Lost & Found
During the 2000 playoffs against Johnson County, Charlie Epps seemed to wander over to JC’s sideline and began talking to their coach. Later when asked what he was doing , he said he had found a $20 bill and was giving it to their coach since it was their field! Source WJJC.
Monte : True To His Word
2000 Final Four game versus Lincoln County. Trailing 14-3 and not having a single first down, and the LC fans chanting, “MONTE WHO”. Monte Williams looked into the stands at his mom at the start of the fourth quarter and said, “it’s my turn now”. Sure enough he gained about 100 yards and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter behind great blocking. The Tigers won 17-14.
On Sept. 17, 1960 the Commerce Tigers traveled to Lawrenceville to play the Central Gwinnett Black Knights and lost 13-7. Late in the fourth quarter with Commerce trailing 13-7, the Tigers had driven to the Central seven. On second down, a sweep around left end moved the ball to the four. With the Tigers in the huddle preparing for a third down play, the field lights unexpectedly went out. After a short delay, the lights came back on. However, the down marker had been changed to fourth down in the dark and confusion. The Tiger coaching staff complained but to no avail. Now on fourth down, the Tigers tried a pass, but it was unsuccessful. The Tiger rally fell short partially due to a “down marker ghost”.
Knotted Up Again
In 1975, at Central Gwinnett in the tenth game of the season, Commerce tied the Black Knights in the third consecutive meeting between the two teams in a
(13-13) score. Earlier in the season, the two teams tied (8-8) in Commerce. In the last game of the 1974 season in Commerce, the Tigers and Black Knights played to a tie score of (0-0).
Wow! What are the odds on two teams playing three consecutive tie games?
The two teams played each other twice in 1974 and 1975 because the regular scheduled game between Commerce and the Georgia Industrial team from Alto
was canceled for both years. Therefore, Commerce picked up an extra game with Central Gwinnett.
High Cotton (must read)
B.A. Seagraves was to be the starting tight end on the 1944 team. However, he almost did not get to play, because his father said that he was going to have to pick cotton on the farm each afternoon after school in September until the chore was done.
However, Coach Richard Nix made a deal with B.A.’s father. If Mr. Seagraves would let B.A. come out for the team, Coach Nix and the entire football team would come down one afternoon and pick his cotton. The team picked cotton from about 3:30 until dark to get the job done. That was pretty good team work.
With the help of B.A. Seagraves, the Commerce Tigers of 1944 went on to post a fine (9-2) record, and that also was pretty good team work.
Jeff Prickett/Welton Cronic
Snot Bubble Lick
In 1976 in the tenth game of the season, Commerce needed a win or tie against Duluth to capture the Region 8A title. Back then only one team went to the state football playoffs from each region and that was the region champion.
Duluth had star running back George Rogers, 6′ 3″, 220 lbs. of lightning speed and horrific power. Later he would win the 1980 Heisman Trophy at South Carolina as the best football player in America.
However, on this night Commerce won the region in a (3-3) tie with Duluth in one of the greatest defensive efforts in the annals of Tiger football, as the awesome Tiger defense held Rogers to 21 yards in 19 carries. He lost two fumbles and threw one interception. The small Tiger defense looked like a hive of hornets after a bull.
On one play near the Tiger sideline on this cold night in front of Coach Ray Lamb, Tiger strong safety Bob Nelson hit Rogers helmet to helmet in what Coach Lamb called the “infamous snot bubble lick”. Nelson’s hit was so good that Rogers erupted with some internal ooze out the front of his helmet.
Also Commerce trailed the entire game after Duluth had scored a first period field goal until with 2:44 remaining Tiger kicker Lamar Hiland kicked a 31-yard field goal giving Commerce the Region 8A title with the tie.
Ala Monday Night Game ( Packers)
In 1959, the Commerce Tigers had a poor record of (3-7), but in the eighth game of the season in a 25-19 loss to Toccoa, the Tigers scored an unusual touchdown in the rain and mud. Fullback Ken Davis, out for a pass, fell in the mud. However, as the ball sailed toward the downed receiver, he deflected it with his foot and caught it for a touchdown while lying on his back. It was an astounding effort.
The pass was a halfback pass thrown by Billy Hendricks.
In the 1981 Class A football state championship game between Commerce and Greene County, the Tigers jumped out to a 28-0 lead and later won 28-14.
The last Greene County score came late in the final quarter on an illegal play. The old center/quarterback touch-and-go play where the center snaps the ball to the quarterback but brings the ball back down and runs with it.
Nobody had any idea as to the location of the ball. About twenty yards down the field, the Tigers finally found the pigskin but the ball carrier was behind the Tiger defense and about to score.
It was a very unusual situation in which nobody on the Tiger sideline or in the stands knew what happened until the coaches watched the film later on Sunday.
However, almost everyone thought the play had to be illegal and it was.
100 yard punt
Before the tenth game of the 1961 season against South Hall, a game in which Commerce won (61-0), legendary Tiger barefooted punter Roger Love, while standing at the Commerce goal line in pre-game warm-ups kicked a rocket punt which after it stopped rolling wound up on the opponents goal line 100 yards away from Love.
