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Book recounts 1960 team that won state title

POSTED: December 19, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Joey McQuaig, a halfback for the Waycross Bulldogs when they beat Gainesville 49-0 in the 1960 Class AA football finals, recalls his team's undefeated season in a book he wrote just three years ago.

The title, "Buffaloes & Beatniks," comes from the nicknames of the offensive and defensive units. Most high school players at that time played both defense and offense, but Waycross had enough talent to platoon. The team had scored 476 points to its opponents' 52. Gainesville was no slouch, having scored 292 to its opponents' 41.

But the Red Elephants' young team was supposed to be rebuilding after losing such stars as Billy Lothridge and Billy Martin the previous year. GHS Coach Graham Hixon won Coach of the Year honors even before the state finals.

Waycross had never even won a region championship. The Red Elephants hadn't been in the state finals for 13 years and had never won it all. In two previous meetings, Gainesville beat Waycross 20-0 in 1946 and 44-0 in 1947.

GHS had barely scraped by Rossville 12-0 in the 1960 playoffs to earn the North Georgia AA championship. Royce Anderson, who played both ways, had intercepted a Rossville pitchout on his 3-yard line and ran 97 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to win the game.

The Red Elephants had lost to AAA Athens 7-6 and tied AAA Smyrna 0-0 in the regular season, winning the rest of their games fairly handily behind quarterback Preston Ridlehuber and what some called the best defense in the state.

Waycross should have been road-weary after two previous playoff games in Bainbridge and Atlanta. Gainesville was even farther, and the weather would be colder. McQuaig wrote that it was 9 degrees that Friday night in City Park. Because Gainesville wore red home jerseys, his team had to fall back on white short-sleeved jerseys. During the game, some fans bought long-sleeved sweat shirts for players to wear under their jerseys.

None of that mattered, however, as the hot Bulldogs scored quickly and led 29-0 at halftime.

When Waycross star Jimmy Guy almost kicked the ball to Green Street on the opening kickoff, GHS running back John Rogers said he and Ridlehuber looked at each other and knew it could be a long night. It was. Both were injured in the first quarter. Anderson, the hero against Rossville, had the flu and couldn't play.

Waycross had been heavily favored, 13 points by one account, but McQuaig wrote that Gainesville could have been favored mostly on the basis of its stingy defense. He said the team was confident it would win, though not by such a large margin.

"Practices were harder than the games," he said. Coaches would put 18 players on defense and expect the offense to block them all so it would seem easier in games to have just one person to block.

McQuaig's book was a long time coming. Years after he graduated from high school, he spent long hours in the Waycross newspaper's archives, hand-copying articles from the yellowed pages. He kept his own notes and clippings, but continued to shelve the idea of a book until one of the team's star players, Jimmy Guy, died in 1999.

McQuaig figured it was time to get serious about a book, but it was eight years later before it came off the press. He wrote a chapter on each game and also produced a DVD of the season's highlights.

McQuaig remembers Gainesville well, spending Thursday night in the Dixie-Hunt Hotel after a stopover in Athens for a final practice at the University of Georgia. Players wore ties with blue blazers furnished by Waycross's Touchdown Club. A former Waycross student was at Brenau College, and she introduced several players to a dozen or more girls, "each one prettier than the next," McQuaig said.

There was little celebration by the players after the game, he said. "The coach made us get off the field." He doesn't remember Waycross fans trying to tear down the goal posts.

Despite having already made long trips during the playoffs, the team rode the bus back home immediately after the game, returning to Waycross about dawn the next day.

Waycross's star running back, Marvin Hurst, and Gainesville's Ridlehuber later played together for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com



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