“Homecoming, at last!”
The truth is, no one thought this special homecoming would occur. With the support of Statesboro High School, however, a committee composed of football, cheerleader and band representatives from four SHS graduating classes (’65, ’66, ’67 and ’68) are finally bringing the "Homeless Blue Devils of ‘64" home for the first time to Womack Field.
A 50-year reunion for the 1964 Blue Devils is planned for Friday when SHS hosts the Brunswick High Pirates at Womack Field.
This has been a homecoming waiting to happen for 50 years. In fact, many former players will greet each other for the first time in nearly 50 years.
The football season of 1964 included some unique circumstances. Statesboro High School was relocated from West Grady Street, where the school was originally constructed in 1901 and expanded in 1922, to a new campus on Lester Road in 1964. Construction of the new school was on schedule, but the new football field on Lester Road was not ready.
Also, head coach Ernest Teel (SHS 1945-1947 and 1954-1966) and assistant coaches Ray Williams and Tom Avret were fielding a team loaded with a lot of young players. Prior to 1964, there were many unanswered questions after a losing record (4-6) in 1963 and five years of mediocrity, having not won more than six games in any one year. SHS needed a turnaround. But no home field and many untested players created challenging circumstances.
Principal James Sharpe and Coach Teel were able to schedule "home” games in neighboring communities, including two in Sylvania, and one each in Claxton, Swainsboro and Millen. Afternoon practices were conducted in the outfield of Pilot Field, the old and abandoned semi-pro baseball park located on Highway 301 North. Players were transported from the campus to practice via a surplus commercial bus, nicknamed “Beelzebub.”
Despite the odds, leadership from senior players spawned a “Team First” attitude that supported talented younger players including freshmen and sophomores to step in and play when needed throughout the season. Despite seldom being favored to win after a 21-0 defeat in their first game against Class B state runner-up Bradwell Institute, the 1964 Blue Devils began posting victory after victory.
In the 10th game of the season, the Blue Devils found themselves playing the Swainsboro Tigers in Millen for the Region 2-A Championship. Although losing 28-14 in a thrilling contest, the 1964 season was a huge success with SHS finishing as runner-up in GHSA Region 2-A, being ranked seventh in the Class A Top Ten, and posting a 7-2-1 record. The "Homeless Blue Devils of ‘64" put the program back on track for some great seasons ahead, including a state championship two years later.
There were 40 players, three managers and three coaches who “strapped it up” for the Blue and White five decades ago, and there was a squad of cheerleaders, a marching band and a student body that led a proud community that supported the Blue Devils.
Friday, the players will “huddle” as a team on Womack Field for the first time. Players and cheerleaders in attendance will be introduced at halftime. After waiting for 50 years, Friday they finally get to enjoy their homecoming at Womack Field.