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Athens at Andalusia 1976 State Championship game
by Brant Locklier
from the Press Box

    The night was December 3, 1976. It was a crisp, cool evening in Andalusia. It was on this night that the Andalusia "Bulldogs" with a record of (13-0) would host the powerful defending state champion Athens "Golden Eagles" for the Class 3A State Championship. For the Bulldogs, it was their fourth straight year of being in this position. The three previous years they had come up empty-handed, losing to the state champions. Little did anyone know that this would be the only State Championship game ever played in Andalusia as the AHSAA would move the title games to a central site a few years later.

     The previous year, after playing a brilliant first half, they were blown out 35-15 by this same Athens team in Athens in the state finals. In 1976, once again, Andalusia had gone unbeaten in the regular season (for the fourth straight year) and ripped up everyone in South Alabama. They were coming off a superior performance the week before, in the crushing of previously unbeaten Lanett, 35-0.

    Athens, meanwhile, was rolling merrily along wiping out everyone in their path. Athens is a huge football team and outweighs the Andalusia defensive line some 60 pounds per man. But, this December, the mighty Golden Eagles had to come to Andalusia, and Andalusia hoped to claim the state title that they had so narrowly missed in their three previous years.

    The spirit was really up in Andalusia. At the school, there was a massive pep rally that lasted almost all day on the front lawn. The gates to the stadium opened at 5:00, the earliest ever at Andalusia, and the masses of football fans began to pour in. It was not long before the stadium was filled and busting over. Both teams came onto the field to warm up around 7:00. The Andalusia fans watched in awe as the massive "Golden Eagle" football team left the field for their final pregame strategy session. As they ran from the field for that session they deliberately ran directly in front of the Andalusia side and each player had his right hand above his head indicating that, they indeed, were number one.

    Both teams were now cleared off the field and the excitement began to build up anticipation for what could be one of the finest games every played in this area. The Athens' fans formed a tunnel on the field for their team to run through. The team captains met at the 50-yard-line to toss the coin. Athens won the toss and elected to receive. Both teams came busting onto the field, mobbing each other obviously inspired, while both school bands blasted away.

    The largest crowd ever to see an Andalusia football game was on its feet and roaring as they awaited the kickoff by the Dogs' Mark Chavers. There were people everywhere: they were in the end zone, on the banks, on the walls, and standing 5 and 6 deep all the way around the bowl-shaped stadium. Athens had their two super backs Steve Parker and Adolph Cosby, back deep for the kick. Parker is the fastest athlete in the state and Cosby is right behind him. Parker has a 9.4 in the 100 to his credit, Cosby a 9.6. So the stage was set. Athens in gold pants with a black stripe down the sides, white jerseys with black numbers and a black strip on their shoulders, and black helmets with Gold A on it. Andalusia was in white pants, red jerseys, white numbers and black helmets with a red A outlined in white on it.

    Andy's Mark Chavers slowly approached the ball and deliberately squib- kicked and it was returned to the Athens 30 by Parker of Athens where he was mobbed by Andalusia tacklers. On the first play, disaster almost struck Athens as nose guard Rickey Vinson of the Dogs knocked the ball loose from Parker as he hit the line of scrimmage. Athens had luck on its side of the play, however, as they recovered it 11 yards up field on the 42. Andalusia linebacker C.B. Landrum advanced it that far as he tried to pick it up and run with it, but could never find the handle. Had he been able to pick it up, it would have been an almost certain 6 points.

    Three more running plays by Athens could only net 6 yards to the 47 yard line, as the Andalusia defense was swarming and making bone crushing tackles. Another Athens fumble, caused by Ricky Vinson again, rolled out of bounds during these 3 plays. Athens punted all the way to the Andalusia 8 yard line to put the Dogs in a deep hole, but the Andy defense left the field to a standing ovation from the home folks.

    Andalusia came out in its wishbone with big All-State senior fullback Bobby Johnson at the point of the wishbone. Flanking him were John Anderson and Clarence Bell. At the helm was quarterback David Anthony. Bobby Johnson carried into the tough Athens line 3 times but came up a yard short of the first down by a yard as the ball was advanced to the 17. Andy was in such bad position they couldn't try anything fancy. The following punt was a disaster as it carried only 18 yards to the 35. Athens had it first and 10 on the Andalusia 35 yard line.

    On the first play swift Steve Parker slipped down to the 27 yard line for 8 yards and it looked like Athens was on the way in for a score. 3 plays later, though, the swarming Dog defense held on a fourth down try by the Golden Eagles at the 26. Ricky Vinson met QB Blane Bolton head on at the 26 to stop the Athens drive cold. The fired up Andalusia defense left the field to a roaring ovation. This first team defense had only allowed 4 touchdowns all season long and they appeared to be ready for anything on this night as the offense took over on their own 26. On first down the Dogs quarterback Anthony dropped back and fired a bomb that fell incomplete in Athens territory. 2 running plays after that saw Johnson and Ball only gained 7 combined yards so the Dogs had to punt.

