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Amazing Seasons 


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          The 1968 Sidney Lanier Poets had big shoes to fill as the past two Lanier teams won state championships and had won twenty-three consecutive games. The Poets were unbeaten in 29 straight games, as the only blemish was a 6-6 tie with arch-rival Lee in the last regular season game of 1965.

          Sixty-six juniors and seniors made the squad whose only goal was to bring home another title to Montgomery. Lanier lost a game in '68 and needed help to reach the playoffs but the team fought and clawed their way to another title.


  Lanier 7   10   6   0   23  
  Parrish 0   0   0   0   0  

         Lanier opened the season with a 23-0 shutout of Parrish high school in Selma. Senior quarterback Jeff Blitz scored on a 20-yard run to get things going and scored again in the second. Randy Moore added a field goal and Lanier led 17-0 at the half. Rae Jabour wrapped up the scoring on a short run in the third quarter. The defense allowed the Rams just 59 yards of total offense and set up the offense with turnovers.


  Greenwood 0   7   0   0   7  
  Lanier 0   7         34  

         The Emeralds of Greenwood high school in South Carolina traveled to the Cramton Bowl in week two of the season and were sent home with a 34-7 loss. Greenwood jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the second quarter but Blitz tied the score with a touchdown run a few minutes later. Willie Pace blocked a punt and Danny Hall recovered a fumble to pace the defense.


  Tuscaloosa 0   0   7   0   7  
  Lanier 7   7   7   6   27  

         Rusty Chumley returned the opening kick for a touchdown to set the tone in a 27-7 win over the Tuscaloosa Black Bears in week three. Jeff Blitz tossed two touchdown passes to Slade Rhodes that covered 42 and 56 yards. The defense limited the Bears to just 54 yards of total offense. Tuscaloosa's only touchdown came when they returned the second half kickoff for a score.


  Ramsay 0   14   0   0   14  
  Lanier 0   2   7   6   15  

         The Ramsay Rams put a scare into the Lanier Poets before falling 15-14 in week four. Phillip Young and Willie Pace tackled the Rams' punter in the end zone to record a safety as the defense got the first points of the game. Ramsay came back to score twice in the second quarter to take a 14-2 halftime lead.

         Lanier cut the lead to 14-9 in the third quarter on a six-yard pass from Blitz to Slade Rhodes. Blitz found Rhodes again in the final stanza on a two-yard touchdown pass to give the Poets the lead and a 15-14 victory.


  Vigor 0   0   0   7   7  
  Lanier 7   7   14   7   35  

          After an open date, the Poets hosted the Vigor Wolves at the Cramton Bowl. Lanier won their 28th consecutive game 35-7 as the Wolves fell behind 14-0 by halftime on touchdowns by Tres Rogers and Rusty Chumley. Jeff Blitz raced 45 yards for a third quarter score and just a minute later Willie Pace returned an interception 41 yards for another score and a 28-0 lead. Vigor's only score came late against the second unit defense.


  Murphy 0   0   0   0   0  
  Lanier 0   7   0   3   10  

          The Murphy Panthers came to Montgomery and left with a 10-0 loss. The offense struggled with mistakes and penalties. They fumbled at the Panthers one-yard line and had another touchdown called back due to a penalty. Tres Rogers scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter to give Lanier a 7-0 lead. Randy Moore wrapped up the scoring with a fourth quarter 37-yard field goal as the Poets registered their second shutout of the season.


  Dothan 0   7   7   0   14  
  Lanier 6   0   0   0   6  

          The win over Murphy was the 29th consecutive victory for the Poets. It all came to a temporary halt the next week as Lanier lost to Dothan 14-6 at home. The Poets jumped out to a 6-0 lead the first time they had possession of the football but could not reach pay dirt again. Lanier marched 77 yards for the opening score as Rae Jabour scored on a one-yard run.

