From the archives: Continuing our journey through AHS’s historic 1965 season
By MICHAEL MURRAY
Editor’s Note: Here at the Americus Times-Recorder, we’re very proud of our area’s rich history of sporting excellence. Our readers will remember that we recently concluded a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Americus High School’s epic 1975 football season. Since then, we have heard a great many requests to run a series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Panthers’ 1965 season, in which the team went undefeated, rolling over opponent after opponent on their way to a sweep of the state championship series.
While delving through our back issues and expansive archives, we have uncovered a wealth of photographs and articles written by former Times-Recorder sports editor, the late Clarence Graddick, during that era.
In our last installment of the series, we shared the details of the Panthers’ first game of the season against the Cochran County Royals. The next week, the Panthers traveled to Crisp County to face another longtime rival.
On Sept. 3, 1965, as local residents were getting their grills ready for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, national broadcasting stations were determining the best way to make the switch to color broadcasting for their prime-time schedules, and communities all over the country were in the process of integrating public schools, the Panthers returned to the gridiron in Cordele to face Crisp County’s squad, then dubbed, “The Rebels”.
Graddick chronicled the Panthers’ second victory of the season over Crisp County in a September 6, 1965 article titled, “Panthers Romp To 21-0 Victory Over Crisp”.
A portion of this article is shared below:
PANTHERS ROMP TO 21-0 VICTORY OVER CRISP: Reeves Leads Balanced Attack; Defense Excels
By CLARENCE GRADDICK
Sports Editor, Times-Recorder
CORDELE, Ga. – The Americus High Panthers, led by their star quarterback, David Reeves, put forth a good team effort to down a promising Crisp County High eleven 21-0 here before a good opening night crowd of about 2,000 fans at Williams Field.
Reeves led the Americus team in all offensive categories but he received more than ample help from a stout defensive line and good running backs. The Americus defense also did everything it was asked to do including turning back a deep penetration by Crisp County at the Americus five-yard line in a magnificent goal line stand.
A short pount by Charles Garwood following a bad break by the Crisp County team started the Panthers goalward the first time they had the ball. Buck Shiver moved the ball for a first down on two runs that gained 17 yards to the Crisp County 28. On third and ten, Reeves tossed a log pass to cousin Gary Reeves, end, over the goal and Gary pulled the ball in on a good catch for the initial six points. David then split the uprights for the extra point.
Shortly after the second period got underway Mike Fennessy went over the right side on a quicky for the second Americus score and again David added the extra point. Fennessy almost made it a play earlier as he broke away for a 24-yard jaunt to place the ball on the one. David also had a 20-yard run and two passes to Bill Chambliss good for 17 yards in the march that was started on the Americus 44 when Bo Sullivan recovered a Crisp fumble.
The longest march of the night came from the opening kickoff of the second half as the Panthers put the ball in play at their own 36 after Harold Horne had returned the Garwod kick 25 yards. David scored this touchdown personally from the one to cap the drive and added the final extra point for the 21-0 lead. The long gainers in this drive were a 21-yard run by David and a 29-yard gallop by Chambliss.
David was the leading ground gainer for the Panthers as he picked up 56 yards in six carries and was credited with a 25-yard punt return as he ran through the entire Crisp team for an apparent 65-yard touchdown but a clipping penalty nullified all but 25 yards. He also completed four passes in ten attempts for 76 yards including the touchdown heave of 28 yards. He was forced to punt only twice and had a neat 45-yard average.
Graddick went on to praise the defensive efforts of Ronnie Adkins, Phil Saunders, David Ragsdale, and Harold Horne, as part of the defensive line that held the Rebels to only seven first downs, 59 rushing yards, and 14 yards through the air.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers gained 11 first downs, 175 rushing yards and 76 yards passing. Graddick also commended Chambliss and Fennessy for their outstanding offensive performances. Chambliss gained 39 yards on four runs while Fennessy contributed 36 yards on four carries to the victory.
With their second win of the season on the books, the Panthers began buckling down in preparation for the team’s upcoming contest against the Bainbridge Bearcats in Americus. In a September 8 Times-Recorder article, titled, Panthers in good shape for Bearcats, Graddick updated local readers on the details of the match.
“”The Bainbridge team will present a problem for the Panthers in the line as, for the first time this season, the Panthers will be outweighed,” he wrote. “Not only does Bainbridge have a big line, they have plenty of experience as well.”
“The Bainbridge backfield will bear watching also since it is lighter than usual but with a big, hard charging fullback. The Bearcats are expected to be fast and will no doubt use plenty of trick stuff.”
In the next day’s edition, Graddick penned another preview of the upcoming game, titled, “Rested Bainbridge ready for Panthers”.
In the article, Graddick noted that the Bearcats would be looking to “stop the Panthers after two straight wins and at the same time give their coach, Spencer Davis, a victory over his old classmate, Coach Hightower. Hightower ran the team through a defensive setup against what he expects the Bearcat offense to be like.”
In the article, Graddick went on to mention that three of the Panthers’ players had recently missed practice due to illness and that Buck Shiver was limping slightly on a bruised leg, but would likely be ready to play by game time.
Editor’s note: Once again, the Panthers brought in a huge victory over their Bainbridge opponents, leaving the field with a 20-0 win and
attracting the notice of gridiron enthusiasts from all over the area. Graddick chronicled the win in the September 1, 1965 edition of the Times-Recorder with an article titled, “Panthers Shutout Bainbridge Before Large Crowd Here”.
Be sure to check out next Wednesday’s edition of “From the Archives” as we highlight the Panthers’ match against the Bearcats and share more of the Times-Recorder’s coverage of the Panthers’ awesome 1965 season.