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  School Football over the past 100 seasons.






Dynasties 


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          Choctaw County, Alabama was first inhabited by the Choctaw Indians long before it became known for timber and sawmills. In 1944 the first successful oil well in Alabama was drilled just west of Gilbertown. I suppose you could say that the county has always depended upon their natural resources to survive.

          The same could be true of the Southern Choctaw High School football program. The Indians were fortunate enough to have a couple of very talented players come along at the same time. Spencer Johnson and Gary Banks would prove to be special players for the Indians.

          Entering the 1998 season, the Indians were coming off three consecutive losing seasons. Little did the fans know what was in store for them during the season. The Indians just won week after week until finishing the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record. They had been here four other times since 1969 only to lose in the playoffs.
         The 1998 Season would be different. The Indians kept winning until they reached the 2A championship game in Birmingham against an undefeated Lineville team. In the title game the Indians scored twice in the second quarter to take a 10-0 halftime lead.

         Following a 27-yard field goal which broke a scoreless deadlock for Southern Choctaw, Roy Campbell's squib kick with 41 seconds left in the first half hit a Lineville player and bounced back to the hustling Campbell who recovered it for an onside kick.

         Southern Choctaw turned the break into a touchdown 37 seconds later. Michael Kirksey scored on an 88 yard run early in the third period before Linville managed to get on the scoreboard.

Buffalo Bills player Spencer Johnson
(Wikipedia)
         Quarterback Gary Banks earned the games MVP after completing 7 of 11 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came with 4 seconds left in the first half and would prove to be all the points the Indians needed.

         As the clock ticked down on the Legion Field scoreboard, the Indians celebrated their first ever state championship with a 16-6 win over Lineville. The team set a record for most wins in a season with 15 and enjoyed their first undefeated season since 1969. Tony Foster led the running attack for the Indians all season with 1,287 yards on 181 carries for 13 TDs.

          The 1999 team opened the season with an 18-13 lose to rival 4A Choctaw County and closed the regular season with a lose to 4A Clarke County 17-13. Once the playoffs began, they rolled four opponents to again reach the championship game at Legion Field.

          The Linville Aggies were once again across the field from the Indians in Birmingham. The Southern Choctaw Indians, behind the leadership of senior quarterback Gary Banks, won their second consecutive 2A state championship over Lineville 27-7. Banks won his second MVP trophy. All he did was rush for 144 yards, complete 5 of 9 passes for another 42 yards and intercept a pass. 

          The game remained close after halftime at 13-7 until Banks scored a couple of touchdowns on runs of 32 and 45 yards to put the game out of reach. Lineville turned the ball over five times to take away any chance the Aggies had of winning the game.

          Senior linebacker Spencer Johnson spearheaded a solid defensive effort with 13 tackles and senior linebacker Demarcus Rodgers added 10 tackles and an interception.

          The Indians played 40 consecutive games on the road because their home stadium has been deemed unsafe to seat fans. They played home games at Thomasville, Leroy and Millry. Their road record in 1998-99 was 28-2.

          Spencer Johnson had 209 tackles and eight sacks in 1999 after getting 183 tackles and five interceptions his junior season. He collected 16 sacks over the two years. As a tight end he caught 15 passes for 6 touchdowns.

          In 2000, the Indians needed to replace possibly the best football players in school history. Spencer Johnson and Gary Banks had graduated and the Indians fell short of winning a third consecutive title and finished with a 10-2 record after losing to Straughn 22-20 in the third round of the playoffs.

          The next season was also a letdown as the Indians went 7-4 with a first round playoff loss. Marcus Lewis led the 2001 team with 1,902 yards rushing.

          The 2002 team entered the season with one goal in mind, get to Birmingham. Coach Boykin returned 17 starters with a lot of depth at running back. As the season progressed it became apparent this team was special. They proved the defense could shut opponents down by posting six shutouts entering the championship game against none other than Lineville.

          Detric Causey scored on a pair of short runs as the Indians built a 12-0 lead in the fourth quarter. They held off a late Lineville rally to hold on for their third championship in five seasons by a score of 12-6.  Bernard McGrew was the star. He rushed for a game-high 90 yards on 19 carries and also threw for 59 yards to win MVP honors.

