Tiger Tales 2
1976 Artificial Turf
In 1976 Commerce traveled to Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta to face the AJC
Class A #1 ranked Sylvan Golden Bears and defeated the host team (22-8).
This was the first game in which a Commerce team had ever played on artificial turf. Turf shoes were purchased by the school for most players to wear, although some chose to wear tennis sneakers.
Propelled by the play of halfbacks Donald Rucker and Steve Johnson who had 83 and 96 yards respectively on the ground, the Tigers by the fourth quarter had mounted a (22-0) lead.
However, it was the defense led by David Sanders’ 12 tackles with 10 and 8 by halfback Dean Allen and nose guard Ricky Hill respectively that completely stymied top ranked Sylvan in the upset of the evening.
The Tigers went on to post a record of (11-2-1) and eventually played in the state championship game in the mud against Turner County.
In 1993 at Commerce the Tigers defeated Banks County by a score of (21-7).
At halftime of the game, two great leaders in Commerce school history were honored. They were Ray Lamb and W.R. Lang.
Ray Lamb, head football coach for 22 years from 1967-1988, led his teams to a 22 year record of (190-58-9), one State Football Championship in 1981 and were runnersup in two others in 1973 and 1976. Under his leadership Commerce won the region title on eight occasions.
W.R. Lang was Commerce Public School superintendent from 1951-1970. Under his leadership a new high school was built in 1957 and a new football stadium in 1965 was added.
Both of these men exuded great character and leadership in the Commerce community and are greatly appreciated still to this day for their efforts in promoting good sportsmanship, excellence in education and character among youngsters in our fair city.
What was unusual about the halftime ceremony was the torential rain storm that hit right as the festivities were beginning forcing everyone to run for cover. However, it did not dampen the love that all Commerce people had for these two gentlemen.
Two monuments were erected in 1993 at Tiger Stadium commemorating their achievements.
Five of the last six games played between Commerce and Buford from 1989-1996 had resulted in losses by the Tigers to the Wolves with the last one coming in 1996.
However, in 1997 the two teams were playing in the eighth game of the season for the Region 8A championship at Tiger Stadium in the fog and rain, and it was a rain that persisted the entire game.
In the third quarter, Commerce led (21-7) behind the bullish runs of fullback Michael Fitzpatrick who scored on a 4-yard run and the explosiveness of freshman tailback Monte’ Williams who had added scores on 32 and 28 yard scampers. Fitz had 128 rushing yards on the evening, while Williams added 106.
However, in the fourth quarter Buford behind the athletic talent of QB Tim Wansley cut the lead to (21-13) on a 22-yard TD pass by Wansley. The momentum seemed to be moving over to the Wolves.
Later following the kickoff, Coach Steve Savage’s Tigers faced a fourth and eight situation at the Tiger 22, and senior Nick Ladd was sent back in punt formation.
Buford put on an outside rush as the ball was snapped. Ladd, fearing a blocked punt, stepped aside of the outside rusher and lumbered 18 yards for a first down at the Commerce 40. It was one of the great individual efforts in a critical situation by any Tiger player in Commerce football history.
Led by QB Dustin Allen, Commerce then went on a 6 play-60 yard drive for another touchdown culminated by Allen’s seven yard option keeper around right end to seal the region championship with a 28-13 victory.
This was the first of five consecutive wins by Commerce over the Wolves from 1997-2000 including the Class A State Championship in 2000.
Ladd’s timely run with the punt snap helped propel the Tigers to victory in this memorable contest.
Dr. Joe KO’d
In the first playoff game of the 1997 season, the Tigers were to host the Greenville Patriots.
However, torential rain on Thursday and Friday forced the postponement of the game until Saturday because of the horrendous conditions in which to play the game and the small turnout that was expected because of the foul weather conditions.
On Saturday the rain had subsided and the field, although still wet, was in good playing condition on this clear and mild night. In the drainage areas behind each of the players benches water had collected and was eight inches or so in depth.
Commerce won the game (21-12) behind the three short option runs by quarterback Dustin Allen and the play of the entire team. The last score came with 4:45 left in the game to seal the win.
An unusual event occurred on the first play of the second quarter with the Tigers leading (7-0).
