Tiger Tales 6
In the final game of the 1999 regular season, the Buford Wolves rolled up I-85 into Commerce with a perfect (9-0-0) record and hoping to avenge two straight losses to the Tigers the latest a (55-33) thrashing at Buford in 1998.
However, the Tigers also sported an unblemished (9-0-0) record in this Region 8A championship showdown before a packed house in Tigertown.
It’s not unusual to hear football games compared to heavyweight fights, and this night’s slugfest between the #1 ranked Tigers and the #4 ranked Wolves gave everyone their moneys worth.
Both teams connected with several short jabs and hooks. But every time one team would score the other would answer with a rally of their own, as the contest went back and forth. Each team made a run with neither team able to post consecutive scores. In the end it was the Tigers that won, not by a knockout, but on points (42-32).
“It was all right,” said Coach Steve Savage with a grin after the Tigers had gotten a first quarter lead that they never surrendered then went on to victory. He then added sarcastically, “There was a lot of defense in that game.”
Defense was not a priority in this feature bout, as Commerce racked up 14 first downs and 346 yards all on the ground, while Buford knocked out 23 first downs with 257 yards rushing and 197 passing.
Commerce took the game’s initial kickoff and opened the scoring with a five play,
66-yard drive culminated by quarterback Daniel Carder’s option keeper over left guard. Carder then booted his first of six consecutive PAT’s for an early Tiger lead at (7-0).
Buford countered the Tiger score with one of their own, as the wild hounds of Gwinnett County trekked 79 yards in 12 plays climaxed by fullback Joey McDonald’s one-yard plunge. On the PAT, the holder bobbled the snap, but his attempt to run for the conversion was denied by the Tigers’ swarming defense to leave the score at (7-6) in favor of Commerce. This was the first of four unsuccessful PAT attempts in a row by the Wolves.
Commerce then gave a counter punch of their own, as they bolted down the field 65 yards in seven plays with Monte’ Williams picking up 51 yards in four totes. Carder again tallied for the Tigers on an eight-yard option keeper around left end with only 23 ticks left in the initial period. Carder’s kick upped the Tiger lead to (14-6) as the initial quarter closed.
After a Carder interception of Buford quarterback Payne five plays later at the Commerce 37, the young safety returned it eighteen yards to the Wolves 37, the Tigers gave it right back when Carder fumbled on the option with Buford gaining possession at the 29 from where another Buford TD march was initiated.
On the eleventh play thereafter, Payne hit split end Tony Williamson with a 35-yard touchdown strike. However, Carder stepped up again for the Tigers, as he sacked the Buford quarterback on the two-point pass conversion attempt leaving the score at (14-12) in favor of Commerce.
On the first play following the kickoff, halfback Monte’ Williams set sail on a 64-yard touchdown jaunt leaving many Buford defenders in his wake. With 4:03 remaining before the half, the Tigers now had bolted to a 21-12 advantage following Carder’s successful boot.
Not to be denied, Payne led his charges back to another score in ten plays with running back Chris Sadler adding a score from one yard out. Again the Tigers’ two-point conversion defense stepped up with Michael Collins sacking Payne this time to prevent a successful conversion pass leaving the score at halftime (21-18) in favor of the gold and black.
To begin the second half for Buford following the kickoff, fullback Alfonzo Stanley fumbled on the first play from scrimmage after a stinging hit by Tiger defender Chad Scoggins with Monte’ Williams recovering and returning seven yards to the Buford 15 setting the Tigers’ up with a golden opportunity to steal a TD and this their fourth of the night. Commerce was about to place another hard right to Buford’s chin.
Carder plunged over from two yards out four plays later for the score, and his successful PAT increased the Commerce lead to (28-18) in the early stages of the second half.
Behind all night, the Wolves got their second wind and came back with a determined drive to score in ten plays culminated by Sadler’s one yard plunge into the Tiger defensive line. Tiger defender Michael Collins then collected his second two-point conversion sack of Payne on the evening to deny any more Buford points with the Tiger lead now remaining cut to (28-24).