In a 1965 playoff game against Clarkston at neutral site Monroe, Ga., the Tigers played the Angoras in a light rain. Commerce won the game 15-7.
Legendary Tiger kicker Max Carnes had a bad night kicking PAT’s missing both points after touchdown.
However, with the Tigers trailing Clarkston 7-6 in the fourth quarter, Commerce faced a fourth and ten at the Clarkston 21. The ball was water-logged and heavy. Few in the stands felt that Carnes could kick a 38-yard field goal into the wind and rain with a water soaked ball.
Tiger head mentor Jeff Davis sent in the young kicker, and as toe met leather the ball sailed toward the cross bar and cleared it by no more than a foot and split the uprights to give Commerce a 9-7 lead and one that they would never relinquish.
It was a remarkable feat considering the conditions.
In the second game of the 1966 season, Commerce traveled to East Hall and won the game (83-0). However, in the 83 points scored by the Tigers,
Commerce failed to score in the first period. Leading 35-0 at the half and most Tiger regulars on the bench in the second half, the second and third teamers scored 48 second half points.
In 1985, the Commerce Tigers traveled to defending state champion Greenville to take on the Patriots on the worst of field conditions. Instead of the usual turtle shaped or humpbacked field it was “U” shaped. It rained the entire game and the field was a pond or sea of mud and water. The Tigers sloshed their way to a 40-14 win with 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. The Commerce attack led by quarterback Scott Nunn didn’t fumble a single time much less lose one during the entire game.
Ten inch worms came up out of the ground and were everywhere on the field. On one occasion right tackle Mark “Murdock” Hancock had one crawl up his arm as he was in his stance in preparation for a play. He could hardly tolerate the critter, but he was much more afraid of coaches Lamb and Savage if he jumped and therefore cause a procedure penalty against the Tigers.
This contest has since been referred to as “the worm game”.
4th Quarter Turn Around
In the ninth game of the 1966 season, the (9-0) Tigers traveled to Norcross to play the Blue Devils. The game was scoreless at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth period the Commerce offense broke the drought and scored six touchdowns to win (40-0). What a turn around in the game.
In 1965, Commerce built the present Tiger Stadium and christened the new facility with the first home game against traditional rival South Habersham. About thirty minutes before game time a new transformer blew out at the stadium and the game’s start was delayed until 9:00. What a way to inaugurate the first game in a new stadium. The infamous “down marker ghost” in the 1960 Central Gwinnett game had now become the “transformer ghost”.
“It was like they had more guys than us out there”
In the second game of the 1976 season against visiting Stephens County, the Tigers gained three times as much total offense as the Indians but lost the game (16-6) due primarily to errors deep in Tiger territory. However one Indian drive was extended due to the visitors using 12 players on three consecutive plays. Whether it was accidental or otherwise it worked and helped provide the difference for the Indians in a scoring drive against Commerce. Neither the officials nor the Tiger coaching staff were able to detect the 12-man formation during the game. But it truly happened on three consecutive plays.
Water Bowl of 76
In the 1976 Class A state championship game against the host team Turner County, the Tigers lost (14-0) on an extremely wet field because of rain the day of the game and the previous day. Prior to the game, Turner County officials had placed large pieces of plastic over the middle of the field to try to help keep the field dry. However, as the plastic was removed it was done so in such a way that they dumped the majority of the water right onto the field that they were trying to protect. It was a quagmire suited to the great defensive struggle that it became. At some places on the field the ball floated prior to the center snap. Playing conditions in the middle of the field might have been a little better had the procedure been done properly.
Tough Break in Hart County
In the fourth game of the 1981 season, Commerce traveled to Hart County and roared back from a 29-7 deficit to tie the game at 29-29. However, on the PAT kick attempt by Todd Lord which split the uprights to give Tiger fans what they thought was a one point lead, the officials flagged the Hart County interior line for being off sides therefore nullifying the play. The extra point was taken off the board and Lord had to try the PAT again even though the Tigers had done nothing wrong. According to the rules Commerce couldn’t decline the penalty for the play was ruled dead when the Bulldogs jumped off sides. Lord’s second try was wide and the game ended in a tie. Sometimes there just seems to be no justice in some events of life.
Acorns In The End Zone………huh!
In the tenth game of the 1990 season, Commerce met Monticello for the first time since 1943 at Monticello Stadium. Commerce won 36-22. At one end of the stadium, oak trees hung over the end zone, therefore this is the only stadium that I’ve ever seen with “acorns in the end zone”. Acorns were everywhere at that one end of the field. The field property jutted right against the property of a private citizen who hadn’t removed the trees from near the boundary from hanging over the end zone area of the field.
Old School Field
From 1940-1946 Commerce played its home games at the field behind the old Elementary School. Two unusual facts were: 1) the field was only 90 yards long, 2) at the west end of the field a street separated the field from houses along the street, therefore to prevent PAT kicks from hitting these houses all PAT’s were kicked on the east end of the field.
The field is now an old Little League baseball field located next to the First Baptist Church on Elm Street in Commerce across the railroad tracks from the Commerce Public Library.
In the third game of the 1992 season, Coach Savage began having the Tigers run onto the field to begin a game by coming down the big bank at the concession stand to the left of the Commerce stands, a la the Clemson Tigers at Death Valley.
