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  School Football over the past 100 seasons.

Amazing Seasons 

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          The 1983 Emma Sansom Rebels finished second to Escambia County after losing 14-0 in the Class 3A state championship game. As they prepared for the 1984 season, they had one goal in mind. Win the title.

          With the new AHSAA realignments, Emma Sansom moved into Class 5A with plenty of returning players to make a title run. Running back Gene Jelks and tackle Larry Rose returned for their senior seasons with the Rebels. Andy Watts returned at quarterback along with offensive lineman Anthony Smith and tight end Walter Smith.

          Jeff Burgess returned at defensive end along with Billy Cox, Kenny Malone and Rico Malone. The key component missing was wide receiver Freddy Weygand who had moved on to play for the Auburn Tigers.

Coach Buster Gross

  Emma Sansom 7   14   7   0   28  
  Albertville 0   0   0   8   8  

          The Rebels opened the 1984 season with a 28-8 win over the Albertville Aggies. Jelks rushed for 174 yards on 21 carries and Tim Merriweather added 128 yards on 22 attempts. The defense completely shutdown the Aggies, holding them to just 22 yards rushing. Sansom led 21-0 at the half and coasted to the win in the second half.

  Litchfield 0   0   6   0   6  
  Emma Sansom 14   14   0   6   34  

          Emma Sansom blasted cross-town rival Litchfield in week two 34-6. Merriweather and Jelks led the rushing attack that gained 294 yards. The defense held the Eagles to 50 yards rushing and a total of 185 yards and recovered two fumbles that lead to first half touchdowns. The Rebels led 28-0 at the half.

  Emma Sansom 7   0   8   3   18  
  Colbert County 0   8   7   0   15  

          In week three, the Rebels traveled to Leighton to face the always tough Colbert County Indians. Emma Sansom used an obscure rule to pull out a win. With the score tied 15-15, the Indians punted to Gene Jelks who called for a fair catch at the 40-yard line. A five-yard penalty moved the football five yards closer and the Rebels elected to attempt a free kick. The rules allow for a team to try a free kick when a player calls for a fair catch on a punt.

          Brian Dunn booted the 45-yard field goal with just five seconds remaining in the game to give the Rebels a hard fought 18-15 victory. It is a seldom used play but worked well for the quick thinking Emma Sansom coaches.

  Emma Sansom 0   14   21   6   41  
  Anniston 0   0   0   6   6  

          The Rebels led 14-0 at the half before Gene Jelks scored two third quarter touchdowns to pull away from the Anniston Bulldogs in a 41-6 victory. Jelks raced 38 yards on the Rebels first possession of the second half and scored again just a few minutes later on an 18-yard run to give Emma Sansom a 28-0 lead.

          Jelks finished the night with 135 yards on only 10 carries. The defense recovered five Anniston fumbles to keep the Bulldogs out of the game. The only Anniston score came with one second remaining on the clock. The Rebels offense rushed for 270 yards and gained another 102 through the air.

  Etowah 0   0   0   0   0  
  Emma Sansom 14   6   0   7   27  

          The Rebel defense, led by Larry Rose and company, got their first shutout of the season in a 27-0 victory over Etowah. The Bulldogs were limited to just 90 yard of total offense by a swarming Rebel defense. Most of the game was played without the services of Jelks as he suffered a sprained ankle early in the game. Jelks was able to give the Rebels a lead on a 59-yard scamper on their first possession of the game.

          Emma Sansom built a 21-0 halftime lead following a blocked punt and a 14-yard run by Kenton Wright. The No. 2 ranked Rebels were 5-0 and playing well.

  Emma Sansom 14   14   7   7   41  
  Fultondale 0   0   0   0   0  

          Emma Sansom put together a near perfect effort in week six as they throttled the Fultondale Wildcats 41-0. The starters only played one half as the Rebels built a 28-0 lead by intermission. Van Hoyt ran for two touchdowns to lead the attack in the absence of Gene Jelks who was still sidelined with an ankle injury.

  Talladega 0   0   0   7   7  
  Emma Sansom 21   7   13   0   41  

          Talladega came to town in week seven and left with a 41-7 loss at the hands of the Rebels. Jelks ran for 105 yards on just 12 carries as the offense rolled up 544 yards of total offense The win upped Emma Sansom's record to 7-0 and propelled them to the No. 1 ranking in the ASWA polls as No. 1 Escambia County lost.

