From the archives: Taking a journey through AHS’s historic 1965 season

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 25, 2015

ATR File Photo

This photo from the Sept. 11, 1975 edition of the Times-Recorder shows Bill Chambliss (20) gaining ground for the Panther offense. The original caption reads, “Bill Chambliss gets away on a good run for the Panthers.”

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 have recently begun 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 read about the Panthers’ shutout win over Crisp County and how the team was preparing for their third contest of the season against the Bainbridge Bearcats the following week.
Emblazoned across the front page of the Sept. 11, 1965 edition of the Times-Recorder was the story of yet another Panther victory. Alongside this exciting article were Associated Press articles about Pakistani air raids in India and aquanauts preparing to emerge from the U. S. Navy’s Sealab II underwater habitat.
Also on the front page of the paper was an article about Panther Head Coach, Jimmy Hightower, in which he addressed the local Kiwanis Club and discussed the team’s success so far in the season, giving, “much credit to the community support and encouragement, the types of athletes produced here, and the able personnel in is coaching staff.”
The article went on to describe Hightower’s assertion that, “Boys playing on Americus teams have great personal pride, a fine attitude, and good discipline, declared the coach who has an amazing record of 48 victories, only eight defeats, and three ties during the years he has coached here.”
The Panthers had faced Bainbridge the previous evening, grabbing a 20-0 win. Below, we have shared the late ATR sports editor, Clarence Graddick’s, review of the game.
In our archives, the first column of Graddick’s article on the Panthers’ matchup against the Bearcats is somewhat obscured due to the manner in which the volumes were bound, so the beginning of the article is, necessarily, paraphrased.

Panthers Shutout
Bainbridge Before Large Crowd Here

Sports Editor, Times-Recorder

The Americus High Panthers again used a balanced attack on a rugged defense, led by Ronnie Adkins, to roll up their third straight win of the young football season here Friday downing a determined, if outmanned, Bainbridge before about 2,000 fans.
Graddick then went on to describe the action of the game,  writing that, “The first quarter resembled a chess game, except for its rapid movement as the two teams would run three plays and be forced to punt.”
Though the first quarter went scoreless, Bill Chambliss was instrumental in the Panthers’ first scoring drive early in the second quarter, catching a pass from quarterback, David Reeves, and running it all the way to the Bainbridge 22, where a trio of defenders were waiting on him. Chambliss managed to evade these defenders, with a quick juke that “left them chasing air” as he sped into the end zone. David Reeves then kicked the PAT to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Gary Reeves was the next scorer for the Panthers, capping off the team’s drive by catching a 14-yard pass in the end zone. David, once again, kicked the extra point to make it 14-0 going into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers recovered a Bainbridge fumble late in the third quarter, leaving them in striking distance. Chambliss pushed the ball an additional 11 yards before the clock ran out.
When play resumed, “Michael Fennessy wound up the Panthers early in the quarter” as he crashed to the 1-yard line to cap off the drive that began in the previous period. Fennessy then made another push into the end zone. David’s kick sailed wide, holding the Panthers’ lead to 20-0, where it would remain until the gun.
Graddick sang the praises of the Panthers’ defense, particularly Ronnie Adkins, who “was all over the field as he backed up the line for the Panthers and repeatedly made jarring tackles to stop the Bainbridge attack. He also moved out the Bainbridge defenders for the ball carriers as he played tackle on offense. The 6’2”, 210-pounder was also the first Panther downfield on the Americus punts.
“The Panther defense was not all Adkins, however, as Bo Sullivan, end; Phil Saunders, tackle; Pete Smith, tackle; Danny McGowan, linebacker; Jack Szares, guard; Harold Horne, outside linebacker; and Chambliss, halfback, all got in solid blows for the Panther cause. Sullivan, in particular, got in several hard tackles that jarred the opponents.
“The Americus defense, which has not allowed a point scored on it this season, blanked the Bainbridge team with no first downs during the first half. After two quick first downs, one running and the other one on the one pass completion of the game for the Bearcats, following the second-half kickoff, there was not another first down made by the visitors until a complete second team was in the game on defense for the Panthers.”
Further in the article, Graddick highlighted the Panthers’ offense, saying that “Chambliss led the running attack for the Panthers with 63 yards in 11 runs. David [Reeves] moved the ball 59 yards in six tries for a fraction less than 10-yards per try and had the best running average. Buck Shiver added 34 yards in seven runs and appeared to be a bit bothered by a bruised leg that has slowed him in practice this week. Fennessy moved the ball 16 yards in five tries and also aided and abetted the defensive forces in the middle of the line.
“Americus also won the battle of the figures as it pulled up 12 first downs to four for Bainbridge; 184 yards rushing to 94; and completed six passes in 13 tries to one completion in four tries for the losers.”
The following Friday, the Panthers took a well-earned night off from the bright lights of the gridiron, giving them a chance to rest and recuperate before facing their fourth challenger of the season, Worth County.
On the Friday of the Panthers’ bye week, Graddick used one of his weekly “Sportingly Yours” editorial columns to deliver a rather blunt message to the state’s All-Star Pickers.
On September 17, 1965 he published his column in the Times-Recorder. In a section of the editorial titled, “THE BONE OF CONTENTION”, he wrote:
“In the language of the youth of today, something is bugging me. Namely, the All-Star pickers around the state.
“After the first two games, or rather, after the second since none were picked for the first, there was no mention of any of the men on defense for the Americus team, only offense leaders or better yet the ones who were responsible for scoring,
“In the past, I have refrained from saying anything about the so-called roll-call because really I have very little to do with it since those who pick apparently feel they can do a better job than one who saw the game. This does not cover this year alone but has been going on since the roll call was instituted.
“Back to this year – in all games, I have emphasized the good defense of the Panthers in reporting the games and last week threatened to cut all relations if they didn’t use a defensive standout. Even with getting one, Ronnie Adkins, mentioned, it still is not fair to a number of boys who also had a great hand in the magnificent defense of this game and the others of the season.
“Also, I don’t mean that this should take away from the good job done by the Americus offense but by the same token it takes more than one or two anytime to have a winning team and, this year in particular, I think Americus has that balance on both offense and defense that it takes to have a good team.”
Editor’s note: Graddick’s strong words on the Americus team’s excellent defense would continue to ring truer and truer as the season progressed and the Panthers played their next five games without giving up a single point.
Be sure to check out next Wednesday’s edition of “From the Archives” as we highlight the Panthers’ match against Worth County and share more of the Times-Recorder’s coverage of the Panthers’ awesome 1965 season.