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  School Football over the past 100 seasons.






Dynasties 


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          Between 1920 and 1956 no team in the state won more football games than the Sidney Lanier Poets.

          Sidney Lanier posted 82 wins in the decade during the 1960s which was the most of any team in Alabama.

          Bobby Wilson began his coaching career in Boca Ciega, Florida in 1956. He served one year as a head coach near St. Petersburg, Florida, before moving to Montgomery and 13 seasons at Sidney Lanier High School. 

          Coach Wilson established a legacy of excellence at Sidney Lanier during a 13-year span (1957-69) that will not soon be matched in Alabama high school football. His teams won six state championships 1957, 1961, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1968 including three consecutive.




Buddy Mesaris runs the ball for Lanier

          The three titles in a row were Class 4A championships during the first three seasons of the new AHSAA playoff system.

          Danny Speigner (Auburn), Richmond Flowers Jr. (Tennessee), Jeff Blitz (Alabama), Wayne Cook (Alabama), Jimmy Lowder (Auburn), Mike Raines (Alabama), Bob Childs and Ashby Cook were just a few of the star players for the Poets during this time.




Head Coach Bobby Wilson
1961 - The only loss came to a very good Tuscaloosa Black Bear team by a score of 13-0 early in the season. The offense was led by All-State players Ashley Cook at quarterback, Harold Mesaris at center and Jim Scott from the fullback position.

          The Poets were voted a state championship by the ASWA for their efforts. They came up just short in the Birmingham Post-Herald poll, losing out to a 9-1 Ensley team in the season ending poll.

1962 - The team started off slow with a 1-1-2 record before getting on a roll to finish 6-2-2. The top players were guard Ben McDavid and end Wayne Cook. The team still managed to finish with a seventh place ranking in the Birmingham Post-Herald final poll.

1963 - The Poets lost two close games to Ramsay and Murphy midseason but rebounded to finish with a 7-2-1 record and a number four ranking in the final AP poll. As usual the schedule was brutal with games against some of the best teams from across the state.

1964 - The Poets were led by guard Bob Childs, quarterback Buddy Hardwick and halfback Richmond Flowers Jr. who led Lanier in rushing and scoring his senior season. He totaled over 900 yards rushing and helped lead the Poets to a 9-1 record. The only loss came against rival Lee in the season's final contest by a score of 13-7. The Poets finished the season ranked number three in the final AP poll.

1965 - The team started the season 1-3 following losses to Selma, Tuscaloosa and Leon High from Tallahassee, FL. They bounced back to finish with a 6-3-1 record and a number seven ranking in the final poll.

1966 - Sidney Lanier rolled through the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record including a season ending 10-0 win over rival Lee. The AHSAA had implemented a new playoff system whereby the top four teams in Class 4A would play for an actual State Championship. The rankings placed the Poets as the number one seed and set them up to play the fourth seeded team from Shades Valley on Nov. 25.

           The Poets romped the Mounties by a score of 47-7 to set up a rematch against archrival Lee in the first ever championship game. Defense was front and center from the opening kickoff of the title game as both teams kept the opposing offenses in check most of the game. Lanier scored first when Mike Kelly completed a 5-yard pass to Danny Speigner in the end zone for a second quarter touchdown.

          A few minutes later, Lanier capitalized on a Lee mistake and Randy Moore kicked a 32-yard field goal for the 9-0 halftime advantage. The Generals mounted a comeback in the third period when Traylor completed a 50-yard pass to Terry Beasley to the Lanier 8-yard line. Fullback Jerry Fontaine scored from the one-yard line a few plays later. Lee threatened again moments later when Traylor once again tried to hit Beasley near the goal line but the ball skipped through his hands and was intercepted.

          The General's defense held Lanier and force a punt giving them another shot at winning but another interception by Jimmy Rhodes thwarted the drive. The Poets mounted a drive that almost ran out the clock before giving up the ball allowing the Generals one final shot at the title.

          With only a few seconds remaining in the game the Generals attempted a 55-yard field goal that was missed but an offsides penalty against Lanier gave them another shot at the field goal. The final try was missed also and the game was over. More than 25,000 fans poured into the Cramton Bowl to get a glimpse at the first state championship game and left knowing they had seen the two best teams in the state battle it out for the title.

           The line was led by Danny Speigner at tackle who played both ways for Lanier his senior season. Jimmy Speigner at guard and Sam Gellerstedt at defensive tackle were also instrumental in the poet's success. Mike Kelly led the offense from the quarterback position.

1966 State Champion Sidney Lanier Poets

1967
-  Entering the 1967 season, Lanier had lost 25 players to graduation from an undefeated team. But, the Poets returned 29 seniors and many of them had gained playing experience the previous season. Most games the Poets dressed 75 players, all but three were juniors and seniors. Coach Wilson preferred not to play sophomores in varsity games.

          Lanier had built a great feeder program through the junior high schools and the sophomores worked as a separate unit, playing an eight or nine game schedule against other B teams and junior varsities. Lanier was the second largest school in the state with an enrollment near 2,000 students. In 1967, about 200 young men, grades 10 through 12, were candidates for the varsity roster.

          The Poets defeated rival Lee in the final game of the regular season to lock up the number one seed in the four team Class 4A playoffs. They then ran over Guntersville 47-7 and Butler 20-0 to claim their second consecutive state championship. The Poets dumped Butler in Montgomery before a rain soaked crowd of over 9,000 fans. After a scoreless first half, Buddy Mesaris threw two touchdown passes and Rusty Chumley added the final score on a eight-yard run to cap the victory.