This Tiger Stadium tradition has been a death valley for Tiger opponents as the Tiger record in the 77 games hence is (65-12-0), an .844 winning percentage.
Two great defensive efforts by Tiger linemen occurred in 1958 and 1965.
In 1958 All-State Commerce defensive tackle Lanier “Zebra” Savage, in a game against eventual Class A state champion Stephens County, exhibited great speed for a lineman when after a 50-yard chase caught speedy Indian halfback George Cheek from behind at the Tiger four yard line. It was an outstanding effort for a 240 lb. defensive lineman. The Indians eventually gave the Tigers their only loss (18-7) of the season enroute to an (8-1-1) Tiger record. The Indian’s All-State halfback later would sign a football scholarship to the University of Georgia.
In 1965 Tiger defensive tackle Lewis Sanders, in a game against the Clarkston Angoras, also showed great speed for a lineman when after a 60-yard chase caught the elusive and swift Mickey Shockley to save a touchdown for the Tigers enroute to a Tiger victory (15-7) in the rain at neutral site Monroe, Ga. Commerce posted a record of (12-1-0) in 1965.
Both of these young men were great Tiger defensive stalwarts during their football career at Commerce.
In 1975, Commerce traveled to East Hall and won the game by a (26-0) score. At one point in the game, Commerce started a scoring drive on its own one yard line. In the process of the march, the Tigers incurred a 15-yard penalty therefore making the drive 114 yards long. To my knowledge it is the longest in total yards gained in Tiger history.
Grass Is Greener
The Tigers first team of the modern era was in 1940. They played their games at the Old Grammar School Field near the Commerce First Baptist Church. Sometimes the team would go down to the Waterworks Area on Waterworks Road to practice on the grass since the Grammar School Field was hard, bare ground.
A lot of the players would pile into Gene Chandler’s 1937 Ford. Many would ride on the running board, on the trunk, and some even would ride on the hood. He took practically the whole team. There were few cars back then because of the The Great Depression and most of the roads were dirt. Practice on the grass was much better than on the hard, bare ground. This was a treat for the players.
Jeff Prickett/Welton Cronic
In 1943, Commerce hosted Toccoa and lost to the Purple Hurricanes (20-6). Toccoa being a perennial power brought a large crowd. Commerce also had a good team and had a large number of fans. The Tigers had a (9-2) record that year with both losses coming at the hands of Toccoa. The game was a very rough and hard fought one.
Near the end of the game a “free for all”, including the fans, broke out on the field with most of the players on both sides involved in the fight. However, someone turned off the lights. Therefore, no one could see so the fights stopped and the game also came to an abrupt ending.
Jeff Prickett/Welton Cronic
Polluted Pigskin Game
One of the weirdest things to happen in a Tiger game occurred at Greensboro in 1945. The dressing rooms were at Greensboro High School. However, the team had to drive several miles out in the country to play the game in a pasture. Back then parents usually carried the players to games in their automobiles.
In pre-game warm-ups, THE FOOTBALL went off of the sidelines and rolled down a hill and into a murky pool of water. The ball was filthy and smelled badly, but it was the ONLY BALL available for either team and IT had to be the one used for the game.
Commerce eventually lost the “polluted pigskin game” (32-6).
Jeff Prickett/Welton Cronic
100 Yard Sprint
In the mid 50’s when Commerce played the Lavonia Bulldogs, a gentleman from Lavonia, just prior to the kickoff, would go out onto the field and sprint 100 yards from goal line to goal line. Fans in both sets of stands would cheer him on. It came to be an exciting event.
It had become a Lavonia football tradition. We as Commerce fans always looked forward to the Lavonia game, because we knew that this event was always about to happen just prior to the kickoff.
Coldest Tiger Game Ever??
In the tenth game of the season in 1969, Commerce traveled to Lawrenceville to play the Black Knights. As we traveled by the Lawrenceville bank near the stadium around 7 PM, we noticed that the temperature on the bank clock was 17 degrees.
Few were at the game on either side. It was so cold that the bands did not perform. The wind chill had to be below zero, for the wind had a ferocious howl that night. The Tigers behind the performances of John Fleming, Keith Ariail, Keith Massey and others belted the Black Knights (21-7).
It was the coldest high school game that I’ve ever attended, even overshadowing the one with Palmetto in 1985.
In the second game of the 1961 season, Commerce traveled to Winder and defeated the Bulldogs (33-13).
A most unusual thing happened in the second half. With the game still in doubt and the Tigers driving for a possible TD, Commerce halfback Roger Love was blindsided by a Winder-Barrow defensive end. He had to be helped to the sideline after being shaken up and on the way asked a fellow Tiger player the number of the player that hit him. After regaining his senses and being pointed out the fellow in question, Love reentered the game.
Shortly thereafter, Tiger quarterback Farris Gary rolled to his left to pass but was forced to reverse his field. Love picked out the aforementioned 6′ 4″ Bulldog defensive end and as Gary reversed his field back to the right side, Love set his sights on the big fellow and nailed him on a legal block around the knees turning him a complete somersault with such a ferocious hit that the player had to be removed from the game and taken to the hospital.
It was one of the great hits in Tiger history and has since been called
“the Love Lick”.