          The Rebels pilled up 396 yards rushing as three players topped the 100 yard mark. Jelks led the charge with 105 yards in the first half. Paul Hawk gained 105 and Van Hoyt added 107 yards on 19 carries. Andy Watts found Rico Malone on two scoring passes of 5 and 71 yards. The offense rolled up a season best 544 yards of total offense. The defense limited the Tigers to 106 yards of total offense and did not allow the Tigers to score until very late in the fourth quarter.

  Emma Sansom 0   33   13   0   46  
  Etowah 0   0   0   0   0  

          In a rematch with Etowah, the Rebels again used a stellar effort by Larry Rose and the entire defense to walk away with a 46-0 victory over the Etowah Blue Devils. While the Rebels rushed for 302 yards, they held Etowah to just 39 yards rushing and 96 yards of total offense. Sparked by six Etowah turnovers, Emma Sansom ran away with the game from the very beginning after jumping out to a 33-0 halftime lead.

          Jelks rushed for 108 yards in the game and Brian Dunn booted two field goals. In the first eight games of the season, the Rebels have outscored their opponents 194-8 in the first half. Only Colbert County was able to crack the Rebels end zone in the first half of a game.

  Emma Sansom 0   13   8   0   21  
  Gadsden 0   0   7   8   15  

          The Rebels built a 13-0 halftime lead before Gadsden scored in the third to cut the margin to 13-7. Gene Jelks raced 73 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to pad the lead to 21-7 before Gadsden made the game exciting in the last few minutes. The Tigers scored on a 45-yard bomb with just 35 seconds remaining in the game to cut the margin to 21-15. But Jelks recovered the onside kick and the Rebels were able to run out the clock.

          Jelks finished the night with 100 yards on 13 carries after being limited to just six yards in the first half. The defense was again great and held the Tigers to 171 yards of offense.

  Southside 0   0   0   0   0  
  Emma Sansom 0   7   0   0   7  

          The Rebels ended the 1984 regular season with a hard fought 7-0 victory over Southside of Gadsden. In a defensive battle, the Rebels used a big play to offset the fact that most of their star studded backfield was sidelined. Backup quarterback Mike Edwards found Rico Malone on a 78-yard pass in the second quarter to setup the game's only points. Tim Merriweather scored from the four, three plays later for a 7-0 lead.

          Andy Watts did not play due to a dislocated finger and Jelks was still bothered by the injured ankle. The defense picked up the slack by limiting the Panthers to 116 yards of total offense and collect their fourth shutout of the season.

  Guntersville 0   0   0   0   0  
  Emma Sansom 6   8   14   14   42  

          The first round of the playoffs brought the Guntersville Wildcats to town. The Rebels rolled to a 42-0 first round win without the services of Gene Jelks. They struggled to a 14-0 first half lead before wearing down the Wildcat defense in the second half. The offense racked up 341 yards of total offense even without their star running back.

          Watts hit Paul Hawk on a 70-yard scoring pass early in the third and followed it with a 48-yard pass to Rico Malone just minutes later to break open the game and give the Rebels a 28-0 lead. Merriweather led all runners with 123 yards rushing on 14 carries.

  Emma Sansom 0   20   7   0   27  
  Gadsden 0   6   6   13   25  

          The 8-2 Gadsden Tigers gave the Rebels all they wanted in the second round. Emma Sansom led 27-10 with nine minutes remaining in the game before the Tigers came back and threatened to make a game of it. The Tigers cut the lead to 27-25 before an interception by Kenny Malone ended their hopes of winning with just seconds to play.

          Emma Sansom scored first on a 48-yard fumble return by Jeff Corbin to take a 7-0 lead in the first. Gadsden returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 7-6. Jelks, back from his ankle injury, rushed for a season high 213 yards on 23 carries and returned a kickoff 67 yards to set up one touchdown.

  Colbert County 0   7   0   0   7  
  Emma Sansom 3   0   7   0   10  

          In another rematch between Colbert County and the Rebels, Emma Sansom squeaked out a 10-7 victory to advance to the semi-finals of the state playoffs. Gene Jelks rushed for 109 yard son 18 carries to pace the offense and the defense limited the Indians to 174 yards of offense at Murphree Stadium.

          The 10-1 Indians fell behind 3-0 following an interception by Charles Malone that was returned to the 23-yard line setting up a 22-yard field goal by Brian Dunn in the first quarter. Colbert County came back with a 61-yard march to grab a 7-3 lead as the teams went into the intermission.