A Greenville halfback skirted right end and was forced out of bounds near midfield at the Commerce bench. Long time Commerce physician Dr. Joe Griffeth stood behind a row of Tiger players. As the Commerce players on the sideline saw the play coming their way, they moved out of the way to avoid being hit.
However, Dr. Griffeth obviously didn’t see the play clearly. As the Patriot player was forced out of bounds, Dr. Griffeth was accidentally hit in the head by the Patriot players’ helmet knocking the physician out. He fell face first and unconscious into the collection of water behind him.
As everyone in the stands and on the sideline stood aghast, he was attended to by EMT personnel and others. He was later taken to the hospital where it was found that he was not injured too seriously.
This was indeed a freak accident and is the only very serious football sideline incident that I ever remember occurring in a Tiger football game.
At 5″9-175 lbs. and super strong for his size, this young man played with as much emotion, grit, guts and heart as any high school football player of his era.
As a wishbone fullback for two years, he had 509 rushing attempts, gained 2751 yards, scored 180 points and 38 TD’s in his two year rushing career. He literally ran over many players much larger than himself. He was “a horse”, and Coach Lamb rode him a lot in the Tiger offensive game plan.
However, it was on defense that Hill really stood out. From 1976-1978, he collected a school record 411 tackles as a NOSE GUARD. He made tackles not only between the ends on the line of scrimmage, but from sideline to sideline. He was continuously knocking some ball carrier out of bounds.
On eight occasions he had 14 or more tackles in a game. In the 1976 state championship game in the mud against Turner County, he had 21 tackles.
In 1977 playing at Oconee County and with the Warriors in punt formation, Hill, as the ball was snapped, bench pressed the center back into the punt blocker.
In the 1977 semifinal game against eventual state champion East Rome, Hill hit the Gladiator tailback with such a ferocious tackle that he picked him up and drove him head first into the turf putting him out of the game for the rest of the evening.
During this era of Tiger football, the Commerce running backs wore tear away jerseys. He went through three or four a game, and following Tiger games many young Tiger admirers begged for his shredded jersey as a souvenir.
He was indeed a Tiger HERO on and off the field.
Pound for pound, he is one of the two greatest high school football players that I have ever had the privilege of seeing play the game. In the four year career of Ricky Hill at Commerce High School, the Tigers reached the final four on two occasions and played in the state championship game in 1976 while accumulating a won-loss record of (41-6-4) in his four year career.
On September 14, 2001, the Tigers were supposed to play Morgan County in Commerce.
However, with the events of Sept. 11 when terrorists bombed the Twin Towers in NY City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the Georgia High School Association canceled all Georgia high school football games.
The Morgan County game was then placed as the tenth game of the year at the end of the regular season. Commerce won the postponed contest (27-10).
This, to my knowledge, marked only the third time that a Commerce High School football game had been postponed.
The other two occurred in 1957 when, because of intense influenza outbreaks in the north Georgia area, the Commerce and South Habersham game was postponed until a few weeks later and was played on an unusual Tuesday night. Commerce later won (13-12).
The other postponement occurred in the first playoff game of 1997 when torrential rain on Friday the day of the game with Greenville High School forced the game to be delayed until the following Saturday. Commerce won the game (21-12).
Until the 2000 football season, Commerce had never hosted a team from outside the state of Georgia. Walhalla, S.C. ventured into Commerce in the fourth game of the season, and the Tigers gave the Razorbacks an unceremonious hog killing in the rain to the tune of (32-14).
The 2001 contest between Commerce and Walhalla proved to be one for the history books, because it was the first Tiger game following the 911 or Sept. 11 terrorist bombings at the Twin Towers in NY City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Prior to the game, both school bands performed together on the field and played “God Bless America” as the flag was hoisted to half mast.
Later, as the bands left the field, a vehicle rolled over a sprinkler head on the football field and water gushed forty feet into the air. One gentleman tried to shut off the geyser and was thoroughly doused. After “Old Faithful” gushed for about two minutes the proper officials arrived and remedied the problem.
Commerce won the 911 game with Walhalla (35-24) on the only occasion for a Commerce Tiger team to venture on a football trip outside the state of Georgia.