Love was one of the many great “hitters” in Commerce Tiger football lore.
The Tigers completed the touchdown drive and later added two other scores to defeat the Bulldogs in this old fashioned north Georgia rivalry.
Great Last Plays
Throughout the 62 year history of the Tigers there have been a few games that have come down to the last play that gave the Tigers a hard fought, come from behind victory. The following are examples.
1991—Commerce vs. Monticello
Without starting quarterback Jason Pittman, the Tigers defeated highly favored Monticello in Commerce (16-15) when junior quarterback Chuck Thompson hit halfback Vernard Gillespie with a 15-yard pass in the endzone with no time left on the clock.
1996–Commerce vs. Madison County
Beginning at the Commerce 32 with 3:00 left on the clock, the Tigers drove 50 yards in eight plays to the Raider 18. With 0:40 remaining in the game, quarterback Brandon Bruce kicked a 35-yard field goal to snatch victory away from defeat to edge MC (9-7).
It was only one of three occasions that the Tigers have won a game with a fourth quarter field goal. The other two being in Monroe against Clarkston in 1965 by Max Carnes and the other was at Commerce in 2000 when Casey Gary kicked one.
2000—Commerce vs. Lincoln County (1)
Trailing Lincoln County at the end of the third quarter (0-15), Commerce made a frantic fourth quarter surge to win.
Monte’ Williams cut the lead to (15-6) with a 22-yard run on the first play of the fourth period. Quarterback Michael Collins later shaved the deficit to (15-13) on a 1-yard run with 5:42 left in the game.
With 2:22 remaining in the game Commerce, from the Tiger 19, drove the ball 51 yards in 9 plays to the Red Devil 30 where Casey Gary’s 47-yard field goal attempt fell short and left of the crossbar with 0:00 left on the clock.
However, Lincoln County was flagged for roughing the kicker. LC was penalized 15 yards to the Red Devil 15 giving Commerce one more attempt at victory. Gary then boomed a 32-yard field goal for a (16-15) win to climax the greatest come from behind victory ever by a Commerce team.
2004 Commece V Jefferson
In the 59th meeting of the Commerce-Jefferson Rivalry, over 5000 fans witnessed a barnburner. The lead changed hands eleven times counting also the four times that the game was tied. With the score tied at 24-24 and only seconds remaining in regulation, the Jefferson field goal kicker missed a 37-yard kick sending the game into overtime.
Commerce tailback Tristan Daniels scored in the first overtime for the Tigers on a 4-yard run. The successful PAT gave the Tigers a 31-24 lead. Jefferson came right back and tied the game again 31-31 after a 7-yard run by a Dragon back.
In the second overtime, Jefferson’s kicker missed a field goal on their possession. Now Commerce only needed a field goal or TD to be victorious for the tenth consecutive time. The intent of the Commerce coaching staff was to keep the ball in the middle of the field to make a possible field goal easier. Three consecutive runs up the middle by David “Moose” Bray left Commerce with a fourth and one situation.
Commerce sophomore kicker Dusty Black entered the game, and with everyone in the stands on their feet, the young straight-on kicker nailed a 22-yard field goal for the 34-31 Tiger victory that sent Tiger faithful into ecstacy and Dragon followers into their tenth straight year of dejection.
Knocked Out …..Twice!
The 1951 Commerce-Jefferson game saw a freshman Tiger back play one of the greatest games ever by a Commerce player with great odds against his team. The Dragons with big fullback Earl Carithers and speedy halfback Don Cole marched into Commerce with intent on defeating the talent deficient Tigers for the first time since the series had begun in 1947.
However, freshman halfback Charles “Bootsey” White all of 5′4″-110 lbs of him, scored the first TD being knocked out in the process on a one-yard run. He later reentered the game and ran and threw passes and scrambled for numerous yards.
With the Tigers holding on to a precarious lead of (13-6) late in the fourth quarter near the Commerce 12 yard line, White gave up his body once more hitting the big 210 lb. Carithers to prevent a TD and again knocking himself out this time for the rest of the game. But the eventual (3-7-0) Tigers, the great underdogs that they were, held on to defeat the eventual (7-3-0) Dragons by a (13-8) score once more in one of the great individual and team defensive efforts in Tiger football lore. White was placed on the Atlanta Constitution football honor roll for his great effort in the Commerce victory over the Dragons.
In the (13-8) score of the 1951 Commerce-Jefferson game, late in the fourth quarter with Commerce holding a (13-6) lead, Jefferson scored the only safety in the historic 55 year rivalry between the two teams when Carithers tackled Commerce halfback Jerry Aiken in the end zone for a safety to make the final score of (13-8).
In the week before traveling to the Class B #1 ranked Washington Tigers, a tragedy occurred in Commerce when band member Tommy Conn was killed in an automobile accident.
The Commerce team visited the funeral home on their way to the game in Washington. After getting to the stadium, the Commerce Tigers were somewhat taunted by members of the host team causing Commerce ire to be stirred.
Washington scored early in the game, but the inspired Commerce team of Coach Dixon Glover came roaring back and dominated the Washington Tigers in a 27-6 victory for Commerce and upsetting the #1 ranked Washington squad of Coach Charlie Davidson.
