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From the Archives: Taking a journey through the Southland Raiders’ historic 1986 football season; part 5

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

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 the Times-Recorder’s readers that I will make every effort to provide as much information as possible as the series progresses.
In our most recent installment, we read about the Raiders’ sixth and seventh victories of the season over Monroe Academy and Cavalry Baptist. The Southland squad had little trouble rolling over these non-region opponents and soon set their sights on their region schedule. With only four teams, including the Raiders, in the Georgia Independent School Association’s Region 1-AAA, Southland’s squad knew that they would have to continue their forward momentum if they wanted to go all the way, as any mistake could put their shot at the playoffs in jeopardy.
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In late October and early November of 1986, the national sports world was celebrating as the New York Mets had recently defeated the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series after seven games. The Americus High School Panthers were also preparing for the public school system football playoffs as the Americus City school board opened the first round of discussions about consolidation with the Sumter County Schools.
In other local news, a rash of thefts was being reported by the local police department and the Schley County Board of Commissioners had just voiced their support for a one-percent sales tax hike, to be voted on in the upcoming general election. At the same time, the Manhattan Shirt Company was preparing to celebrate 50 years of business in Americus. Amid all of this, the Times-Recorder’s pages were peppered with photographs and articles on the community’s preparations for the upcoming Halloween holiday.
Every Thursday, however, ATR sports editor, Ron Evans, would publish preview articles on the following weekend’s gridiron match-ups. Two days later, the Times-Recorder’s sports section would always include a recap of Friday’s action.
Evans elaborated on the Raiders’ readiness to take on Deerfield in an Oct. 23, 1986 article titled, “Southland comes back to face region rival, Deerfield-Windsor”.

From the 1987 Southland Academy Yearbook:   Southland’s Chan Reeves (25) rushes past a defender as Paul Kim (42) blocks during an early-season contest during the Raiders’ 1986 season.

From the 1987 Southland Academy Yearbook:
Southland’s Chan Reeves (25) rushes past a defender as Paul Kim (42) blocks during an early-season contest during the Raiders’ 1986 season.

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Southland comes back to face region rival, Deerfield-Windsor

By RON EVANS
ATR Sports Editor

“The classic match-up of the Georgia Independent School Association Class AAA is at hand Friday night in Albany and will be the number-two Deerfield-Windsor Knights hosting the number-one Southland academy Raiders in a battle which will also be the Region 1-AAA opener for both teams,” the article stated. “With three region games, this contest is that much more important.
“Southland is 7-0 and coming off of an open week. ‘A refreshing stop for the Raiders,’ according to Southland coach, Loveard McMichael.
“’Usually, we don’t like to take a week off but this was a good stop. It allowed us to heal some bumps and bruises…’ he said.
“’It’s going to be tough. They have real good speed both offensively and defensively,’ said McMichael…”
In Evans’ “Week’s Picks” column on the sports page of that same edition, the ATR sports editor wrote that, with the Raiders having an extra week to prepare for the region opener, he predicted a 14-point Southland victory, saying that the victor will likely be Southland, 21-7.
Evans wasn’t too far off, as evidenced by ATR correspondent, Mike Mead’s, recap of the match-up in the Oct’ 25 edition of the Times-Recorder dubbed, “No. 1 Southland whips No. 2, Deerfield”.
The content of this article is shared below:
No. 1     Southland whips No. 2, Deerfield