Freshman fullback Nick Slayton made a fabulous entrance into Tiger football lore, as he ran through and broke at least six tackles down the Commerce sideline enroute to a 72-yard touchdown jaunt in front of the excited and exuberant Tiger faithful..
It truly was a game to be remembered for both the good fortune of the game, the bad things of terrorism and the ugly truth that there is indeed a cost to living in a country that is free. Our nation had come back together as a proud people in a proud country, and we sometimes even cancel football games for another day when some things happen that are significantly more important.
When “The National Anthem” was played by the two bands, Razorback fans and Tiger fans stood as one, with others around the US, as Americans united, vigilant and proud of the ones who fought the fires in NY and gave their lives that others might live, and for Americans who still today continue to defend freedom whether here at home or in distant parts of the world.
God Bless America!
Having been the hospital all week with a tear in his esophagus, Tiger head coach Steve Savage wasn’t supposed to be at Madison, Ga. for the game with the Morgan County Bulldogs in the third game of the 2000 season.
On Thursday Savage had been released from Athens Regional Medical Center after having been in the hospital for a total of six days for analysis of his physical problem.
Nobody expected him to show up. But on Friday afternoon at the Tiger dressing quarters at Bill Corry Stadium, he strolled in while his team was getting dressed for the game. To say the least, the Commerce players were ecstatic. No pregame speech by Knute Rockne could have psyched up the Tigers more.
Tiger quarterback Michael Collins said it best, “He walked in just like it was out of a movie script.”
The Tigers, who had been defeated by Forsyth Central by a single point the week before, responded like the true men of the gold and black that they were and thoroughly trounced the ‘Dawgs (35-14) after having built a (28-0) halftime advantage.
Savage’s charges forced three first half Bulldog turnovers, as the Tigers scored on two TD runs by Collins of 23 and 64 yards the latter coming on the second play of the game. Monte’ Williams also added two from 52 and 86 yards out to build the halftime margin.
The Tiger assistants indeed had the troops ready, but Savage’s timely entrance gave the Tigers that extra boost and they roared to victory like the true Class A state champions that they were to become later in the year.
Early Tiger Football History
The earliest that Commerce had first played football as well as I can determine from an old school newspaper was 1916 and played each year thereafter through 1928. For some reason, which I have not yet determined, the school dropped football in 1929 and did not resume until 1940. It could have been because of the stock market crash in Oct. 1929, which was the beginning of the Great Depression in the US.
Georgia Tech donated the football uniforms in 1940 since they had the same colors. Coach Richard Nix was able in some form or fashion to coax these uniforms of gold with black numbers from the Yellow Jackets.
In 1940 the Commerce Tiger games were played at the field behind the old Commerce Elementary School just off South Elm Street and near the First Baptist Church.
Hardman Jones was the public address announcer for the Tigers from 1940 to about 1966. He was a businessman in Commerce.
From 1940-46, Jones announced the games from the second floor of the Commerce Elementary School. A window of the school, which sat in front of the football field, was opened and the game announcing was done from that position as Jones looked out over midfield.
Before the game began, not only was The National Anthem of the US played over the speaker system from a recording, but also Grand Old Flag and God Bless America.
It was indeed a patriotic setting for the football battle that was about to begin.
The first game that Commerce played in the modern era was at Washington, where Commerce lost (53-0).
The first game that Commerce played at home in 1940 was against Cornelia. Commerce lost (20-6).
The Tiger record that first year was (1-6-0), with their lone victory coming at home against Royston by a (33-0) score.
The last game played at this facility in 1946 was against Buford with the Tigers being defeated (33-14).
In 1947 a new field was built behind Commerce High School on Shankle Heights Road where the present Ridling Field softball complex is located. This was the location of Tiger home games through 1964. The first home game at this location was in 1947 versus Elijay with the Tigers coming away with a (25-7) victory.
The last game played here in 1964 saw Commerce defeat Franklin County (28-7).
A new Commerce High School was built at the present location in 1957. However, the present Tiger Stadium behind Commerce High School was not completed until 1965. The inaugural game in 1965 saw Commerce defeat traditional rival South Habersham out of Cornelia by a (28-0) score. This was the night that the transformer blew out prior to game time. The game was delayed until 9:00 until repairs were completed.
