was tough to bring down.”
According to Starkey, part of what made this Pirate offense so special was its history. “Our team had been playing together since 8th grade,” recalls the quarterback. “In fact, we beat the same Moore County team in 8th grade that we later played in the 1999 championship game. There was no way just one person could make our offense what it was – it was a combination of all of us.”
At 15-0, the Pirates’ undefeated season is often remembered by shutout games and massive 45-, 56-, and even 66-point leads. But game four, against rival Boyd Buchanan, presented more of a challenge. Starkey recalls, “Boyd was beating us with two minutes to go. We had the ball on our 20-yard line, and we began what was later dubbed the ‘desperation drive’ – 14 plays of driving the ball the length of the field, which ended with a touchdown dive by Sam.” South Pittsburg prevailed 17-14, their closest score that season.
A 42-13 win over Moore County in the championship game capped off an unforgettable year for South Pittsburg football. In this game, instead of the usual power I-formation, the offense switched to a regular I-formation, which gave Pickett more space to use his speed. And it paid off – Pickett rushed for 231 yards and six touchdowns, earning him Offensive MVP.
Starkey shares, “I wouldn’t say that we set the tone for the South Pittsburg program. The tone had already been set. But we wanted to leave a legacy, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Coach Tom Weathers and the 2000 Red Bank team were coming off a losing season. On top of that, the team’s roster was one of the smallest in their 5A classification – listing just 36 players by the time of the state championship game. And the first game of the season pitted Red Bank against Brentwood Academy, a football powerhouse with nine state championships under their belt.
“We didn’t know what was coming in the Brentwood game,” recalls offensive coordinator Jeff Chastain. “But our guys weren’t worried. They just expected to win.” And win they did, dominating offensively in the first quarter with a touchdown catch in the end zone by wide receiver Ryan McGinnis and a 93-yard touchdown run by Jamichael McGoy (RB). Red Bank finished the evening with 460 total yards and a score of 34-7. “That really created the momentum for the rest of the season,” says Jim Thurman, offensive tight end.
Red Bank’s perfect 15-0 season is often attributed to the prolific offense – including standouts like Fred Holder (QB), Gerald Riggs Jr. (RB), Cole Goins (FB), Thurman, McGinnis, and McGoy. But according to Thurman, the strong offensive line made their big plays possible: “The line is easy to overlook, but those players made the difference, whether we wanted to run the ball or pass.” Chastain agrees, citing the offensive line as key to the Red Bank offense. “Jerry Cotter, the offensive line coach, put them through a million situations at every practice. We didn’t run but five or six different running plays – we did those really well – but we could do them in almost any situation.”
A combination of hard work, focus, and professionalism among the team, plus a cohesive, experienced coaching staff, ultimately led Red Bank to the historic championship game against Riverdale. Even though they were down at halftime (an unusual spot for Red Bank), the team remained confident and beat Riverdale 27-7 – in the snow. Riggs, who carried for 209 yards and three touchdowns, was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player; he also earned the title of 5A Mr. Football Back of the Year.
“This team was family,” shares quarterback Fred Holder. “We grew up together and practiced together every day in the summer. The coaches all saw something special in us, and with the Red Bank community behind us, we were unstoppable.”
McCallie’s 2006 season saw a senior-dominated offense led by All-State quarterback B.J. Coleman and wide receiver Joel Bradford – one of the best QB/WR duos in the state. “We changed our whole offensive scheme to accommodate those guys,” remembers head coach Ralph Potter. “We learned a lot in the ’05 season and adapted.” Bradford recalls the offense being designed to give Coleman opportunities to throw the ball more than ever. “Our passing playbook just kept getting bigger and bigger,” he shares.
Coleman certainly left his mark that 2006 season. He racked up 2,994 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. “B.J. was an exceptional, outgoing leader,” Potter says. “Everyone played better around him. And he and Joel made quite the team – Joel had the speed and could run great routes.” Bradford ended the season with 49 catches, 996 yards, and three touchdowns.
Potter also points to the skill of senior Walter Dozier (WR), junior Johnny Newman (TE), senior Anthony Conney (RB), and junior Reggie Poindexter (RB) as integral to the team’s accomplishments. “Walter was a 1,000+ yard rusher, very smart, very physical, and Johnny was a great blocker,” Potter says. “Anthony and Reggie were a running threat. They kept people honest.” Rounding out the offense was McCallie’s phenomenal offensive line, which allowed the coaches a chance to experiment with new plays.
A memorable game against Riverdale, the first game of the season, jumpstarted McCallie’s dominance. In the fourth quarter, Riverdale was ahead by 14 points with two minutes left on the clock – and McCallie answered with 21 points of their own to win the game. Bradford relates, “The last play was a Hail Mary. The ball got bounced around a few times, and the winning 47-yard catch was made as the clock turned to zero. It was unreal.” McCallie finished their thrilling regular season 9-1.
When the Blue Tornado came short in the state championship game that year, the players were on the McCallie field the very next day playing touch football. “It wasn’t about the amount of wins that made us,” Bradford says. “It was enjoying the game of football – it was the people and the friendships. I’d like to think we set a good standard for the teams that followed, specifically for what the coaches expected in terms of work ethic, accountability, execution, and love of the game.”
The Signal Mountain Eagles didn’t just go undefeated in 2010; they brushed aside their opponents with ease, posting an astounding 722 points over 14 games for an average of 51.57 points per game. Not only that, but coach Bill Price’s Eagles managed a coveted state championship win in only their second year of varsity play – their high-powered offense ruled the field.
“They were determined. They had a goal in mind from the beginning,” says Price of his young team. “And the offense was incredibly unselfish – during the regular season, not one of the backs had more than 100 yards in a single game. We would switch out players every series.” In fact, in one single game, the Eagles had 15 players to carry the ball, including running backs Andrew Price, Gervell Morgan, Donnie Garner, Zack Bowman, Darien Hogans, and Mitchell Hall.
Quarterback Hogan Whitmire and All-State receivers Will Queen and Jon Patton were major offensive playmakers for the Eagles. Whitmire, a leader on and off the field, was a finalist for Mr. Football, passing for 2,499 yards and 30 touchdowns that season. Queen was known for catching Whitmire’s deep passes, while Patton racked up 746 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in the regular season.
The Eagles knocked off Friendship Christian, No. 1-ranked Trousdale County, and Boyd Buchanan in the state playoffs to meet Trinity Christian Academy in the Class 2A championship game. Although Trinity Christian took an early lead, Signal Mountain answered with five touchdowns of their own for a final score of 56-28. Garner was Offensive MVP with 218 yards and three touchdowns, and Whitmire completed four passes for 165 yards – including an impressive 80-yard pass to Queen.
So how did a two-year-old program produce one of the area’s highest scoring teams? “The weight room was very key to them, and we didn’t have any injuries that year,” Price relates. “But at the end of the day, they were just good friends, and they pushed each other to be the best. All the credit goes to them.”