Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

THE 1985 DUBLIN FOOTBALL IRISH

THE FIRST PERFECT SEASON* 


THE FIRST PERFECT SEASON


It is indeed quite an accomplishment to go undefeated and untied during a regular football season.  No matter the level of competition, winning all of your games is a difficult.  Injuries, fluke plays, careless mistakes and fate can defeat a team.  So, when the 1985 Dublin team took the field for the first time on August 31, 1985, they had one goal and that was to win their region. The Irish, ranked 8th in the preseason, had no dreams to win all ten of their regular season games. No Irish team, nor any East Central Georgia team had ever accomplished the nearly impossible feat.


Above:  (Steve Oliver, Paul Baker, Eric Beacham)

By middle of the 2nd quarter of the first game of the season, the Irish trailed the always tough Golden Hawks 14-0.  With three scores on a wet visitor's field, the Irish came back to win 18-14. (Harris scores - left)







With four touchdown runs by Dublin's fleet-footed tailback, R.W., James and scoring receptions by Paul Baker (left)  and Scott Long, the Irish easily defeated their cross county rival the East Laurens Falcons, 41-15.






  R.W. James with one of his four touchdowns.




The Dublin boys, ranked 5th in the state,  captured the County Championship with a 31-0, well-balanced shellacking of the West Laurens Raiders at Raider Stadium.

In Week 4, the Irish traveled to meet the Jones County Greyhounds, which had upset the green and gold in previous meetings in Gray.  The Irish defense remained solid shutting out their opponents in 10 of the last 12 quarters, With two touchdowns each from R.W. James and Thomas Walker, Coach Travis Davis' Irish coasted to a 41-0 win in their first region game.













           In the first crucial game of the season, the strong running of R.W. James, the steady passing of Derrick Harris and the consistently stingy Irish defense, kept Dublin in the game against the Panthers of Americus High, a team which the Irish have struggled over the years. With Brett Bailey's 27-yard-field-goal and a missed 2-point conversion by the Panthers being the difference in the scoring, the Irish (50) won at home 17-13. (Willie Spikes - left)



At half time of the 6th game of Dublin's homecoming game with  Tri-County, the Irish's chance at perfect season was in real jeopardy. Dublin QB Derrick Harris, stepped up and threw a TD pass to Paul Baker in the 3rd quarter and ran the ball into the end zone in the final stanza to cap a come from behind win, 14-10.





The Irish made it a lucky 7-0 in Cordele.  With two quarterback sneaks by Harris, Dublin jumped out to an early 14-0 lead.  Crisp County roared back to cut the margin to 14-9.  Coach Davis felt his Irish were "on the ropes" until Mitchell Marion scooped up a Cougar fumbled and sprinted 63 yards to turn the tide back in favor of the Irish.  The Dublin defense, which spent a lot of time on the field, held on and stifled their opponents to lead the Irish to a 21-9 victory.  (Tracy Willis and Flim Thomas make stop - left)


In a case of deja vu all over again, the Irish jumped out to a 17-0 lead against the perennially powerful Peach County Trojans, who came roaring back to cut the score to 20-13.   With the Irish headed toward an 8-0 record, every opponent was playing hard to end Dublin's undefeated record. As they had always done that season, the Irish defense bowed up and stopped a go ahead scoring drive late in the game.  The Irish sealed the game when they tackled the Peach quarterback in the end zone for a safety near the end of the game.   For the third time in the first nine games, the Irish were down at half time.  With unequaled determination, the Irish defense got their needed shutout in the second half.  The Irish offensive drove did what they had to as well and that was to score at least at least a field goal in the second half.  Derrick Harris took the ball end from the one-yard line for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to lead Dublin to a 16-12 win over Perry High in a game which the Irish almost lost.

Eric Beacham recalled, "We were down by a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game. We had a big run that got us up to around mid-field. I remember standing in the huddle and all of us (the offense) looking at each other and thinking how difficult it was going to be to pull out a win. We really thought the road to a perfect season was over. I remember Derrick Harris calling the play and saying we can do this! First a pass  to Tim Powell and he catches it somewhere around the 20 yard line, then a pass to Paul Baker inside the  five yard line. Let me say it was one of the best catches I ever saw in high school. Paul had to stretch out horizontally and catch that ball. After that play we knew the game was ours. The next play (above)  we scored on a short run up the middle. What an emotional moment for me ...for the team!"

It all came down to the last regular season game on November 8.  The Irish jumped out to a 23-0 lead at the end of the first half against one of it's oldest and toughest rivals, the Dodge County Indians.  The teams swapped field goals in the second half leading the Irish to a 10-0 record.   (John Oliver - left)









"It's been a great season, but let's not be satisfied," an elated Davis who felt numb all over,  told his players after the win "You ve got a chance to do something here that no Dublin team has ever done   let s do it!"