Stadium Records :
Old Elementary School Field ————– (1940-46)—18-12-1, .600 pct.
Old Shankle Heights High School Field-(1947-64)—59-29-4, .670 pct.
Present Tiger Stadium ————————(1965-04)–195-43-3, .819 pct.
Jeff Prickett & Welton Cronic
First Region Title
Playing in Region 4A South in 1961, Commerce lost to St. Pius late in the season and seemed to be out of region playoff contention unless underdog Winder-Barrow, which Commerce had beaten (33-13) earlier in the season, defeated St. Pius in the last game of the regular season. Few gave Winder much chance, but they pulled off the upset and thrust Commerce into the region championship game at neutral site Stephens County High with old rival Toccoa, the Region 4A North winner and sporting a (9-0-1) regular season record.
Earlier in the year Commerce had lost to the Purple Hurricanes at Toccoa (33-6) without star fullback and defensive tackle Ken Davis. Davis would later play center and linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs (1963-65).
However, in the region title game in Eastonollee, the Commerce defense completely thwarted the single wing attack of Coach “Red” Boyd shutting the Purple Hurricanes and fabulous tailback Ricky Richardson out until the final minutes in a (19-6) Tiger victory. This victory gave the Tigers their first region championship of many to come later.
Led by Roger Love’s superb punting that kept Toccoa pinned deep in its own territory and his 25-yard run on a halfback reverse in the first period, Commerce bolted to a (7-0) first quarter lead. Love, on one occasion, got the Tigers out of a deep hole with his barefooted punting technique. With Commerce on the Tiger two yard line, Love (standing near the end line of the end zone) launched one of his patented rocket punts that traveled 53-yards and rolled dead at the Toccoa 45 giving the Tigers some breathing room.
However, it was Davis that was the star of the game, as he led the Tigers to Atlanta-Journal Constitution team of the of the week honors with his 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
His first TD from two yards out expanded the Tigers to (13-0) at halftime, but it was his 47-yard run up the Toccoa middle that knocked the Hurricanes out of the contest. Davis burst through a massive hole in the Toccoa defensive line and took off like a runaway freight train shaking off would-be tacklers and leaving them in his wake as he romped to glory land. It was one of the great offensive efforts in Tiger history.
On defense, Davis was also a terror as he on numerous occasions destroyed Toccoa blocking and tackled Hurricane runners for losses.
Later, Commerce lost in the semi-final game to eventual state champion Carrollton but finished the season with a (9-3-0) record.
The Tigers have had a total of four scoreboards at Commerce High School football fields.
a. The first was located at the new high school field in 1947 on Shankle Heights Road for the first game of the season versus Elijay, and it lasted until the mid 1950’s. The 1947 scoreboard was a manual scoreboard, where points scored in a quarter were hung by hand under the appropriate quarter listed on the scoreboard. From about 1955 until 1958 Commerce had no scoreboard.
b. The second scoreboard was also located at the high school on Shankle Heights Road. This scoreboard was dedicated to head coach Richard Nix who coached the Tigers from 1940-46. It was an electronic scoreboard and was dedicated to Coach Nix on October 23, 1959 during the halftime ceremony of the Monroe football game and remained there through the 1964 football season.
Later, when the present Tiger Stadium was built in 1965 this same scoreboard was placed on the side of the concession stand at this new facility and continued as the Tiger scoreboard until 1985.
c. The third scoreboard was a Coca-Cola scoreboard at the Tiger sign end of the field. It was first used on September 20, 1985 for the Jefferson game that season. This scoreboard lasted until the 2000 season.
d. The fourth and present scoreboard is a Pepsi scoreboard at the Tiger sign end of the field. It was first used on September 8, 2000 for the first football game of the season when the Tigers hosted Forsyth Central.
The Commerce Tigers have been involved in two forfeit games. In these two games Commerce lost to Lavonia and North Habersham, but eventually were awarded wins due to their opponents using ineligible players.
Here are the known facts.
1.) In 1946 in the first game of the season for the Tigers and the first game for new Commerce head coach Howard Chambers, the Tigers were defeated at Lavonia by a (19-6) score.