          In the third quarter, the Rebels took the lead for good on a Watts to Rico Malone 15-yard touchdown pass. Colbert County moved into Rebel territory twice lat in the game but were stuffed by the Rebel defense on both occasions. Emma Sansom ran the last couple of minutes off the clock as the home fans celebrated a huge win.

  Emma Sansom 0   0   0   7   7  
  Gardendale 0   0   6   0   6  

          The 13-0 Gardendale hosted the Rebels in the semi-finals. Gene Jelks rushed for 156 yards and scored the Rebels only touchdown in a hard fought 7-6 win. The defense forced five Gardendale turnovers and blocked the extra point following the only Gardendale score.

          Gardendale scored with 4:04 left in the third quarter to take a 6-0 lead. Jeff Burgess broke through the line to block the all important point after attempt which would prove pivotal in the outcome of the game. Sansom put together a 80-yard, 16-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter behind the running of Jelks. He gained seven yards on a fourth and five play to the Rockets eight-yard line and scored from there two plays later. Brian Dunn added the extra point and Sansom led 7-6 with just 5:18 remaining in the game.

          A late interception prevented Gardendale from mounting any kind of drive. The Rebels came away with their third close victory in a row and assured themselves of a return trip to the Class 5A state championship game. Last year the Rebels lost 14-0 to Escambia County on the road. This year the game was played in Gadsden.

  Greenville 0   0   7   0   0   7  
  Emma Sansom 7   0   0   0   3   10  

          Before a packed house at Murphree Stadium, senior Brian Dunn booted a 17-yard field goal on the eighth play of overtime to give the Emma Sansom Rebels a 10-7 win over Greenville in the Class 5A state championship game. The Rebels dominated the game from the onset but struggled to find the end zone.

          Sansom rolled up 139 yards rushing in the first half and held Greenville to one first down and 15 yards total yards. The Rebels scored a first quarter touchdown and missed out when they stalled at the Greenville two-yard line just before intermission. The halftime score was only 7-0 in favor of the Rebels.

          The Rebel's defense was outstanding all evening, holding Greenville to 4 first downs and 95 total yards. Gene Jelks rushed for 127 yards on 27 carries in his last high school game. Tim Merriweather added 61 yards on 15 carries and Andy Watts finished with 45 yards on 10 attempts.

          Sansom tried to give the game away in the second half by losing three fumbles and throwing an interception. The first fumble set up Greenville's only score. Marvin Patterson rumbled 28 yards to tie the game with 6:57 left in the third.

          The Emma Sansom Rebels enjoyed an amazing season in 1984 as the team won the first state championship in school history. They were dominate in the first half of games during the season by outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 262-17. A long pass play by Colbert County and a kickoff return by Gadsden were the only touchdowns allowed all season in the first half of their games.

          Larry Rose and Gene Jelks went on to be star players at the University of Alabama after winning several post season awards each. Rose was considered to be the top prospect in the state his senior season at Emma Sansom. He was named first-team All-American by Parade, Bally, USA Today, National High School and Athlon. During his senior season he collected 172 tackles, caused 10 fumbles and recovered three fumbles.

           Jelks was considered the best running back in the state in 1984. Although hampered by injuries, he gained 1,491 yards rushing and scored 13 touchdowns. As a junior he rushed for over 2,000 yards.

          Named to the first team all-state team by the Birmingham News were Jelks, Rose and linebacker Jeff Burgess. Lineman Billy Ray Cox and receiver Reico Malone were selected to the honorable mention team. Buster Gross was named coach of the year by the ASWA. 

Emma Sansom

8/30 28 Albertville . . . . . . . 8
9/7 34 Litchfield . . . . . . . . 6
9/14 18 Colbert County . . . . . 15
9/21 41 Anniston . . . . . . . . . . 6
9/28 27 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
10/5 41 Fultondale . . . . . . . . 0
10/12 41 Talladega . . . . . . . . . 7
10/19 46 Etowah . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
10/26 21 Gadsden . . . . . . . . . . . 15
11/1 7 Southside Gadsden . . . 0
11/9 42 Guntersville * . . . . . 0
11/16 27 Gadsden * . . . . . . . . . 25
11/23 10 Colbert County * . . . 7
11/30 7 Gardendale * . . . . . . 6
12/7 10 Greenville # . . . . . . 7

400 15-0 102

* Playoff game
# State championship game

Amazing Seasons, a series on the greatest seasons in high school football history

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