Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local Sports

August 21, 2013

1993 — A year like no other for local sports

THOMASVILLE — Twenty years ago this fall, Thomasville and Thomas County experienced a football season unparalleled by any community in this state.

Ever.

The 1993 season was expected to be a good one for the Thomasville Bulldogs and Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets. The Bulldogs were bringing back a stiff defensive team and a solid core of offensive starters from a squad that made to the 1992 Class AAA quarterfinals. The Yellow Jackets were riding a wave of momentum coming off their first state championship season — one in which they started the campaign with a 1-5 record before winning nine straight games.

Collegiately, former Thomasville and Central players were excelling in the college ranks. Former Bulldogs quarterback Shawn Jones had won a national championship, piloting the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 1991. Thomasville alumnus Eric Curry helped lead Alabama to the 1992 national title from his defensive tackle position.

1992 also saw Central star quarterback Charlie Ward Jr. solidly assume the helm of the Florida State Seminoles’ offense. A point guard on the FSU basketball team, Ward ran an offensive attack the likes of which had never been used in Tallahassee, Fla. It essentially gave Ward the opportunity to work from the shotgun to better see the field and distribute the ball, either running or passing. Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden dubbed the offense “The Fast Break,” fashioned to fit Ward’s talents by a then-relatively unknown FSU quarterbacks coach named Mark Richt. The ‘Noles finished 1992 with an 11-1 record and a No. 2 final national ranking.

Ward started the 1993 season as a pre-season All-American and FSU was ranked No. 1. Both lived up to their billing.

Leading the team to an impressive 42-0 win against Kansas in the nationally televised Kickoff Classic played at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, the Seminoles signal-caller ripped opposing defenses to shreds with his accurate passing and innate running ability, all guided by an uncanny “sixth sense” of being able to anticipate the moves of the offensive and defensive players on the field and exploit them.

After outscoring the opposition 228-14 through their first five games, Ward’s name began to be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate. FSU’s solid 28-10 win against nationally ranked Miami thrust the Seminoles QB squarely into the front of the Heisman pack.

Back at home, Thomasville and Central were putting together very impressive seasons. The teams met early in the campaign with Central winning a solid opening victory at home 28-7. Nearly inexplicably, the Yellow Jackets lost back-to-back to very physical Dougherty 27-14 and woeful Westover 14-7. Those were the only games Central lost in the regular season as they secured their first region crown since Ward was a senior on the Yellow Jackets’ 1987 team.

Thomasville reeled off seven straight wins after its opening loss before losing a brutal defensive game at home to Dougherty 12-7 and then a 17-15 heartbreaker to Cairo in overtime in the last game of the regular season. The loss to the Syrupmakers meant the Bulldogs had to go on the road in the playoffs to open against the Dougherty team that had defeated them just two weeks earlier.

This time, however, Thomasville found a way to stymie the tough Trojans, winning the road game 31-14. In the following weeks, the Bulldogs travelled to defeat Thomson 32-7 and Wayne County 22-7 before taking down Winder-Barrow at home in a 21-0 shutout in the semifinals.

Central’s playoff fortunes were similar. After defeating Cairo 42-21 at Thomas County Stadium in the opening round, the Jackets defeated Richmond Academy 35-14 at home before going on the road to face once-beaten Peach County — the same team Central had defeated in the ’92 state championship game. After pulling out a thrilling 24-14 victory there, Central again went on the road to Dalton, defeating the Cantamounts 21-7 in the semifinals on a frigid north Georgia Friday night.

As the two local teams wound their seasons down, Ward was hitting his stride for FSU. After a disappointing 31-24 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., that moved the Irish to the No. 1 position, FSU saw that same Irish team lose to Boston College as the Seminoles were destroying North Carolina State by a 62-3 score the very next week. Back at No. 1, Ward all but won the Heisman Trophy in his last regular season game, a legendary 33-21 win against Florida and head coach Steve Spurrier in The Swamp in Gainesville.

The weekend of the high school semifinals, the Heisman Trophy was awarded. The FSU quarterback won the highest honor in college football by what at the time the most lopsided margin in Heisman Trophy history. Ward garnered 84 percent of the first-place votes.

With their wins, Central and Thomasville met in the legendary 1993 state championship game, a heart-stopping 14-12 Yellow Jacket victory in front of an estimated 10,000 fans. It marked the first and only time that two teams from within one county have ever played for a football state championship in Georgia.

As if that epochal event wasn’t enough to satiate local football fanatics, the morning following that monumental state title game the Heisman Trophy came home to Thomasville with a celebration held at at the Central gymnasium. The building was packed with Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs as the Rose City welcomed home its only Heisman winner, accompanied by none other than coach Bobby Bowden on the weekend his hometown teams had played each other for the state championship. Ward went on to lead FSU to an 18-16 victory against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, securing the first national championship for Florida State and their beloved head coach.

ESPN sent crews to the Rose City to cover the hysteria surrounding football here. The nation looked on with envy at the almost unbelievable gridiron success stories they witnessed in 1993

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