    Again, another bad punt, this time only 11 yards to the 44 yard line. Once again the Golden Eagles got the ball in Andalusia territory. On the first play, Ricky Vinson broke through and sacked Athens running back Charlie Harris for an eight yard loss, back at the Athens 48 yard line. Two scrambling runs by quarterback Blane Bolton, attempting to pass, moved the ball to the 35 of Andalusia. It was fourth and one and Athens decided to go for it. All State running back Adolph Cosby was given the ball and exploded up the middle all the way down to the 12 yard line before he was dragged down. 2 plays later, Cosby took a pitch and went around the end for a 9 yard touchdown jaunt. The extra point was true and with 2:13 to go in the 1st quarter, it was Athens 7, Andalusia 0 with the Athens fans cheering wildly.

    Athens kicked off and Clarence Ball carried it back to the 30. Johnson gained 6 to the 36, but on the next play Andalusia fumbled and Athens had recovered at the Andy 36.The Bulldog defense started out again with their backs to their own goal line. Steve Parker gained 10 yards on 2 carries to give Athens a first down at the Andy 25 as the quarter ended. The Andalusia crowd was now up as they sensed that if Athens scored here, this ballgame was over. The Andalusia defense dug in and stopped 2 straight running plays, and an incomplete pass. It was now 4th and 8 from the 23. Athens went for it and failed when a pass fell incomplete at the Dogs' 9 yard line. As the defense left the field, they received another standing ovation. Now could the offense get something going?

    Andalusia took over at their own 23. John Anderson on a counter play ripped off 15 yards to the 38. First down, the Dogs were out of the hole and the crowd was alive with hope. Clarence Bell got 6 to the 44. Two carries later, Johnson got another first down at their own 48. Johnson then ripped around the end and on a spectacular run picked up a first down at the Athens 42. Johnson came within one man of breaking it all the way. Two plays later on a 3rd and 7 from the Athens 40 yard line, disaster struck the Bulldogs. Quarterback Anthony rolled right and pitched out to no one. All State defensive end Ollie McGhee of Athens picked up the ball and got to the Andalusia 39 yard line before Anthony made a game saving tackle.

    For the fourth straight time, Athens got the ball in Andalusia territory. Three plays later the inspired defense had thrown Athens back 7 yards further than from where they started. One of the key plays was a 10 yard loss that defensive end Mike Etheridge inflicted on QB Blane Bolton. Since it was 4th and 17 on the Andy 46, Athens punted. The punt sailed to the Dogs' 25 and the offense took over, as once again the defense had held and the home crowd was roaring.

    On first down, Ball got 3 to the 28, then Bobby Johnson exploded for 16 yards to the 44 yard line. Three plays later Andy had to punt, as the Athens defense was showing how very tough it was, too. The punt went all the way to the 15 yard line. Two plays later at the 15 yard line Andalusia's Ricky Vinson met Steve Parker at the line of scrimmage and really unloaded on him. Parker was shaken up and had to leave the game for the rest of the half.

    Now it was 3rd and 10 from their own 15 for Athens QB. Bolton then kept around the end for 15 yards to the 30. Running back Harris gained 18 to the 48 as time was running out in the half and Andalusia was in the prevent defense. Fighting the clock, Bolton again kept around the end to the 42. On the next play a long pass attempt by Athens was intercepted by Gary Oden at the 5 yard line as the half ended.

    The first half was a story of possession. Athens had received the ball 4 times inside Andalusia territory. Andalusia had been in a deep hole the entire half and was limited as to what their offense could do. The Andalusia defense had been magnificent in keeping the score as low as it was. The Dogs had stopped Athens 4 times deep in their own territory. Athens defense was proving to be very tough also.

    Andalusia returned the 2nd half kickoff back to their own 26. Three plays only gained 9 yards to the 35 and Andalusia had to punt again. The punt only went 20 yards and there was Athens at their Dogs 45 yard line with Parker and Cosby carrying the ball, it took Athens 3 plays to get to the Andy 40. Once again the defense of Andalusia came through as the ball was knocked loose from Steve Parker and Ricky Vinson recovered for the Dogs at their own 41 as the crowd roared.

    Johnson ripped his way for 10 yards on the first play. Anthony kept for 10 more on the next play and Andalusia was on the Athens 39 yard line. A run and a pass netted no yardage and it was 3rd and 10. John Anderson ripped through the Athens line to the 26 for another first down and the Dogs were driving.

    Three inside plays gained only 2 yards to the 24 as the Athens defense got tough. On 4th and 8 Andalusia went for it and a pass attempt fell incomplete to apparently stop the drive. But pass interference was called on Athens and Andalusia had a new life at the 12 yard line.
    John Anderson ripped his way to the 4 yard line on 1st down. Johnson then punched his way to the 2 yard line. On the next play Bobby Johnson hurdled over the line for the touchdown as Municipal Stadium exploded. It would be the 66th touchdown of his illustrious career. Chavers, the soccer-style kicker, slowly side-winded the extra point straight through, and deep and out of the stadium to tie the game at 7-7with 4 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter as the stadium rocked. .