As was the pattern of this slugfest all night, the Tigers answered the next round with a six play, 58-yard drive of their own which was highlighted by a fourth and five option keeper by QB Carder, as he ran 36 yards around left end before being pushed out of bounds at the one. He then ran the same play once more for his fourth touchdown of the evening and kicked the successful PAT to push the Tiger lead to (35-24).
Commerce had busted Buford on the chin once more, as the overflow crowd saw the two teams standing toe to toe in this championship bout.
Following the kickoff, Payne brought the Wolves back down the field to pay dirt a total of 80 yards in six plays highlighted by two passes to Hunter Cantwell of 15 and 37 yards with the final aerial moving the ball to the four from which McDonald plunged into the end zone from four yards out for the touchdown. McDonald added the two-point conversion run and cut the Tiger margin to three points at (35-32) with only a few seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Tiger offensive line consisted of ends–Collins and Lee Sorrow, tackles–Jonathan Martin and Josh Crawford, guards–Eric Moore and John Harrison and Center–Russ Brown. They continually blocked and dominated the Buford defense, as they repeatedly opened holes for Tiger backs to run through and around.
Gaining possession once more at the end of the third period, the Savage Tiger I-Bone machine again bolted down the field to pay dirt behind Carder and Williams. Monte’ capped the ground attack on a 21-yard run around right end. Carder nailed another PAT to push the Tiger lead to (42-32).
Williams ended his fabulous night against Buford with 262 rushing yards on 22 carries and also nailed two more touchdowns to the scoreboard.
Buford had two more scoring opportunities. The first was stymied by the renewed Tiger defense, as the Wolves, facing fourth and two at the Commerce 15 came up just inches short on McDonald’s plunge into the line.
Moments later, a short Michael Collins punt of only sixteen yards out to the Tiger 43 gave Buford its second scoring opportunity of the final stanza. In seven plays, the Wolves burst down to the Tiger one yard line before a procedure penalty moved them back to the six.
The Commerce defense then came off the ropes and denied the Wolves their sixth TD of the night when on third down Collins batted down a QB Payne pass in the end zone and on fourth down another pass fell incomplete due to the Tiger pass rush. The heavyweight spectacle then ended eighty four ticks later with players as well as fans exhausted on both sides. Wow!!! What a heavyweight spectacle this night had produced.
On this night, the two teams scored 11 touchdowns, a total of 74 points and racked up 800 yards of total offense. Whew!!!! What a track meet Tiger Stadium had produced in this classic Region 8A title game. It was one of the greatest games ever played and witnessed at historic Tiger Stadium.
The Region 8A champion 1999 Tigers went on to post a (13-1-0) record before losing to Lincoln County in the Georgia Dome semifinal game. Commerce also defeated twelve other opponents in a row: Madison County, Franklin County, Jefferson, Towns County, Dawson County, GAC, Rabun County, Banks County, Union County, Armuchee, Athens Academy and Dooly County.
Partially compiled from Athens Daily News reports
The 2008 season marked 100 years from the start of football in Commerce in 1909. We have a picture of the first Commerce team in 1909, however we do not have any opponents or records for that first team.
The beginning of the 2008 season marked a time span of 100 years of football in Commerce. However, 1929-1939 for eleven years Commerce abandoned football because of the tough economic times of The Great Depression before resuming football in 1940.
There also are a few other years in the 1910’s and 1920’s where no football results of Tiger games have been found 1913, 1917, 1918 and 1926-1928 to be exact.
The known football record of Commerce over the 83 year span in which they are known to have played is (535-257-21). This is a winning percentage of .671 .
However, with the addition of the 2009 record of (7-5-0) as well as with additional research and the discovery of 3 added games ( 2 losses and 1 tie ) from the 1910’s and 1920’s, the new Commerce total football record is (542-264-22), a winning pct. of .668 over a period of 828 total games from 1909-2009.
The concession stand and restroom facilities toward the north end of Tiger Stadium were demolished during the 2008 football season in preparation for the new wrestling, cheerleading and practice basketball facility being erected by the 2009 football season.
This new building would have concession stand facilities both for inside events and for football as well. New restroom facilities would also be available for both inside and outside events such as Commerce football games as well as wrestling, basketball and cheerleading events.
This new facility would be an added feature for Commerce High School as advance preparation for the building of the new Commerce High School which will go into operation and house faculty and students by January of 2011.