A key play in the victory for Commerce was a 70-yard fumble return for a TD by eventual ALL-STATE Commerce defensive tackle Lanier “Zebra” Savage.
The Atlanta Constitution voted Commerce as the team of the week for its upset of the #1 ranked Washington Tigers.
The Commerce Tigers finished the season with a 7-3-0 record.
From 1967-1971 Commerce lost to Jefferson for five consecutive seasons and it was the longest drought ever by a Tiger team against the Dragons.
Up through 1966 the 20 year record of the CJ Rivalry stood at (13-3-4) in favor of the Tigers.
Then the Dragons won 5 in a row. In 1967 Jefferson won (7-6), 1968 (20-6), 1969 (19-0), 1970 (14-0) and 1971 (33-6).
Then in 1972, the undefeated Tigers traveled to Jefferson. Leading 19-14 in the latter part of the third period, Commerce had a bad punt snap deep in Tiger territory with the Dragons gaining possession at the Commerce six. Four plays for the Dragons produced minus 2 yards, as the Tigers threw up a dogged goal line defense.
Commerce then scored 23 unanswered points in the final stanza behind halfback Raymond Harris’ two TD runs of 3 and 78 yards and a 30 yard fumble return for a TD by defensive end Tommy Stephenson to make the final score (42-14).
The drought had been broken, and from 1972-04 Commerce has dominated the record against the Dragons. In the 34 games hence (one was a playoff game) the Commerce record against the Dragons is (26-7-1); a very one-sided record at that although still a very heated one.
At one point from 1983-1993, Commerce had an 11 game winning streak. The total CJ record is (39-15-5) in favor of Commerce. Commerce presently has a 10 game winning streak from 1995-2004
The Commerce-Jefferson Rivalry is one of the great ones in the state of Georgia and one of the few between two city school systems left in our fair state.
Goal Line Stands!!!!!
The 1970 Hart County game goes down as the greatest defensive effort in Tiger history, as the Tigers made four goal line stands for the game, three of which occurred in the final stanza to preserve a (7-6) Tiger victory.
In the second quarter, Hart drove to the Tiger five but four offensive attempts netted zero yards and Commerce took over at the five.
In the fourth quarter—
a. Commerce fumbled at the Tiger 23, but on third down John Fleming intercepted a pass at the Commerce three to halt the Bulldog drive.
b. On the second play thereafter, Hart recovered a Commerce fumble at the Tiger one. But the Tiger defense of Steve Savage, John Fleming, Ronnie Slater, Dennis White, Johnny Kesler, Alfred Smith, Doug Bolton and Ed Nelson repulsed four consecutive thrusts into the line and Commerce took over on the Tiger one. It was a phenomenal effort by the Tiger defensive front.
c. Commerce then fumbled at the Tiger three. On first down a run gained no yards; on second down a pass was deflected by Nelson and on third down with only seconds left on the clock, a field goal attempt fell short as the game ended.
Commerce fumbled nine times, but the dogged Tiger defense gave up only six points in the greatest defensive effort of any Tiger team in the 62 years of Tiger football.
In 1969 Commerce lost the first game of the season at Norcross (38-34).
This game marked the first time that a Black player, Riley Harris, had ever donned the black and gold uniform of Commerce.
Even though the Tigers lost the game, Harris entered Tiger history with style, as he returned a kickoff for a 75-yard TD and scored on three TD runs from scrimmage of 73, 80 and 4 yards.
It was an outstanding offensive effort by the new kid on the block.
Harris would later play college football at the University of Arizona.
One & Only
The only time that a Tiger player has ever returned the opening kickoff of a game for a TD occurred in 1965. It was done by Max Carnes and was a distance of 75 yards.
Not only was it the opening kickoff of the game, it was also the opening kickoff of the first game of the 1965 season against Stephens County in Eastonollee.
Carnes a year earlier was voted as the 1964 Back of the Year in Class A as a halfback for the Tigers. He helped lead the Tigers to the state final game in the football playoffs and a (12-1) record in 1965.
The only game in Tiger football history that Commerce has won without scoring an offensive TD came against Dawson County in a (7-3) score in 1996 when defensive back Chad Scoggins recovered a Dawson County fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Commerce has, however, won two games by (3-0) scores by scoring field goals to win games. Examples: 1983 vs. Hart County and 2001 vs. GMC
At the Dawson County 42 and in a punting situation, the long snapper for the DC punting team snapped the ball over the head of the punter. There was a mad scramble for the ball by the punter and Tiger defenders who kept lunging for the loose pigskin which kept being propelled toward the end zone. In a big pileup just beyond the goal line, Pittman came out with the ball to give the Tigers their only touchdown of the evening.
Commerce, without starting quarterback Brandon Bruce, was unable to do much offensively. However, the defense saved the day with this big play and huge error by the opponent.
An unusual incident occurred at Lumpkin County in the Tigers’ game with the Indians in 1972; a game which the Tigers won by a score of (47-3).
The two favored teams to win Region 8A that year were White County with fabulous running back Jesse Dorsey and Commerce with its dynamic duo of Runt Moon and Raymond Harris.
White County early in the season had defeated Lumpkin County somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 points. In the fourth game of the season, the Tigers had defeated White County (28-19) in a thriller.