(Coach Travis Davis looks happy)



Only two previous Dublin teams, the 1945 (5-0-1) the 1959 State Champions (11-0-1) had gone undefeated during the regular season.  No team had ever won 11 straight games in a season.  Only three teams, the 2002, 2005 and 2006 teams would win that many games to start the season.  No east Central Georgia team had ever accomplished that feat.

In the first game of the playoffs, Dublin met Crisp County for a second time. With the score knotted at 7-7 at the end of the half, the pressure was on the offense to score and on the defense to keep Crisp out of the end zone. Tim Powell snatched a short pass from QB Harris and Tracy Gay blocked a Cougar punt out of the end zone to vault the Irish to eleven straight wins with a hard fought 16-7 win.



IRISH BACKFIELD
(L-R)
Willie Spikes, Derrick Harris, R.W. James 

It was a cool, damp night on the Friday before Thanksgiving.  Andre Payne, remembered that running back Willie Spikes was on the field in the hospital bed at the edge of the end zone. R.W. James was still on the mends from a debilitating injury.  The Americus Panthers returned to the Shamrock Bowl determined not to lose to Dublin twice in a season.  The teams swapped two touchdowns.  But, the back breaker came in near the end of the first half.  After Dublin tied the game at 14, Edward Jackson took the ensuing kickoff back for 94 yards putting an end to the green team's momentum going into the halftime.  Although the Irish won the second half, 7-6, they came up short 26-21.  And, just like that, the season was over.   For the seniors, it was the last time they would put on their green and gold uniforms.  For the rest of the team, there was always next  year.

"That year was an amazing year and Im so proud I was a part of that team, I sometimes wonder where we rank among the great teams since we left, hard to compare I guess. We were on a tidal wave, acting crazy and having fun. Immature kids from different backgrounds who came together and played great football together," recalled receiver Paul Baker.

"There isn't a day I don't miss my good friend (the late)  Steve Oliver," recalled lineman John Wilson, who went on to play for three national championship teams at Georgia Southern. "But nothing comes close to those days in the Shamrock Bowl and growing up with my friends.

Lineman Eric Beacham, in looking back to that magical season, recalled, " We honestly thought we had what it took as a team to go all the way in '85.  Losing the region championship to Americus left a void in me that today still remains."

Jeff Morris recalled, "As the season went along and we just kept winning, the support from the community just grew."  Morris too felt empty after the playoff loss to Americus, who got revenge against Dublin for doing the same thing in the previous year.




"We were a talented team: Hard work, teamwork, dedication, and commitment along with the desire to win made us the team to beat, commented  Andre Payne.

So on this 30th anniversary of the first area football team to have a perfect regular 10-game season, here's a shout out to the 1985 Dublin High Irish, the  team that would not quit.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Once we hit that field,and got under thosr lights on Friday nights,we were a family as one, no individual accomplishments ..........we never gave up on each other May God Bless MY Brothers.... It was hard in waycross,GA during camp,getting up at5:30 in the morning hitting each other but it paid off:) Tracy S Willis

Tracy Willis said...

Once we hit that field,and got under thosr lights on Friday nights,we were a family as one, no individual accomplishments ..........we never gave up on each other May God Bless MY Brothers.... It was hard in waycross,GA during camp,getting up at5:30 in the morning hitting each other but it paid off:) Tracy S Willis

Derrick Harris said...

I truly believe that the 1985-1986 Fighting Irish football team was the best collective team to never have won the state championship. Had we had gotten by Americus the second time, there is no doubt that we would have gone on to beat the Thomson Bulldogs and run on to an undisputed, untied and undefeated State title. (As Americus loss convincingly to Thomson that very next week!) We were great that year simply because we had a tremendous amount of talent across the field with great coaching. And we worked extremely hard off the field to prepare our minds and our bodies for competition. We worked hard at Laura S. Walker State Park in Waycross, Georgia with three-a-days and we lifted weights and performed circuit training 3 days a week and we ran on the track consistently to make ourselves better. Combine that with the coaching staff that was cutting edge on offense and defense and a fan base that was frenzied, we were a formidable team that would be hard to beat by anyone's standard, barring serious injuries in the state playoffs. I want to say God bless to all of my former coaches and players that have gone before us and those that are still here. May God bless you and yours. Go Irish!....Derrick Harris, DHS Class of '87

Derrick Harris said...

What's up Black! Love ya' man!

Derrick Harris said...

What's up Black! Love ya' man!

warbrn said...

The best team without recognitions.