However, it was later discovered that Lavonia had played an ineligible young man because he was beyond the allowed age requirement and had served in the US Navy. This fact was not made apparent by Commerce but by a party outside our school system.
Commerce was later awarded a (1-0) forfeit victory. Indeed, it was a strange way for a new coach to get his first victory. Coach Howard Chambers Tigers eventually finished the season with a (6-3-1) record.
2.) In the second game of the 1958 season, Commerce traveled to Clarkesville to play the North Habersham Bobcats. In a tough defensive struggle, North Habersham defeated the Tigers (12-0).
However, the fact that North Habersham had used an ineligible player, one that was once more too old according to state age regulations, was divulged by someone other than Commerce school officials. A (1-0) victory was awarded head coach Dixon Glover’s Commerce Tigers who later finished the season with a record of (8-1-1).
Forfeit victories are rare in high school football, but sometimes errors do occur. Usually most of these errors are oversights and not on purpose.
The first large Tiger Sign at the lower end of Tiger Stadium was painted in 1978 by Dick Minish and erected in time for the first game of the season on September 1, 1978 against Hart County. Commerce won the game (24-7).
Minish painted most of the Tiger Sign on 4′ x 8′ plywood boards laid out on the gymnasium floor the summer of 1978. The pieces were then arranged to show the Tiger as a sign at the lower end of the field.
The second large Tiger Sign was also painted on 4′ x 8′ plywood boards in 1988 by Jimmy Chatham and erected in time for the first game of the season on September 16, 1988 against Madison County. Commerce won the game (33-7). The sign was painted by Chatham at his business in Commerce.
The third and present Tiger Sign was designed by computer and painted by Claudus Bruce at his Custom Awards and Signs business in Commerce. It was erected on September 8, 2001. The sign was painted on black metal sheets and placed over the previous Tiger Sign at the lower end of the field.
However, the Washington-Wilkes game on October 12, 2001 was the first game that the Commerce team played on the field with the new sign. Commerce lost the game by a score of (49-26).
Tiger faithful owe a big debt of gratitude to these men who skillfully used their artistic talent to make these Tiger works of art.
The Commerce Tigers, sporting a (10-0-1) record in 1978, for the third year in a row squared off against the Purple Hurricanes in Cartersville for the Region 8A title. In this muddy contest, Commerce for the third consecutive year captured the 8A crown with an exciting (7-3) win.
Rain had soaked north Georgia for the entire day, but by game time the showers had subsided.
However, the field was soaked but not a quagmire, though slippery especially in the middle of the field between the hash marks.
Late in the second quarter, Tiger fullback Ricky Hill lost a fumble at the Commerce 10 giving Cartersville a great scoring opportunity.
However, the staunch Tiger defense allowed only seven yards in three plays forcing Hurricane fullback Harvey Hatfield to kick a 20-yard field goal giving Cartersville the lead (3-0) late in the second period with the home team eventually carrying the advantage into halftime.
With 9:50 left in the game, Commerce took possession at the Hurricane 49 following a short punt. Here Coach Ray Lamb’s charges began their game winning TD march.
Facing fourth and two at the Cartersville 41, Hill exploded up the middle for an apparent long run. But a Hurricane hand reached in and caused another Hill fumble.
However, hustling tight end Maurice Martin fell on the loose pigskin for an eight yard gain and a first down to keep the drive alive. Without this Johnny-on-the-Spot effort by the opportunistic Martin, Commerce could have easily lost the contest.
Quarterback Brad Brown later scored the game-winning touchdown with less than four minutes to play on a 4-yard option keeper around right end to snatch victory away from defeat and give Commerce a great come-from-behind victory in this legendary defensive struggle. It was the fifth Tiger playoff victory in a row over Cartersville dating back to 1972.
Hill and linebacker Charles Whitlock had 19 and 12 tackles respectively for the tenacious Tiger defense which continually stymied the vaunted Hurricane offense.
Commerce later ended the season in the final four losing to eventual Class A state champion East Rome by a single point and ending the season with a record of (12-1-1).