The next week the Tigers were to play Lumpkin County, and the Indian faithful saw the handwriting on the wall. Lumpkins Indians had virtually no chance to win since they had been trounced by White County, and Commerce had defeated White County.
A resident minister was asked to say the opening prayer in Dahlonega that night knowing what slaughter might befall his beloved Lumpkin County Indians. He closed his prayer that night with the following words. “Lord, I know that we don’t have much of a chance of winning tonight, but help us out every little bit that you can.”
He truly meant well, but it is the only time in my football watching career that I have ever heard laughter during a prayer. In fact laughter broke out in both sets of stands.
One of the weird things to happen in a Commerce football game occurred in Commerce against Oconee County in Coach Steve Savage’s first year as head coach, a game which Commerce won (27-22).
Within a span of 3:50 seconds of the second period, Commerce scored two touchdowns but had an opportunity to score two more as a result of four OC turnovers. The Tigers blocked a punt, recovered two squib kicks following touchdowns and intercepted a pass during this short time.
While Oconee County was limited to only two offensive plays from scrimmage during this time frame, Commerce had four possessions of the pigskin capitalizing on two of them.
Momentum had truly turned the way of the Tigers, Oconee County playing as hard as they could simply looked like the “Keystone Cops”. They for 3:50 could simply do nothing right.
It happens to every team at some time or another in their football history to be error prone, and this was the Warriors’ night.
The Play Call
In the 2000 playoff game between the Commerce Tigers and the Trojans of Johnson County at Wrightsville, Commerce won the game (34-20).
While standing on the sideline at the 25 yard line and near Coach Steve Savage, numerous ones of us there saw one of the great “play calls” ever in Tiger Football History.
Get The Picture:
The Tigers were leading (20-14) with the ball on the Johnson County 41 at the hashmark near the Commerce sideline. Only four seconds remained in the half. There was time for only one more play before the halftime horn sounded.
Savage stood about the JC 30 yard line right behind the JC defense and in line with the eyesight of quarterback Michael Collins. Savage saw that the Johnson County defense had widened their tackles and defensive ends to stop the Tigers’ option play or a sweep around end and had their corners and safety’s deep to prevent a long pass.
So, getting QB Collins’ attention, what play does Savage call out to the quarterback to run?
Savage hollered to Collins a play; Collins changes the play at the line of scrimmage. It was a power handoff over left tackle to fabulous tailback Monte’ Williams who burst through a large hole in the JC defensive line and sped untouched down the left sideline to score as time expired giving the Tigers a (27-14) lead with a TD that put a dagger in the heart of Johnson County.
The gaping hole in the JC defense was put there by the outstanding blocking of the left side of the Commerce offensive line consisting of Chris Wilkie and Tommy Eason, fullback Twion Shealer and blocking back Lee Sorrow.
Most of us near the play on the sideline stood aghast at the brilliance and genius of Coach Savage in countering the Johnson County defense.
Coach Savage just outmaneuvered the JC coaching staff in one of the greatest play calls in Tiger football history.
In the first game of the 1998 football playoffs, Commerce entertained the Lovett Lions and won the overtime thriller (28-27).
With the Tigers trailing (7-6) and only 25 second left in the half, all-star halfback Monte’ Williams set sail around left end, cut back to the middle of the field and near the two yard line was hit high and low by two Lion players breaking his leg just above the ankle.
Three plays later, Daniel Carder kicked an 18-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 9-7 halftime lead.
But the question was, could the Tigers hang on without Monte’ their leading rusher?
With eight minutes left in the fourth period, the Lions had scored two TD’s and held a commanding (21-9) advantage. Tiger hopes looked dim.
Enter, Tiger heart, Dustin Allen and the rest of the Commerce gladiators.
In two minutes, Allen engineered a 6 play-76 yard drive highlighted by two passes to SE Michael Collins of 42 yards and the last a 14-yard TD. The two point conversion was missed, but the lead was cut to (21-15) with 6:00 to go in the game.
With 3:05 left at the Tiger 25, Commerce again had the ball. Allen found Carder on a 56-yard aerial on the first play. With 32 seconds left in the game and seven plays later HB Bobby Patman scored from two yards out to knot the score at
(21-21). However, the game winning PAT kick was wide and both teams now faced overtime.
Neither team scored in the first overtime. Commerce kicked off short in the second overtime and Lovett’s Mitchell returned it 48 yards for the score, but the PAT kick failed and the Lions held a precarious (27-21) lead.
Following the kickoff, Commerce took possession at the Tiger 26. On five consecutive plays Allen passed for 15 and 34 yards to Collins, then ran for nine before hitting Carder for nine more to the seven. Allen put the exclamation mark on the drive by scampering into the endzone on a 7-yard option keeper. Carder’s successful PAT gave Commerce a frantic come from behind (28-27) rally that will go down in Tiger history as one of the great football finishes under tough circumstances in Commerce history.
Allen set the Tiger single game total offense record with 347 total yards on the night. 247 passing and 100 rushing. 174 of the passing yards went to Collins.
There were many classic runs by Monte’ Williams as a tailback at Commerce High School.
