From the Archives: Taking a journey through the Southland Raiders’ historic 1986 football season; part 4
By MICHAEL MURRAY
Editor’s note: We, at the Americus Times-Recorder, enjoy celebrating our area’s history of athletic excellence. Most recently, we have embarked on a journey into the past to detail the thirtieth anniversary of the Southland Academy Raiders’ awesome 1986 football season. While poring through our archives of old editions from the period, we have uncovered a wealth of knowledge about that epic football season, in which the Raiders plowed their way past competitor after competitor en route to the school’s very first football state championship victory.
While exploring the archives, I have found that the microfilms, on which many of the editions from the mid-1980’s were reproduced, has begun to deteriorate. Unfortunately, that means that I cannot go into the amount of detail that I would like to in retelling the stories of some of the Raiders’ exciting victories. Though this will likely be a disappointment to some fans, I can assure you that I will make every effort to provide as much information as possible as the series progresses.
In our latest installment, we discussed the Raiders’ exciting 38-6 victory over the Westwood Wildcats. Following their fifth win of the season, the Raiders and their coaching staff dutifully continued their training in anticipation of the following week’s match-up against Monroe Academy.
In early October 1986, the eyes of the world were on Nicaragua, a country ruled by the Sandinista regime that had recently captured an American pilot, Eugene Hasenfus, who was alleged to be attempting to deliver supplies to the country’s Contra rebels. At the same time, then U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, was preparing to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev of the former USSR to discuss restrictions on armaments during the Cold War. In local news, the Sumter County Sheriff was investigating a stabbing that had recently occurred off of Highway 27 as well as the recent drowning of a Leslie resident in Fort Valley.
With all of this commotion going on globally as well as locally, ATR readers would often turn to the sports page for a reprieve from these heavy-handed events.
The ATR’s sports page certainly didn’t disappoint local fans. Like clockwork, the section would be released daily, chock full of good news about area athletics. Among these articles, the most prominent series was most certainly the saga of the Raiders’ rise to prominence.
With the Southland squad still feeling the rush of victory following their most recent win over Westwood, ATR sports editor, Ron Evans, published a preview of the team’s upcoming tilt against Monroe Academy titled, Southland readies for Monroe Academy”.
A portion of this article is shared below:
Southland readies for Monroe Academy
By RON EVANS
“On paper, and coaches care very little about what’s on paper, the Southland Raiders should handle Monroe Academy very easily. But then again, that’s on paper.
“The Raiders, 5-0 and coming off of a 36-8 victory over Westwood Saturday, haven’t played Monroe in quite some time. In fact, Raider head coach, Loveard McMichael can’t recall the last meeting. This fact also should play into the hands of the Raiders.
“But McMichael has an ace in the hole – It’s homecoming this Friday at Raider Stadium and homecomings always get the host teams fired up.
“Monroe, also a Class AAA member from Forsyth, is 1-4 on the season. Good thing for the homecoming.
“’They have a lot of people going both ways,’ said McMichael, who platoons quite a number of players. ‘And, they have played tough opponents this season…’
“The game could be a letdown for the number-one-ranked Raiders, but McMichael doesn’t think it will plague them all evening. The Raiders led just 14-0 against Westwood before exploding in the second half and putting the game away.
“McMichael praised the play of corner back, David Roach; tailback, Chan Reeves; and quarterback, Stephen Summers. ‘[Summers] has done a good job for us,’ said McMichael. ‘He gets us yardage when he has been trapped.’
“Because the Raiders have dominated play thus far, scoring 34.6 points a game while giving up just 6.8, McMichael has not had to run the option much. ‘We probably will this week, just to get ready for region,’ he said.’
“McMichael also pointed out the play of Keith Braswell at offensive center and David Harris at linebacker and fullback. ‘Both of them are improving each week,’ he said.”
Any fears of a letdown that Evans may have entertained would soon prove to be unfounded, however, soon after the Raiders took the field in Americus. Southland’s Chan Reeves made sure that the local fans knew that the Raiders had come to win… And that, they did.
On Oct. 4, 1986, the day after this match-up, Evans published another article detailing the Raiders’ victory titled, “Reeves gets down and dirty”.
“At least he got his uniform dirty,” the article read. “Southland Academy’s Chan Reeves fired up the homecoming crowd at Raider Stadium with a four-carry, 195-yard, two-touchdown performance to lead the Raiders in a 27-6 sweep of Monroe Academy.
“Reeves, who also added one reception for 3 yards went 76 yards on the first play of the game for the opening score with 11:08 left. Ray Clark added the first of three PAT’s on the night.
“‘It was kind of easy for us after that,’ said [McMichael], referring to the Reeves run. ‘We kind of let down a little after that.’”
The remainder of the article, detailing the Raiders’ subsequent trio of touchdowns is, unfortunately, lost to the ages, as the microfilm on which the edition was produced has deteriorated with age. The following week, Evans published another article on Reeves titled, “Chan Reeves speaks softly but carries a big stick”. Unfortunately, the bulk of this article has been rendered illegible over the years as well.
With their sixth win of the season on the record books, the Raiders got some rest in anticipation of a road trip to Savannah on Oct. 10 for their final non-region contest against the Cavalry Baptist Cavaliers.
Evans detailed this upcoming match in the Oct. 9 edition of the Times-Recorder in a piece dubbed, “McMichael has Raiders eyeing Calvary”.
“Once again, the chore of keeping his troops feet down on the ground and their sights on the opponent at hand lies with [McMichael]…,” the article stated.
“This week’s foe is Cavalry Baptist, 2-3 Friday night in Savannah. Cavalry is coming off of a 14-3 loss to Tatnall Square.