East Rome — 1977
The East Rome game of 1977 was the Tigers first ever overtime game and one of the greatest games ever played by a Commerce team even though the Tigers lost the game to the eventual Class A state football champions (21-20).
The East Rome team had great talent. Three in the backfield would sign football scholarships with UGA including 240 lb. fullback Larry Kennebrew who even though he would not play at Georgia did have a college career and one in the NFL. Kennebrew later that year would be the eventual Class A 100 yard dash champion. One wide receiver would go to Auburn, and tackle Ray Brown would play at Clemson.
East Rome was a team laden with talent and one that seemed invincible in the Class A playoffs.
By the second quarter the smaller and less physically talented Commerce Tigers had fallen behind (13-0).
However, Coach Ray Lamb’s charges reached down into their gut and strove to overcome their outmatched circumstances, as they answered the ER touchdown with a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 6:48 behind outstanding blocking from a smallish offensive line to cut the lead at halftime to (13-6) following fullback Ricky Hill’s one yard smash into the line.
The line consisted of tight end–Charles Whitlock, tackles–David Adams and Andre Rollins, guards–Kenny Flint and Doug Martin and center–Terry Elrod. None exceeded 200 lbs., but used great technique to block the more athletic ER defenders.
Quarterback Donald Rucker, the senior signal caller, led Commerce on a
14-play, 78-yard drive for a TD on the Tigers second possession of the second half. It was climaxed on HB Dean Allen’s three yard run off tackle. Richard Dills’ PAT tied the score at (13-13) in the third quarter.
The swarming Tiger defense forced ER, in four consecutive second half drives, to go three downs and out by way of punting or fumble. The fumble came at the ER 16 with six minutes to go in the game.
Unable to get a first down just inches short at the ER 6, the Tigers’ Dills tried a
27-yard FG that was unsuccessful. A few plays later, Commerce was given another scoring chance when Brad Brown intercepted an ER pass at the Gladiator 43. Two first downs got the Tigers to the 11, but with no timeouts and less than 15 seconds to go in the game, Dills’ 32 yard FG sailed to the left and the game went into overtime.
The first overtime proved fruitless for both teams, but ER had the deepest
non-scoring penetration to the Commerce 34.
The second overtime was a thriller. On fourth and two (dumb) at the ER 23, quarterback Sylvester Elkins was sent by the Gladiator coaching staff on a sweep around left end for the first down, but Tiger defender Richard Beasley forced him out of bounds for a one yard loss giving Commerce possession and the deepest non-scoring penetration at the ER 22 with only 3:02 left in the game.
Commerce had outplayed the more talented East Rome team all over the field in the second half and in the ensuing overtime periods but just could not find the final knockout blow with the two missed field goals.
But now they had the deepest penetration. All the Tigers had to do was run out the clock. They didn’t even need to score.
On third and seven at the 19, Rucker fumbled and Dean Allen picked up the loose pigskin and raced frantically into the end zone for what many unknowing Tiger fans thought was the winning touchdown. Dills’ PAT was good giving Commerce a
(20-13) lead. However, there was 1:37 left to play in the second overtime.
On the only real drive that the Gladiators had in the second half, East Rome took the short Tiger kickoff at their 49. Later at the Commerce 46, Elkins threw a screen pass to Kennebrew for 23 yards to the Tiger 23 with 0:01 left on the clock.
The stands on both sides were in an uproar. With only one play left in the game, Elkins threw into double coverage and hit his split end Willie Wells for the touchdown. The receiver made a great catch between two Tiger defenders. The PAT kick sailed just inside the left upright for a (20-20) tie.
However, East Rome had the deepest non-scoring penetration in overtime and was awarded another point giving them the victory (21-20) in one of the greatest football games in north Georgia and one of the most stupendous efforts against great odds by a Commerce football team.
The most talented team won the game, but the best coached team did not. A coaching staff just does not go for a first down on fourth and two at its own 23. But they did and got away with it.
One of the most remarkable things to happen in the game occurred when Tiger
quarterback Donald Rucker at 5′ 10″, 165 lbs., took an option keeper around left end and was literally close lined by 6′ 2″, 240 lb. linebacker Larry Kennebrew. An awful groan went through the Tiger stands, for most thought Rucker’s neck was broken.