The Commerce faculty and the administration are exceedingly proud of this new development of all of these new sites on the campus of CHS, and our community is looking forward to its long time use by students and fans from across our city.
And the Rains Came
1986 and 2009 are two seasons that will ever be remembered by football followers from across the Commerce community for the mere fact of how many games were played in the rain or on very wet fields. There were seven to be exact for each season. Over half of the games played during both seasons were not played on dry gridirons.
Never has Commerce played in more rain games than in these two seasons.
In 1986, THE RAINS CAME. One fan of Commerce athletics in 1986 bought rain slickers for the cheerleaders because of so much rain. It rained or was wet during the following games: Rain at Franklin County; Drizzle for Lincoln Co., Banks Co., Dawson Co.; Damp field for the Towns Co., Jackson Co. (2) and East Rome games.
The Tigers went on that year to play fourteen games en route to a record of (11-3-0) losing to East Rome in the semi-final game at Barron Stadium in Rome by a (17-7) score after having lead at the half (7-6). The Tigers even lead into the fourth quarter before ER took over control of the contest.
In 2009, THE RAINS CAME once more. It rained or was wet during the following games:
Rainy games were Lakeview and Social Circle; a very wet field occurred in the games with Jefferson, Franklin County and Wesleyan where it was also very cold. Also, the Landmark Christian and Darlington games were played on wet turf. There was a threat of rain at Athens Christian, however it did not rain.
Commerce went on to post a record of (7-5-0) in 2009 during the twelve game season and lost a close contest at Darlington (28-14) in the second round of the playoffs after the game had been tied at seven just before halftime.
Banks County 2007
The Banks County game early in the 2007 season was one more outstanding offensive contest. Both teams together combined for over 1000 yards of total offense (1015 to be exact) in a combined 117 plays. Both of these are Commerce game records.
Commerce won the wild track meet-like affair by a (55-40) score. This was the largest combined total points scored (95) in a Commerce gridiron contest, as it surpassed the (92) points scored in the 1998 Towns County game won by Commerce (58-34).
Over 1000 combined yards has never happened before or since in a Commerce game. The Tigers had 567 total yards in 59 plays, while Banks County contributed 448 total yards in 58 plays.
At one point in the second quarter, Banks Co. led (28-27). Every time BC scored a TD, Commerce countered with one of their own, as Banks Co. never led by more than seven points at any time in the first half. Commerce finally was able to take the lead late in the half when the Tigers scored to go ahead (35-28) just before halftime.
At the end of the third quarter, the Tigers led (55-34) before eventually winning going away by a score of (55-40), as the subs gave up a score to the Leopards late in the game..
QB Reuben Haynes led the high-powered Commerce spread option attack with 276 yards rushing in 27 attempts and contributed five touchdowns on runs of (39, 21, 1,10 and 18) yard TD efforts. Time and again he ran the spread option offense. He read the opposing defense with perfection on numerous occasions and distributed the ball as needed while many times keeping it as the defense hit the dive back.
Haynes was also 10 of 12 passing for 134 yards and one TD pass to split end Cohen Cooke for 34 yards. Additionally, Haynes threw two conversion passes following touchdowns to Cooke as well.
Haynes had 410 yards of total offense, a school record, on the night and was a whiz doing it with both his feet and his arm. He put on a phenomenal performance in guiding the Tiger offense to victory against a good Banks County Leopard team.
Haynes performance has gone down in Tiger history as the greatest individual offensive effort in the annals of Commerce football.
Why is it that transformers at football fields decide to become inoperable just before or just after the beginning of a scheduled high school football game?
In 1965 just prior to the beginning of the season opener with South Habersham at the new Tiger Stadium, a transformer blew out and had to be replaced. Fans on both sides of the field sat in the dark for over an hour until repairs were made and the game finally started at 9:00 PM.
Commerce won this game by a (28-0) score.
In 1993 in a game versus Oglethorpe County, a transformer once again blew out just before the start of the game. Repairs were made and the contest began about 8:40 after a long delay. Commerce eventually won the game despite the “transformer ghosts” by a (28-7) score.
Sometimes in life as well as at football games, things happen that just cannot be explained. These two games are good examples.