What is Commerce Tiger Football?
Tiger Football in Commerce is part of the town’s pride, tradition and WAY OF LIFE. On a football Friday night, the city is almost deserted for about three hours, because it’s time to root for those young men in black and gold.
It’s driving to the game, parking the family vehicle and walking through those brick gates to get your ticket, buying a program from the cheerleaders and seeing Claudius Bruce’s masterpiece–the huge Tiger painting at the lower end of the field. It’s the smell of a fresh cut turf on a warm night in late summer reminding you that football season has truly arrived, and it’s a bitterly cold east wind causing you to shiver in late fall.
Commerce Football is reminiscing with old friends before the game about past victories and heroes such as Gene White, Gene Baird, Ken Davis, Tabby Love, Steve Gary, Gene Brake, Ricky Hill, Donald Rucker, Wayland Rucker, Michael Collins, and Monte’ Williams. Bobby and Hal Lamb, George Short, Bill Brown, Clay Hendrix, Roger Love, Billy Hendricks, Darold Crocker, Robert Oliver and Max Carnes are also memorable names from the past as well as numerous others who have given Tiger faithful many memories from by-gone years.
It’s some Tiger followers in the stands wondering why Coach Savage didn’t pass but three times a game and others knowing that he indeed was THE COACH and he knew the team’s strengths and limitations.
Commerce Football is the cheerleading squad leading the team through the goalposts to begin the game as the Gold and Black gladiators burst down the hill from the concession stand through the “Big Sign” just prior to the start of the contest, and the Tiger team jumping with enthusiasm and chanting “Tiger Power, Tiger Power!” as it prepares to take the field for the opening kickoff. And it’s those same Cheerleaders throwing miniature footballs into the stands following a Tiger score.
It’s predicting the score before the game, the captains walking to midfield for the toss of the coin (which we usually lose), and standing for the kickoff.
Tiger Football is a game of nicknames like Ollie, Att, Runt, Bull, Rock, Pickle, Wahoo, Murdock, Big Man and Little Coach. It’s coaches pacing the sideline and sending in a play. It’s men chewing tobacco and Lewis Sanders’ Tiger coat.
Football in Commerce is a number of avid fans going to practice each day through the week to watch the team in its preparation for the upcoming game, and it’s getting a copy of the area newspapers to see what the sportswriters have to say about the Tigers.
Tiger Football is players and fans (fanatics) attending a bonfire on Thursday night before the Jefferson game and getting psyched up and ready to knock off the Dragons.
It’s the I-Bone and the offensive line opening big holes for Tiger runners. It’s a swarming defense that limits George Rogers, an eventual Heisman Trophy winner at the University of South Carolina, to 21 yards in 19 carries in the sub-region title game against Duluth in 1976 in a 3-3 tie that gave the Tigers the championship. It’s making four second half goal line stands against Hart County in 1970 to preserve a 7-6 win, and its Wayland Rucker thundering through Monticello for 247 yards in 1990.
It’s eight pancake blocks in a single game by offensive tackle Kenny Flint and it’s the bone crushing tackles and blocks from his 2-back position by four year starting linebacker Nick Cox.
It’s Monte’ Williams setting a new Georgia high school rushing record of 8011 yards against Jefferson in the 2000 season and eventually leading the Tigers to defeat Buford for the 2000 STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP OF GEORGIA in a 27-19 season finale by scoring four TD’s. It’s Monte’ amassing 8844 rushing yards in four years, a Georgia High School record and fourth nationally, on 946 attempts for a 9.35 yards per carry for a career. He was indeed phenomenal.
Tiger Football is beating Lincoln County in come-from-behind fourth quarter victories twice in 2000, one occurring in the Georgia Dome and the other on a Casey Gary 31-yard field goal in Tigertown with 0:00 left on the game clock.
Tiger Football is the swarming Tiger defense squelching another opponent’s efforts and receiving a standing ovation as it leaves the field. It’s goal line stands, long time-consuming drives, interceptions, and fumble recoveries.
It’s the Tiger marching band playing “Tiger Rag” following a touchdown, and it is an enthusiastic crowd running onto the field to greet their heroes after an exciting victory.
Commerce Football is a quiet bus ride to an away game as the players prepare for the contest mentally, and a bus loaded with joyous and happy players on the return trip following the win. It’s “the men along the fence”, the cheerleader’s banners, cokes, hotdogs, popcorn and coffee on a cold night. It’s the Alma Mater and the Star-Spangled Banner as fans stand to show loyalty to their school and nation.
It’s Don Burchett and other boisterous Tiger fans voicing their opinion as to the nature of an official’s call at a crucial time in the game, and it is fans cheering and clapping for a “BIG HIT”, sometimes referred to as “LICK CITY”, or a Tiger score to put the “gold and black” ahead.
It’s doctors Sergent, Vickery, Griffeth and Marshburn with his numerous hats or Big “G” Gary Scott coming to the aid of a fallen hero and several fathers and other dogged supporters meeting in the field house following the game to congratulate the team and coaches on another victory.
Commerce Football is avid fans getting to an away game at 6 PM in order to get a seat on the back row. It’s crowning the homecoming queen and her court; it’s majorettes, the color guard and band director Jack Balthazor’s gold blazer.
It’s the press box packed full of coaches and reporters, and it is stadium announcer Bill Davis getting excited about an erroneous pass intended for Richard Beasley. That along with the humor of he and Merrill Bagwell concerning the brand of press box coffee for the evening as well as other “IMPORTANT ISSUES” of the day are all facets of this community game attended by hoards of Tiger followers.
It’s Commerce squaring off against such old rivals as Jefferson, Carrollton, Cartersville, South Habersham, Buford, Lincoln County and Madison County to see which will gain the victory and bragging rights for another year. And, it’s journeying over to places like Central Gwinnett and Oconee County, not knowing what freak play, official’s decision, or incident of some sort might occur there.
Tiger Football is the film crew setting up for the game and throwing out T-Shirts after a big Tiger play. They are truly the “Wild Bunch”.
It’s Abe Brown calling in the highlights of the game to WCON for the scoreboard show and Tiger followers tuning in as they return home from an away game.
It’s New Years, Christmas and the Fourth of July all wrapped into one. It’s laughter and sometimes tears; exuberance but sometimes even dejection. It’s a game that separates the men from the boys but also one that makes kids of us all.
Now, is football on a Friday night at Tiger Stadium in Commerce like that excitement found down at LSU on a Saturday night or the seventh game of the World Series or even the ACC basketball playoffs? Probably not.
But for this community, nothing brings its people together en masse more than the Tigers. Hundreds of cheering fanatics and people of varied backgrounds—salesmen, preachers, teachers, builders, businessmen, housewives; young and old alike follow the Tigers.
Why, you might say, does this city act this way? It’s simple; it’s nothing more than a small north Georgia town that’s fallen in love with a bunch of kids.
Now what is more American than that? Nothing, not even baseball, hot dogs, apple pie or Chevrolet!