          Lineville managed just four first downs and 143 total yards as Southern Choctaw set Class 2A state championship records for most rushing attempts (55) and time of possession (32:44). The Indians ran twice as many plays (64 to 32) as Lineville, which held the ball for just 15:16.

          Southern Choctaw converted 3 of 6 fourth downs in the game. Lineville still had a chance to win a championship after taking over on its own 36 with 1:52 left. But quarterback LaDaniel Thomas came up a yard short on a fourth-and-8.

          Chris Pugh led Southern Choctaw in 2002 with 196 tackles on a defense that allowed only 71 points all season.

          Following this run by Southern  Choctaw, the Indians reached the title game once more in 2005 before falling short of another championship. The Indians have been up and down but have not been able to recapture those glory years under coach Larry Boykin.

          Southern Choctaw has the unique distinction of producing two players that played in the NFL at the same time. Spencer Johnson played for the Vikings and the Bills through the 2012 season. After high school, Banks played minor league baseball before going back to school and playing football at Troy. He was a member of the San Diego Chargers in 2010 and played in one game.
         



Southern Choctaw     1998-2002
Year Record Championship Game
1998 15-0 Southern Choctaw 16-6 Lineville
1999 13-2 Southern Choctaw 27-7 Lineville
2000 10-2  
2001 7-4  
2002 14-0 Southern Choctaw 12-6 Lineville



Southern Choctaw
1998

51 Choctaw County . . . . . 6
33 Leroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
26 McIntosh . . . . . . . . . . 0
33 Paramount . . . . . . . . . 0
39 Millry . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
28 Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . 7
12 Thomasville . . . . . . . 7
14 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 12
24 Clarke County . . . . . 6
46 Linden . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
16 Alabama Christian * . . 12
35 Cottonwood * . . . . . . 6
43 Wicksburg * . . . . . . . 0
20 Maplesville * . . . . . 12
16 Lineville # . . . . . . . 6

436 15-0 101
1999

13 Choctaw County . . . . . 18
29 Leroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
35 McIntosh . . . . . . . . . . 6
20 Paramount . . . . . . . . . 14
40 Millry . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
6 Jackson . . . . . . . . . . . 0
34 Thomasville . . . . . . . 14
33 Citronelle . . . . . . . . 9
13 Clarke County . . . . . 17
38 Linden . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
42 Marbury * . . . . . . . . . 14
35 Wicksburg * . . . . . . . 0
55 Highland Home * . . . . 3
36 Maplesville * . . . . . 16
27 Lineville # . . . . . . . 7

456 13-2 152
2000

7 Choctaw County . . . . . 6
20 Thomasville . . . . . . . 7
27 Greene County . . . . . 12
27 Brantley . . . . . . . . . . 9
42 McIntosh . . . . . . . . . . 0
38 Excel . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
52 Keith . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
6 Leroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
71 R.C. Hatch . . . . . . . . 6
50 Sweet Water . . . . . . . 12
21 Randolph County * . . . 14
20 Straughn * . . . . . . . . 22

381 10-2 122
2001

6 Choctaw County . . . . . 12
6 Thomasville . . . . . . . 15
30 Greene County . . . . . 0
33 Brantley . . . . . . . . . . 0
41 McIntosh . . . . . . . . . . 0
21 Excel . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
27 Keith . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
6 Leroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
53 R.C. Hatch . . . . . . . . 12
40 Sweet Water . . . . . . . 14
15 Red Level * . . . . . . . 21

278 7-4 101
2002

21 Choctaw County . . . . . 8
25 Excel . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
30 Bayside Academy . . . . 0
52 Georgiana . . . . . . . . . 3
34 Washington County . . . 0
42 McIntosh . . . . . . . . . . 6
34 Flomaton . . . . . . . . . . 14
34 Leroy . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
19 Millry . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
38 New Brockton * . . . . . 0
22 Highland Home * . . . . 6
21 Houston Academy * . . . 0
20 Slocomb * . . . . . . . . . 14
12 Lineville # . . . . . . . 6

404 14-0 71

* Playoff game
# State championship game





          NEXT: Cedar Bluff Tigers 1959-1963
          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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Great Moments in Alabama High School Football History

Morris Higginbotham coached three different teams to divisional state championships in the 1950s. He won titles at Walnut Grove in 1952, West Blocton in 1955 and Enterprise in 1960.