Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local Sports

September 23, 2013

Smooth transition

THOMASVILLE — Thanks to a seamless transition from one head coach to another, the 1958 Thomasville Bulldogs sewed up a state championship — the second in their school’s history.

Joe Sumrall led Thomasville to a 10-2-1 record and a share of the Class AA title after succeeding Erskine Mills. Sumrall had been Mills’ assistant since 1951.

The Bulldogs and Avondale Blue Devils battled to a 13-13 draw in the final.

Sumrall, an Alabama graduate, was named the Class AA coach of the year and received a new car from the Thomasville Touchdown Club.

“We did the same stuff with the same results,” said Cawood Arrington, a Bulldogs halfback who gained all-state honorable mention in 1958. “Even the way we practiced and exercised was the same. As far as I can remember, everything was the same.”

Sumrall employed the exact trapping style of offensive attack Mills preferred. His Bulldogs operated out of the T formation, which featured pre-snap motion and multiple options on running plays.

“We had very little passing, although our quarterback was a good passer,” Arrington said.

The Bulldogs quarterback was Joe Harvard, whose brother, Bryant, led Thomasville to its first unbeaten regular season in 1955.

“Bryant was a lot better quarterback than I was,” Harvard humbly said. “Back then, we only threw the ball six to nine times a game — mostly on rollouts and little things. I felt like the only thing I did well was that I could fake pretty good and I called the plays.

“Calling plays was the fun part of the game. I couldn’t run very fast or throw the ball very well.”

Like Arrington, Harvard said Sumrall stuck to the script that helped Mills compile a 53-20-1 mark from 1951-57. Sumrall’s teams went 65-21-5 from 1958-65.

“We missed coach Mills greatly, but we didn’t miss a beat as a team,” Harvard said. “Coach Sumrall was the same kind of person and same kind of coach with a similar mindset and philosophy.

“Our offense was very much like what (Vince) Lombardi’s Green Packers ran in those days. It was very simple but very effective. The main thing we had was a defense.”

See Tuesday's edition for more details.

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