          Dothan picked up touchdowns in the second and third quarters on short runs to take a 14-6 lead. Lanier fumbled the football away almost continuously in the second half to halt drives. Three of the miscues came in the fourth quarter with the offense inside the Dothan 15-yard line.

          The loss ended the winning streak but more importantly it dropped the Poets to No. 10 in the AHSAA Class 4A rankings. Only the top four team qualified for the playoffs so Lanier needed some help to have any chance of repeating as state champions in 1968. At least six teams ahead of them in the rankings would have to lose for the Poets to qualify for the playoffs.


  Lee 0   7   0   0   7  
  Lanier 7   10   7   10   27  

          Lanier bounced back with a 27-7 win over arch-rival Lee to improve their record to 7-1. Jeff Blitz led the attack with 122 yards rushing on 21 carries. Rusty Chumley chipped in 95 yards on 13 attempts. Chumley got the offense going on a 32-yard run in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. Johnny Botts and Tres Rogers scored on short runs and Randy Moore booted field goals of 33 and 23 yards to close out the Lanier scoring.

          More importantly, Lanier got some help as No. 1 ranked Berry, No. 2 Cullman, No. 6 Ensley and No. 9 Wenonah all lost their games. With all the shakeup in the rankings, Lanier jumped Etowah and Banks to claim the number four team in Class 4A. All that was left to do was to defeat McGill and a playoff spot should be assured.


  Lanier 0   10   14   7   31  
  McGill 0   10   0   0   10  

          Lanier ended the 1968 regular season with a 31-10 win over the Yellow Jackets to earn a spot in the playoffs. Dave Campbell scored the first points for Lanier when he rambled ten yards for a touchdown on a bad punt snap. McGill capitalized on two fumbles to take a 10-7 lead before Randy Moore tied the score with a field goal as the half ended.

          The second half was all Lanier. Slade Rhodes returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. Following an interception by Bill Cook, the Poets scored again on a Blitz to Rhodes pass play for a 24-10 lead. Johnny Botts wrapped up the scoring on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.


  Berry 0   0   0   0   0  
  Lanier 14            42  

          The Berry Buccaneers traveled to Montgomery to face the Poets in the first round of the playoffs and went home with a loss by the score of 42-0. Lanier jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead as Lanier rolled up over 400 yards rushing in the game. Chumley rushed for 101 yards on just five carries and returned a punt 63 yards for a score. Blitz added 85 yard rushing and scored two touchdowns in the rout.


  Lanier 0   13   0   14   27  
  Huntsville 7   0   7   7   21  

           The Sidney Lanier Poets won the 1968 Class 4A state championship but they had to come from behind to do it. The Poets 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 had scored first on a 7-yard pass play to take a 7-0 lead.

          Lanier came back to pull within one point on a 27-yard run by Johnny Botts but missed the extra point and still trailed 7-6. Lanier took a 13-6 lead on a two-yard run by Rae Jabour just before the half ended. 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. The Poets celebrated a 27-21 hard-fought victory.

          It was Sidney Lanier's third consecutive title in coach Bobby Wilson's last game as the leader of the Poets.

          Quarterback Jeff Blitz and center Pat Raines were named to the Birmingham News first team all-state squad following the season. Receiver Slade Rhodes was selected to the second team. End and kicker Randy Moore was selected to the honorable mention team along with running back Rusty Chumley. 





Sidney Lanier
1968

9/6 23 Parrish Selma . . . . . 0
9/13 34 Greenwood SC . . . . . . 7
9/20 27 Tuscaloosa . . . . . . . . 7
9/27 15 Ramsay . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
10/11 OPEN . . . . . . . . . . . . .
10/18 35 Vigor . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
10/25 10 Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
11/1 6 Dothan . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
11/8 27 Lee Montgomery . . . . . 7
11/15 31 McGill-Toolen . . . . . 10
11/22 42 Berry Birmingham * . . 0
11/29 27 Huntsville # . . . . . . 21

277 10-1 87

* Playoff game
# State championship game




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


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