“‘Cavalry Baptist is two different teams. They don’t give up many points but don’t score many either. They are big and aggressive on the defense,’ said McMichael. ‘They play real fine defense, but their offense has made some mistakes that have cost them some games. This will be our biggest test, offensively, this year.’
“McMichael is putting his team through workouts in preparation for Cavalry with blinders. The Raiders open Region 1-AAA play the following week with Deerfield-Windsor, ranked number-two.
“‘The kids are looking forward to playing [Deerfield-Windsor,’ said McMichael. ‘But we’ll have to get past Cavalry first and then we’ll have an open week to get ready for them…’”
The article went on to provide details on some of the Cavaliers’ key players.
Once again, the Southland team kept the visitors’ section of the stands on the edges of their seats as they went on to snag another substantial victory in that test.
ATR sports writer, Mike Mead, told the story the following day in a piece titled, “Southland puts on show-stopper”.
A portion of this article is shared below:
Southland puts on show-stopper
By MIKE MEAD
T-R Sports Writer
“SAVANNAH – The marquee of the old drive-in read Cavalry Baptist versus Southland Academy. The visiting Raiders put on another fine performance with Chan Reeves taking the lead role in Southland’s 35-13 win over the Cavaliers here Friday night.
“The win makes the Raiders 7-0 on the year and will now take a week off in preparation for the Region 1-AAA opener with Deerfield-Windsor. Cavalry Baptist drops to 2-4.
“‘I was pleased with our offense and defense overall,’ said [McMichael. ‘Defensively, we shut them down when we had to in the first half. ‘The Raiders’ offense, led by Reeves, who rushed 10 times for 118 yards and four touchdowns, one off of a 90-yard kickoff return. [The Raiders] racked up 220 yards total in the first half to take a commanding 28-6 lead by the intermission.
“Reeves accounted for all of the first-half scoring except for the extra points which were taken care of by Ray Clark.
“The aggressive Raider defense helped set up the Raiders’ first two scores. The first score came in the first quarter after Phil Hart recovered a Cavalier fumble at the hosts’ 41-yard line. The Raiders attacked quickly with Reeves scoring from 36 yards out.
“The Raider defense again helped put points on the board as Doug Davis intercepted a Keller Parker pass at the 42 of Southland. From there, the Raiders put together an eight-play, 42-yard scoring drive with Reeves rushing in from 25 yards out.
“Reeves again scored [in the second quarter] with a… run to cap off a… nine-play drive.
“Cavalry Baptist eventually scored quickly thereafter…
“On the ensuing kickoff, Reeves bobbled the ball at his own 10, but picked it up and then raced 90 yards for the score and to again keep the Cavaliers down…”
The remainder of this article is, unfortunately, illegible in the ATR archives, but it is certainly a safe bet to say, judging by the final score, that the rest of the game was just as exciting for the Raiders and their fans as the first half had been.
Former Southland Academy Headmaster, Melvin Kinslow, who certainly knows his way around a successful sports program, having previously served as a basketball, football, and baseball coach at Americus High School, recently sat down with the Times-Recorder to discuss the Raiders’ historic 1986 gridiron season.
Kinslow attributed much of the team’s success to the team’s leadership, saying, “They had a really good coaching staff then. Coach McMichael had a lot of experience. He played for me over at Americus High School. He played everything. Coach McMichael was a great athlete. He played football. Basketball, and baseball. We won the championship in baseball when he was playing.
“He came back to us [at Southland]. We were getting ready to hire a football coach. He was the first person that came to my mind because I knew that he knew the game. He had played it. He had studied it. He was a student of the game and I knew that he knew what to do. And it proved to be true.
“He’s won three state championships, I believe, [at Southland]. He’s the only [football coach] that we’ve had to win a championship at Southland. You can tell from that that he was a good football coach. Besides that, he was a good person.
“With that much knowledge, he could put together a good team because he knew the game, was a good disciplinarian, and expected his players to do the right thing.”
Though singing the praises of the team’s leadership, Kinslow certainly did not discount the players’ hard work and dedication during that time, particularly some of the team’s unsung heroes. “As far as the players are concerned, he had a great group of players,” he continued. “They were good athletes. We’re talking about Chan Reeves and Stephen Summers. You take Paul Kim and Bud Harrod … We had several of those linemen there who probably didn’t receive as much credit as they deserved. When you’re watching a football game, you see the backs and the quarterbacks and the wide receivers, but the people that are doing the trench work… those offensive and defensive linemen… they make the difference.
“You can’t run the football 80 yards on a play unless you’re getting some blocking. All of those guys that played in the lone, offensively and defensively, they were the difference. They don’t get enough credit. That’s the way that I see it.”
Asked if the fans were surprised to see the team doing as well as they did in what many thought would be a rebuilding year, Kinslow responded, “I knew all of those kids coming back… It didn’t surprise me any because I knew their athletic ability. I knew some of their parents who had played… who were very supportive. They would work with their kids… I saw them grow up from the time they were in midget football all the way through their high school careers. No, it didn’t surprise me one bit. Now, for the layperson who was reading about them and saying, ‘You know, they’ve lost 12 seniors… I don’t know what they’re going to do…’ It may have been a surprise to them, but to me, having coached football, and knowing athletes like I do… No, it wasn’t a surprise.”
On the general feeling around the school as the team approached its first state football title win, Kinslow said. “We were really excited. There were pep rallies and the stands were full whenever we had a game. People would be standing up behind the seating. We had a capacity home crowd for those games. Everybody was behind them and it was just an amazing, electric atmosphere.”
Be sure to visit us next week as we continue to delve into our past editions and celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Raiders’ first state football championship win. When we return, we will discuss how the team opened their region schedule and, eventually, earned a spot in the state playoffs.
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