However, the tough young man popped right up and went back to the huddle. The big linebacker had given Rucker his best shot, but the fine young quarterback kept right on ticking till the end of the game.
Each of the fabulous three backfield of Kennebrew, Elkins and Greg Gordon were held to less than 100 yards rushing by the tenacious Tiger defenders.
1977 was the first year that the two overtime format had been used in Georgia high school football.
If the old format in case of a tie playoff game had been used of giving one point each to the team with: 1) most first downs, 2) most total offense, 3) most non-scoring penetrations, Commerce would have won the game having gotten all three tie-breaker points.
Regular Game Fact:
First Downs————————-Commerce– 15, East Rome– 9
Total Offense———————–Commerce–202, East Rome–187
Non-Scoring Penetrations—–Commerce– 2, East Rome– 0
Even though Commerce lost, it is one of the greatest Tiger games and one of phenomenal effort against overwhelming odds that most who follow Commerce football have ever seen.
Region Three Way Ties
In 1998 there was a three way tie for the the Region 8A championship between Rabun County, Commerce and Greater Atlanta Christian School. Rabun County had defeated Commerce but lost to GAC, Commerce had defeated GAC but lost to Rabun County and GAC had defeated Rabun County and lost to Commerce.
So each team had one loss within the group of three, but each had won all of their other region contests. Because of the Georgia High School Association tie breaker rule the order of finish of these three for the seeding in the post season playoffs was 1st) Rabun County, 2nd) Commerce and 3rd) GAC.
The reason for this set order was that Rabun County had the most victories against Class A non-region opponents. Commerce had the next most and GAC had the least.
Commerce, in the first round of the playoffs, later defeated Lovett at home in overtime (28-27) but lost at Lincoln County in the second round of the playoffs.
In 1964 Commerce and Rabun County were involved in the Tigers’ first three way tie for a region title, but this time it was for the Region 4A North crown. The other team involved on this occasion was South Habersham out of Cornelia.
Each team had one sub-region loss. Commerce had defeated Rabun County but had lost to South Habersham. South Habersham had defeated Commerce but had lost to Rabun County. Rabun County had defeated South Habersham but had lost to Commerce.
The format for the tie-breaker situation was for officials from the schools involved to meet at a predetermined place. Each official from the three schools would flip a coin with the odd school out getting a bye for the early Tuesday night playoff game. The other two teams would play on Tuesday with the winner playing for the sub-region championship on Saturday night since the Region 4 North winner had to have been determined by Saturday. On Saturday the odd team out on the coin flip would play the Tuesday night winner.
After the coins were tossed, Commerce was the odd school out and got the bye.
On a Tuesday night, South Habersham and Rabun County met at a neutral site at Toccoa’s High School Field for the first playoff game in Region 4A with very tough South Habersham winning the game (14-0).
On the following Saturday night, Commerce met South Habersham at the Gainesville City Park neutral site to decide the Region 4A North champion.
It was a whale of a game with Commerce scoring in the final two minutes of regulation to win the Region 4A North title when quarterback Johnny Nix passed 28-yards to halfback Steve Gary for the winning touchdown to break the scoreless tie.
The following week Commerce rallied from a (0-14) halftime deficit to defeat Region 4A South champion Monroe (31-14). Commerce then lost to eventual Class A state champion Carrollton (13-0) in the final four contest.