    Andalusia's Chavers kicked off and Athens' Parker was swarmed under at the 23 yard line. Two plays later in on a 3rd and 6. QB Bolton kept around the end for 8 to the 35 yard line and a big first down. Two running plays were stopped cold. On third down Athens QB Bolton threw a pass that was almost intercepted by Lee Williams. The almost sure interception was broken by a teammate Tim Nall, who also had a chance to make the play. Andalusia almost had a big break. Another break almost happened on the very next play when Athens punted. Punter Parker Bolton had to make a leaping grab as the snap from center nearly went over his head at the Bulldog 25 yard line. Bolton got off the punt, though, and it reached to the 36 yard line of Andalusia as the quarter ended. The score was tied 7-7 with 12 minutes to go. Did either team have one more drive in them?

    Three plays got only 3 yards and Andalusia had to punt again. It was getting late now and the pressure was really beginning to mount, as every play could mean the state championship and neither team was willing to budge. Athens, after the punt, had it first and ten on their own 33. Cosby broke loose for 12 to the 45. Parker got 5 to the 50. Bolton crept for 4 to the Andy 46. It was now 3rd and 1. For the 5th time Andalusia stopped Athens in their territory as the whole defensive line swarmed on Cosby for a one yard loss.

    Athens then punted deep to the 13 putting the Dogs in the hole again. Three running plays again netted only a few yards as Andalusia had to punt from their own 21 yard line as the clock ticked down to 7 minutes. It was getting late.

    Keith Hines, the Andy punter, nailed the punt some 44 yards all the way to the Athens 35 yard line. Parker immediately brought the Athens crowd to their feet as he gained 19 yards to the Andalusia 46 and it looked like that Athens was in a position to win this one. 3 plays later, Ricky Vinson knocked Steve Parker down right at the 46 yard line to halt the Athens drive and force the Golden Eagle to give up the ball to Andalusia. After an Athens punt, the Bulldogs took over possession at their own 17 yard line. The clock had now run down to only 5 minutes left.

    The Bulldogs then began a furious drive against the clock. Johnson surged up the middle for 4 to the 21. Johnson battled for 7 yards to the 28 and a first down. QB Anthony crept for five to the 33. Johnson then carried tacklers to the 40 and another first down. 3:26 to go. The stadium crowd was now in a frenzy as the roar got louder after each play as it appeared Andalusia was making one final run at the Golden Eagles.

    John Anderson picked up 2 to the 42. On the next play, Anderson took a pitch and ripped his way to the 50. Johnson then drove his way to the 48 for another Andy first down with 2:45 left. John Anderson drove for 3 tough yards to the 45. On the next play Lee Williams exploded to the 38 yard line with 1:27 to go. Johnson bulled his way to the 34 on 3rd and 1, and Andalusia had another first down. Anthony then crept for a yard to the 33 as the clock had wound down to inside a minuteā€¦40:35:30 seconds. The clock ticked off as the Dogs huddled. It was inside 20 seconds now. They got to hurry. Out came the Dogs. QB Anthony faked to Johnson up the middle and dropped back to pass. The protection was great and Anthony had plenty of time. Anthony heaved the ball long and deep toward the Athens goal line.

    The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity as a hush grew over the entire stadium crowd. The people watched as split end Mark Chavers raced toward the center of the field and somehow caught up with the ball at the goal line. The ball was a little overthrown, but somehow Chavers managed to tip it up in the air and then catch the ball going into the end zone. It appeared to everyone he had possession long enough, before the ball was knocked out of his hand by the outstretched hand of an Athens defender.

    The stadium literally exploded as the Andalusia team thought it was a touchdown. As the fans cheered wildly a low hush suddenly came over the Andy side of the stadium as the referee signaled no catch. Now there were 12 seconds left. Again Anthony dropped back and fired a long bomb. Once again Chavers had his men beat by a step. The ball was right on target. Just as Chavers was about to catch the ball, an Athens defender came from out of nowhere. He left his feet and made a spectacular play as he dived at the last possible second and deflected the ball away from Chavers in the end zone. Incomplete with only 3 seconds left on the clock.

    Now, Andalusia's only hope was riding on the foot of Mark Chavers. The Dogs lined up for a 50 yard field goal attempt. This was asking a lot as Chavers had never kicked one from this far out in a game before. It was a tremendously long attempt. There was the snap and the kick. It was high and deep. All eyes watched as the ball reached its peak in height and then began to fall. The ball landed five yards short of the goal posts and the game had ended in a tie.

    Nobody knew what to do next when the final buzzer sounded. The entire stadium groaned when they learned there was no overtime in the State Championship game. Andalusia and Athens were declared co-state champions and each team had a trophy.

    It was a game that was a classic and would be stand as a game for the Ages in Andalusia history. The stats were as even as the score. in the only State Championship game to ever be played in Andalusia.           

The statistics were:

10 First Downs 11
43-175 Rushing Yards 48-201
11 Passing Yards 0
186 Total Yards 201
16 Return Yards 21
3-2 Fumbles/Lost 3-2
5-29.6 Punts 6-27.6
1-11 Penalties 1-5
1-6-1 Passing 0-4-0
56 Plays 61
Cosby 20-68 yds.   Johnson 22-98 yds
Parker 14-61 yds.   Anderson 11-65 yds.
Bolton 9-45 yds    

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