The 88 yarder up the middle in the 2000 state championship game against Buford; the 77-yard kickoff return in 1998 against Madison County to snatch victory away from defeat; the 97-yard fourth quarter run over right guard against Landmark Christian in 1997 giving him the record for the longest run from scrimmage in Tiger history; the 40 rushing attempts against GAC in 1999 to help seal a (13-10) win; the 87-yard deflected pass reception against Banks County in 1998 which became the Tiger record for the longest TD reception in Commerce history.
All of these and more were remarkable feats for the heralded Tiger running back.
However, there are three that stand out above the rest in my opinion.
1)-In 1999 when #1 Commerce played #2 ranked Dooly County in Vienna, Monte’ had during the game helped the Tigers build a 36-15 lead with three TD runs of 10, 6 and 50 yards
However it was the next to last play of the game when Monte’ told the guys in the huddle that he was going to run some clock. At the Commerce 35 he took the ball on a sweep around left end, but with the defense hemming him up, he reversed and moved back to the middle of the field where the DC defense seemingly had him again. He was at least 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Wanting to run the clock and not to be denied, Monte’ went back to the left once more and picking up blocking, he sped down the Tiger sideline and cut back to the middle and over toward the DC sideline. With only a few seconds remaining in the game, he gently stepped out of bounds after a 33-yard run that must have covered 70 yards total east and west as well as north and south. He had indeed run a little clock.
Many of us on the sideline were saying, as he continued to reverse his field time and again, “what are you doing?” After the run, all we could say was “WOW what a player”.
The very vocal Dooly County announcer, who for most of the game had sounded more like a cheerleader than an announcer said following the 33-yard scamper by Williams, “Well fans, I don’t think I can describe that.”
2)-With his team down (14-11) to Lincoln County in the 2000 Georgia Dome semi-final game and less than two minutes to play, Monte’ scored on one of the greatest clutch runs in Tiger history without which Commerce could not have even played for the Georgia State Class A football championship.
At the 50 yard line, Monte’ ran over left guard behind Adam Stephenson, Tommy Eason, Taylor Massey and Chris Wilkie and made one of his patented cuts to the left to avoid the linebackers, as he literally stepped out of two would-be tacklers grasp. He then streaked past Wes Massey’s block on the cornerback and outraced the entire fleet footed Red Devil secondary to the endzone to give Commerce the victory. It was electrifying, awesome, marvelous and amazing. What a clutch football player he was.
As the old saying goes, he was indeed a “money player” at gut check time. When the game was on the line, he wanted the ball.
Pound for pound, he was one of the two best high school football players that I have ever seen play the game.
In the four year career of Monte’ Williams at Commerce High School, the Tigers won one state championship in 2000, were in the final 4 on one occasion and won four consecutive Region 8A championships while accumulating a
won-loss record of (48-6-0).
3) In the opinion of many Commerce Tiger fans, the greatest run by any Tiger back was on the last TD scored by Monte’ Williams in the state championship game with Buford in 2000.
In the fourth quarter, the Wolves had cut the Tiger lead to (21-19). But the Tigers and Monte’ were not to be denied the state title on this night. A few plays following the ensuing kickoff, Monte’ bolted over left tackle breaking two tackles. A Buford player then grabbed his facemask. The elusive Tiger running back did a 360 and spun out of the tackle, as he would not be denied.
Five yards later, he eluded another tackle before a Buford defender had him around the waist. He did another 360 and wiggled out of that tackle, then dodged the final tackler that had a shot at him as he quickly cut to the right and sped 56-yards to gloryland.
He broke six tackles in the run, as the greatest running back in Commerce history sped through the rain enabling the Tigers to gain their second state football title in 20 years with the first having come back in 1981.
In the tenth game of the 2000 season and one that was to decide the Region 8A title, Commerce traveled to Buford. The Tigers won their fourth straight region crown with a hard-fought come-from-behind (18-14) victory.
Remarkably, Commerce did not throw a single pass during the entire game. Buford’s scheme was to play with at least 10 men in the box (between the ends) for most of the night in an attempt to stop the Tiger running attack and hopefully force the Tigers into passing situations at which Commerce was not proficient.
Commerce ran out of the straight I-formation with three backs behind the quarterback and sometimes two tight ends but at times having a split end to one side of the field and one tight end.
It seemed that any time Monte’ Williams was put at a slot position, a Buford defensive back was seemingly playing him man for man.
Trailing (14-6) at halftime, Commerce came out and tenaciously stayed with their ball control game plan and scored two second half TD’s to take the lead using its powerful running attack.
On occasion in the game Williams was used as a DECOY.
1)-On the Tigers first TD, Williams was split wide left and quarterback Michael Collins ran the option keeper to the right. He stepped inside the Buford contain man and scored from 48 yards out as he was hit near the five yard line but lunged into the endzone for the score.
2)-On the final Tiger TD, while trailing (14-12), Williams was set up as a slot right. He went down the field and cut to the left near the linebackers taking the Buford cornerback with him. Collins on the option keeper to the same right side of the field stepped outside of the tight ends’ blocking position and raced untouched for the score on a 28-yard scamper, as Williams the decoy had taken the cornerback into the middle of the field. It had been a Tiger chess match, as Coach Savage and the Tiger offensive braintrust out maneuvered the Buford defensive scheme.