Oct. 11, 1940—-First Commerce football game of modern era under
Coach Richard Nix,
1940—————–First safety scored by a Tiger team
1940—————–First Tiger touchdown pass from “Tater” Page to Herbert Nix
Nov. 1, 1940——First Commerce home game since 1928
1940—————–First field goal, thought to have been kicked by Jeff McConnell
Nov. 15, 1940—-First Tiger victory, game played in Commerce
Sept. 14, 1943—First night game played in Commerce
Dec. 3, 1943——First Tiger playoff game, also played in Commerce
1943—————–First interception return for touchdown by
Kenneth Pittman for 30 yards vs. Elberton
1944—————–First punt return for touchdown by George Short
for 80 yards vs. Elberton
1946—————–First kickoff return for touchdown by Herman Smallwood
for 70 yards vs. Cornelia
Sept. 26, 1947—First game played at Commerce High School on
Shankle Heights Road
also–first scoreboard in Commerce, a manual one
Oct. 17, 1947—-First game between Commerce and Jefferson, in Commerce
also—–first blocked punt returned for touchdown by
Heyward Tarpley, recovered in end zone
Oct. 17, 1952—-First known return of a fumble for a touchdown
by Billy Ray Sanders for 30 yards vs. Greensboro
Oct. 23, 1959—-First electronic scoreboard in Commerce dedicated in honor
of first head coach Richard Nix
Nov. 15, 1961—-First region championship, at neutral site Stephens Co. HS
Sept. 16, 1965—First game played at present Tiger Stadium
—Commerce–28, South Habersham–0
Nov. 5, 1965——First perfect regular season (10-0-0)
—Commerce–14, Franklin County–0
1968—————–First time “C” appears on Tiger helmet
1978—————–First Tiger Sign painted by Dick Minish
Dec. 11, 1981—-First Commerce Football State Championship
Head Coach–Ray Lamb
—Commerce–28, Greene County–14
Oct. 23, 1992—-First time that the Tigers entered the field by running down
the bank in front of the concession stand
Nov. 5, 1993——Monuments in honor of former superintendent W.R. Lang
and former head coach Ray Lamb are erected at stadium
—Commerce–21, Banks County–7
Nov. 17, 1995—-First and only playoff game between Commerce and Jefferson
—Commerce–22, Jefferson–18; at Jefferson
Sept. 22, 2000–First time Commerce has ever hosted a team from outside
the state of Georgia
—Commerce–32, Walhalla, S.C.–14
Dec. 15, 2000—Second Commerce State Football Championship
Head Coach–Steve Savage
Sept. 21, 2001–First time that a Commerce football team has ever traveled to
a game to be played outside the state of Georgia;
also first game played following the 911 attacks
—Commerce–35, Walhalla, S.C.–24
Commerce has had many outstanding efforts on defense by the young men in black and gold, but the Buford game in 1949 was an unusual scoring night for the Tiger defense.
This game is the only occasion in which a Commerce team has had its defenders return more than one interception for a touchdown in a game.
In the second game of the 1949 season, Tiger defenders returned a total of three interceptions for touchdowns in a (27-0) defeat of the Buford Wolves in Buford.
The potent Tiger offense took a back seat on this night, as the Tiger defense proved to be the highlight of the evening by returning three errant Buford aerials for scores.
The only offensive touchdown of the evening came when Curtis Stowe hit fullback Gene Baird for a 20-yard score. These two players hooked up for numerous pass completions in the 1949 and 1950 seasons.
Halfback Gene White, who later played end at the University of Georgia from
(1950-53) and also played a couple of years of professional football for the
Green Bay Packers, brought the Tiger faithful to their feet on this warm evening, as he snagged two Buford passes returning them for 65 and 45 yard touchdowns.
Otho Dodd scampered in for a 50 yard touchdown on the third Tiger interception to cap the Commerce defensive scoring output for the evening.
Dodd would later run on the UGA track team in the early 1950’s.
White and Dodd, who were extremely agile and fast, along with others on the 1949 squad helped lead Commerce to an (8-2-0) record.
The 1949 Tiger squad lost two of the first four games that they played that year, but the team jelled by the mid-way point of the year and won their last six games giving up only 34 points, throwing four shutouts and scoring in succession (59, 38, 47, 61, 41 and 61) points.
The team ended the year with a total of 409 points for the season but did not go to the state playoffs because of an early season loss to Toccoa (27-23). The 1949 team is one of only four Commerce Tiger teams to score 400 or more points in a regular ten game season. The other three were (1973, 1985 and 1998).
Toccoa in 1949 had a blocking back named Paul Anderson. He would later become an Olympic gold medallist in weightlifting in Melbourne, Australia in the 1956 Olympic games in the heavyweight classification.
He later founded and operated a boys home in Vidalia, Ga.
Some others that still live in the Commerce area that were on this team were Charles Hill, Parker Brown, Dr. William Hardman, Verner Crawford, Bob Love and Richard Massey.