By MIKE MEAD
T-R Correspondent

“ALBANY – It takes two halves to make up a football game. However, the Southland Raiders needed only the second half last night at Webb Memorial Stadium to beat the Deerfield-Windsor Knights 26-14.
“The match-up pitted the Region 1-AAA and the GISA’s top-ranked teams. The Raiders came into the ballgame with a week’s rest and a 7-0 record while the Knights were at 6-0-1.
“Chan Reeves once again led the Raiders’ ground game with 178 yards and three touchdowns. Southland piled up 328 yards by rushing and amassed a total of 365 yards of offense to the Knights’ 115 total yards.
“’We did what we had to do,’ said [McMichael]. ‘Our offensive line dominated them.’
“Deerfield-Windsor head coach, Stuart Todd agreed. ‘Their line of scrimmage was just too much,’ he said. ‘Reeves is a fine running back but he didn’t hurt us as much as the line of scrimmage. They just whipped us.’
“The Knights gave the Raiders a good fight for three quarters of football. In fact, Deerfield-Windsor kept the Raiders at bay in the first half and held a narrow 7-6 halftime lead.
“Southland took the opening kickoff from their own 30 and drove to the Knights’ five. On fourth and four, the Raiders brought in Ray Clark to attempt a 22-yard field goal. The snap was mishandled and Clark tried to find someone in the end zone. Southland came up empty.
“Following the missed field goal attempt, the Knights utilized a combined drive of running and passing to cover the 90 yards to the Southland end zone and take a 7-0 lead following Ben Hockensmith’s one-yard run and Matt Thompson’s PAT with 10:16 remaining in the half.
“Southland took the ensuing kickoff and covered 80 yards in 12 plays as Reeves scored the first of three touchdowns. The Raider running back carried from four yards out with 3:29 remaining to pull Southland within one. On the conversion try, Clark had a poor snap and the kick failed as the Knights hung onto their slim lead at intermission.
“Souhtland controlled the Knights the remainder of the contest with pressure on quarterback, Scott Hockensmith.
“The Raiders’ next score came on a 13-play, 57-yard drive with quarterback, Stephen Summers, scoring from one yard out with 37 seconds left in the third quarter to put Southland on top 12-7. Again, the Raiders couldn’t convert the extra point as Summers was stopped on the run.
“On the first play of the fourth quarter, Deerfield-Windsor fumbled and the Raiders took over at their own 47. Southland took advantage this time of the Knights’ mistake and cashed it in for six points. Six plays later, Reeves carried from six yards out with 8:39 left in the ballgame and Southland was in control with an 18-7 lead.
“Reeves would hit the end zone one more time. After a stalled Deerfield-Windsor Drive, Southland goth the ball at their own 41. David Roach raced 58 yards to the goal and Reeves crossed the line on the next play.
“The Knights’ second score came on an 80-yard return by Greg Griffith, who recovered another Raider fumble with 22 seconds left. The Raiders continue their region play next Friday when they travel to Damascus to face Southwest Georgia.”
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The Times-Recorder’s article on the upcoming match-up against Southwest Georgia Academy has, unfortunately, been lost to the ages, as has the publication’s recap of the game. What is known, however, is that the Raiders expected a tough contest and that’s exactly what they got. After 48 minutes of a brutal back-and-forth battle, the Raiders dropped their first decision of the season, taking a 15-14 loss. It’s likely that the match presented tough challenges for both teams, with each eager to come out on top of the region and head into the upcoming playoffs. As evidenced by Evans’ writing the following Thursday in an article titled, “Southland takes on Riverview in a must-win situation”, the Raiders still had a shot at the playoffs… The only thing standing in their way was one final match-up against the Riverview Academy team.
“The Southland Academy Raiders are in a pickle,” Evans wrote. “They are playing for the playoffs on this, the last game of the regular season Friday night at Raider Stadium against Riverview Academy, of Albany.
“After last week’s shocking upset by Southwest Georgia Academy, 15-14, Southland finds itself having to win rather than just having the luxury of having to win…
“’We just got outplayed last week,’ said [McMichael]. ‘We have to beat Riverview to go on. The top teams from the region go on to post-season play… We can beat Riverview. We have a chance… Maybe last week’s loss was good for us if we can turn it into something positive. Nobody likes to lose.’”
As it turned out, the Raiders would manage to turn their luck around in their final regular-season match-up. The following Saturday, ATR correspondent, Randy Williams, penned an article detailing the match titled, “Roach shows way for Southland Raiders”.
“David Roach took out the do-it-yourself kit Friday night as he led the [Raiders] to a 28-6 victory over Region 1-AAA opponent, Riverview Academy at Raider Stadium Friday,” Williams wrote. “The win clinched a spot for the Raiders in the Georgia Independent School Association state playoffs which begin next Friday.
“In the game with Riverview, Roach came up with two interceptions, a 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown, and an eight-yard run off a high snap on a field goal attempt to pace the Raiders.
“The win sends the Raiders against number-five, Mt. DeSales at First Presbyterian Field in Macon next Friday.
“Mt. DeSales was 7-1-1 going into Friday night’s game. Southland defeated Mt. DeSales earlier this season 31-7 at home but [McMichael] doesn’t take this game lightly. “They are much improved since we played them,” he said.
“The Raiders drew first blood with just 27 seconds gone from the game. After an illegal motion penalty moved the ball back to the Raider 15, Chan Reeves took the pitch from quarterback, Stephen Summers, and scampered 85 yards for the score. Reeves finished the night with 140 yards on 16 carries and the touchdown.
“The second time the number-three Raiders hit paydirt was with 3:48 left in the half when – who else? – but David Roach picked up a loose ball at the Riverview 39 and ran the distance to give Southland a 14-0 lead.
“Southland then got the ball back again with less than two minutes to go only to have Paul Kim fumble on his own 27 where Riverview’s Chris Utz pounced on the ball giving the Vikings one last shot before halftime with 11 seconds left.
“Riverview quarterback, Tracy Baird was then pressured as he faded to the 40 and was hit sending a less-than-admirable pass that landed in the waiting arms of David Harris at the 30. Harris then went 70 yards untouched to give the Raiders a 21-0 lead with no time left in the half.
“The Vikings came out of the locker room with a passing attack that saw them score with 9:07 left in the third with Baird hitting Bobby Addison from three yards out. The conversion attempt failed.
“Baird finished the night with 164 yards, a touchdown, and four interceptions. Riverview tailback, Craig Howell, finished with just 46 yards on 17 carries.
“Roach handled a bad snap and dodged his way into the end zone for the game’s final touchdown with 1:34 left in the third period. Ray Clark’s point after was good as the Raiders won their ninth game of the year after losing a tough one last week to Southwest Georgia.
“Southland improved their Ragion 1-AAA mark as well, closing out at 2-1 in the region. Riverview finished 1986 at 6-4 and 1-2 in the region.
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Be sure to join us next week as we delve deeper into the Southland Raiders’ epic 1986 season and discuss the team’s opening contest of the playoffs; a rematch against Mt. DeSales Academy, as well as the team’s trip to Savannah to take on Savannah Christian in the semifinals.