Decoys are part of the football war scenario and on this night it worked, as Williams had only 96 yards and one 46-yard TD scamper as a decoy, while Collins had two TD’s of 48 and 28 yards and collected 154 rushing yards.
The offensive and defensive linemen also played superbly in blocking the Buford defenders and thwarting the Buford offensive attack especially in the second half.
Commerce threw not one pass during the entire game as they upset the #1 ranked Buford Wolves by an (18-14) score.
In the fourth game of the 1972 season, undefeated Commerce with the dynamic duo of Runt Moon and Raymond Harris beat undefeated White County with its all-star halfback Jesse Dorsey by a 28-19 score before over 5,000 fans at Tiger Stadium in Commerce.
With the Tigers trailing midway through the first quarter and facing a fourth down and nine to go for a first down, Tiger head mentor Ray Lamb dumbfounded the White County defense when he ran a trap play to Moon over right guard. Moon scampered down the right sideline untouched for a tying TD. He had great speed at 5′10″, 175 lbs., but he also had great power and endurance. He was one of the great running backs in Tiger football history.
This play call set the tone for the game, as the two teams set out on one of the great offensive shows of the 1972 season that saw the Tigers post a 12-1 record enroute to the final four in the Class A state playoffs.
Moon in 1972 had 1907 rushing yards and in his four year career for the Tigers, he collected 5683 total rushing yards.
In that span of time the Tiger record was (40-6-1).
In the 1964 first round playoff game between Commerce and South Habersham, the two teams met at Gainesville City Park’s neutral site. Earlier in the year the Rebels had defeated the Tigers (7-0) in Cornelia.
Commerce won this hard-fought thriller in Gainesville though by a (6-0) score.
In the event of a tie in 1964, the rules stated that there would be three determining factors to decide the winner. Each team would be awarded a point for the following: 1)-most first downs, 2)-most total offense, 3)-most non-scoring drive penetrations inside opponents 20-yard line.
With two minutes to go in the game the two teams were tied in a scoreless deadlock. At this point, officials had Commerce head coach Jeff Davis and SH head coach Gene Alexander meet a midfield to talk with statisticians to determine the status of the three criteria listed above during this game.
In first downs the two teams were tied; in penetrations the two teams were tied; in total yardage South Habersham led by just two yards.
However, Commerce had the ball at the SH 45 yard line. On the next play, Tiger fullback Tim Miller burst up the middle for six yards and a first down giving the Tigers more points at this point in the game if it ended in a tie.
Not to be denied the winner of the game outright, Tiger quarterback Johnny Nix drove his charges down to the Rebel 28. Nix on first down faded back to pass and hit sophomore halfback Steve Gary with a pass. He collected the bomb in stride down the middle of the field as he was crossing the goal line with only 1:29 left in the contest. The PAT kick was missed by Max Carnes, but Commerce had won this thriller (6-0).
The first Commerce football game ever filmed so that the coaches could review the progress of the team was done by Ed & Bill’s Photo Shop of Commerce when the Commerce Tigers hosted the Winder Bulldogs in the seventh game of the season in 1954.
The game was homecoming for the Tigers and ended in a (12-12) tie. Late in the fourth quarter, star Tiger halfback Richard Crocker skirted left end for a 41-yard touchdown run. With the missed PAT the score remained at (12-12) and the game ended.
Commerce led by Coach Graham Hixon ended the season with a (5-3-2) record.
The 1954 Tigers also played in another tie game earlier in the year against the Jefferson Dragons at Jefferson.
Jefferson jumped out to a (13-0) lead early in the second quarter, but the Tigers came storming back to knot the score at halftime (13-13).
Commerce cut the Dragon lead to (13-7) after quarterback Jimmy Wheeler passed for a 55-yard TD pass to end Willard Epps. Later in the quarter, halfback Richard Crocker sped around left end behind great blocking and rocketed down the Tiger sideline outracing the Dragons in hot pursuit to the endzone on a 95-yard touchdown scamper to tie the score after the missed PAT. At that point Crocker’s run was the longest run from scrimmage in Tiger history and lasted until 1997 when Monte’ Williams went 97 yards against Landmark Christian.
Neither the Dragons nor Tigers scored in the second half and the game ended in a (13-13) tie. This is one of five ties between the two teams since the series began in 1947.
In a (21-15) loss by the Tigers to the Winder-Barrow Bulldogs in 1970, a remarkable feat for a Tiger player occurred when Tiger quarterback and punter John Fleming kicking into a mild wind launched a beautiful spiral that hit and rolled out of bounds deep in Bulldog territory. It was a distance of 68 yards.
It was a remarkable effort into the wind, and he even lost distance by the punt rolling out of bounds.
This punt distance held up as the longest Tiger punt until in the 2000 Class A
semi-final game in the Georgia Dome on artificial turf against Lincoln County. In the fourth quarter, quarterback and punter Michael Collins also launched a rocket that landed 50 yards away from the line of scrimmage and then rolled 20 more yards down to the Red Devil 18 yard line for a Commerce record of 70 yards eclipsing the 68 yard effort thirty years earlier by Fleming.
This punting effort helped set up the eventual Tiger scoring drive that enabled Commerce to defeat LC by a close score of (17-14).