          The offense was led by quarterback Buddy Mesaris who completed 65 of 133 passes for 1,181 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1967. He also rushed 71 times for 411 yards and two touchdowns. Jimmy Lowder was an All-State player at halfback and scored 31 touchdowns in his high school career at Sidney Lanier.

1968 - The Poets extended their undefeated streak to 35 games before falling to Dothan on Nov. 1. They bounced back from that defeat to win the last four games of the season and capture their third Class 4A State Championship in a row. The team was lead by Jeff Blitz at quarterback who passed for 1,085 yards and rushed for another 542 his senior season.

          The line was anchored by all-state player Pat Raines at center. No less than five players off the team signed with major college programs. Linebacker Olen Rogers, tackle Dennis Williams signed with Auburn while Jeff Blitz, Randy Moore and center Pat Raines signed with Alabama.

          The Poets had to come from behind to win 27-21 in the 1968 title game against Hunteville. Lanier drove 60 yards with less than five minutes remaining in the game on only four plays to claim the win. The touchdown came on a nine-yard pass from quarterback Jeff Blitz to Randy Moore. Huntsville got on the score board first on a 7-yard pass play. Lanier came back to pull within one point on a 27-yard run.

          Lanier took a 13-6 lead on a two-yard run into the half. Huntsville came back late in the third period to score a touchdown on a 38-yard pass play with Lanier answering on a fumble recovery in the end zone to regain the lead. The Panthers had their own answer in this game of see-saw scoring when they mounted an 80-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard scoring pass for a 21-20 Panther lead.

          At that point in the game Lanier ripped off their quick scoring drive to finally end the scoring and settle the final outcome of the game by a score of 27-21. It was Sidney Lanier's third consecutive title in coach Bobby Wilson's last game as the leader of the Poets.


Sidney Lanier High School


          The Poets went 70-10-4 during their eight year run. They were ranked in the top ten in the final poll of each season. The most ironic thing about this dynasty is that much of it coincided with a similar run by rival Lee High School from Montgomery.

          During the decade of the 1960 the two teams were clearly the two best programs in the state. Lee finished the decade (1960-69) with a state best 82-16-5 record followed closely by Lanier with a 82-17-4 tally. It seemed only fitting that the two programs met in the first ever state playoff game in 1966.


Sidney Lanier Poets 1961-68                 
Year Record Championship Game
1961 9-1 ASWA Championship
1962 6-2-2  
1963 7-2-1  
1964 9-1 Montgomery Advertiser Championship
1965 6-3-1  
1966 12-0 Sidney Lanier 9-7 Lee Montgomery
1967 11-0 Sidney Lanier 20-0 Butler
1968 10-1 Sidney Lanier 27-21 Huntsville


Sidney Lanier
1961

27 Parrish Selma . . . . . 7
0 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 13
27 Banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
27 West End Birmingham . . 7
28 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
42 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
34 Gadsden . . . . . . . . . . . 14
30 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
34 Tuscaloosa County . . . 0
14 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 13

263 9-1 108
1962

14 Parrish Selma . . . . . 14
7 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 7
19 Banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
14 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
41 Tuscaloosa County . . . 0
34 Huntsville . . . . . . . . 0
58 West End Birmingham . . 0
40 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
13 Phillips Birmingham . . 6
0 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 7

240 6-2-2 74
1963

34 John Carroll . . . . . . 0
27 Parrish Selma . . . . . 7
7 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 0
9 Walker . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
14 Phillips Birmingham . . 0
14 Enterprise . . . . . . . . 6
14 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
7 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
6 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
0 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 0

132 7-2-1 46
1964

28 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
21 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 6
44 Walker . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
27 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 9
14 Enterprise . . . . . . . . 6
13 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
21 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
40 Davidson . . . . . . . . . . 6
26 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
7 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 13

241 9-1 60
1965

0 Parrish Selma . . . . . 6
0 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 7
14 Phillips Birmingham . . 0
6 Leon Tallahassee FL . . 13
21 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
37 Tuscaloosa County . . . 0
17 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
13 Davidson . . . . . . . . . . 6
13 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
6 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 6

127 6-3-1 52
1966

49 Parrish Selma . . . . . 7
10 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 0
35 Phillips Birmingham . . 0
40 Leon Tallahassee FL . . 7
14 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
46 Tuscaloosa County . . . 7
57 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
48 Davidson . . . . . . . . . . 0
28 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
10 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 0
47 Shades Valley * . . . . 7
9 Lee Montgomery # . . . 7

393 12-0 42
1967

48 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
35 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 20
62 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
63 Melbourne FL . . . . . . 0
42 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
28 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
42 Davidson . . . . . . . . . . 0
21 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
7 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 0
47 Guntersville * . . . . . 7
20 Butler # . . . . . . . . . . 0

415 11-0 62
1968

23 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
34 Greenwood SC . . . . . . 7
27 Tuscaloosa County . . . 7
15 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
35 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
10 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
6 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
27 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 7
31 McGill-Toolen . . . . . 10
42 Berry Birmingham * . . 0
27 Huntsville # . . . . . . 21

277 10-1 87

* Playoff game
# State championship game




          NEXT: Sweet Water Bulldogs 2004-2010
          The Dynasties, a series of articles on Alabama high school football's best teams.


David Parker
  AHSFHS.org
  dparker@ahsfhs.org




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