Hall’s home fields
In honor of high school football season, The Times continues a series on Hall County’s high school football stadiums: Their histories, key memories and what makes them unique. Next week: Maginnis Field at Riverside Military Academy. Fans who would like to share their memories can email Dallas Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's Friday night at East Hall Stadium. The Vikings are on the field, raring to be let loose on their opponents.
And the noise from the student section is what gets them going.
"I'm blind, I'm deaf, I want to be a ref!" chant the students, dressed in togas and waving their hands in a roller-coaster motion, led by junior Frankie Hale, 16.
The togas are part of a new weekly tradition Hale started for this year's football season.
"I don't want to sound bad, but the past years have not been too successful in some of our sports," he said.
"Every year at the first game everyone is painted up black and it pumped the players up a lot."
But that was the only thing the student section did as a tradition. Hale wanted to change that. He and a group of friends started spreading the word about weekly dress-up themes — the togas, a pink-out for breast cancer awareness month and a Halloween costume night, for example.
"We have all kinds of chants that we do," Hale said. "I go down in front of all of the students and put my hands up like on a rollercoaster, and then they do, too. I'll move my hands to the right, they'll move them to the right ... It's a pretty cool thing to see."
Principal Jeff Cooper said the students' enthusiasm has done a lot for the team.
"They've been great," he said. "In the past we haven't had this level of student support. They all dress up and it's has been a really big thing with the community."
Cooper knows a lot about football in the East Hall High community. He's a former coach, linebacker and offensive guard for the Vikings.
"At that time I was just a little bitty guy — 160 pounds. We had good teams every year and it was just a lot of fun with great coaches and athletes. I learned a lot from playing football," he said.
Cooper said he owes a lot of that knowledge to former Head Coach Jim Lofton, who came from Alabama to coach the Vikings.
"I got a letter from (former principal Jack Pirkle) asking me to come interview," Lofton said. "The new stadium was one of the things that enticed me."
Lofton remembers a couple of games — losing to West Rome in the North Georgia Championship and defeating Habersham County, for example — but said as a coach, "every game is a big game."
What does stand out in his mind is "the story of Andrew."
Andrew Goudelock worked with Lofton the summer of his freshman year.
"He was a good kid," Lofton said. "His sophomore year we found a problem with his knee ... It turned out to be cancer."
Goudelock had his leg amputated that same year. His junior season, with the aid of crutches, he approached Lofton with a lofty goal.
He wanted to play.
"I was thinking fast on my feet," Lofton said. "But we were thinking two different things. Andrew was serious about playing. I was serious about him standing on the sidelines on his crutches."
Lofton put Goudelock in on the defensive line and said he got killed every time the ball snapped. But still he played.
Lofton thought he'd be smart and keep Goudelock safe on the sidelines by telling him the team had to do a timed run. Goudelock didn't let that, or his lack of a leg, stop him.
Lofton said he would get about 40 yards and fall. His teammates egged him on and Goudelock made it through.
His senior year, Goudelock came to Lofton again.
"He said, ‘Coach I have some bad news. The cancer returned and it is in my lungs,'" Lofton said.
Goudelock went through more surgery and radiation treatment, determined to play his senior season. Lofton said before the snap, Goudelock would decide if he was going to go right or left, and he would dive into the gap to close up a running lane.
"It's amazing what he did for the camaraderie and brotherhood of that school," Lofton said. "He played in the (Georgia High School) All-Star Game that year alongside my son. ... When he came out on the field ... I think the ovation was about five minutes."
Goudelock died at 19, but his legacy at East Hall lived on.
One of his brothers named his son Andrew Goudelock as well. That Andrew Goudelock went on to become the College of Charleston's all-time leading scorer during the 2011 season and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He only recently found out about his uncle's history.
Another Viking who played with Goudelock named his son Andrew as well, Lofton said.
"Andrew was a black man and Ricky (Darracott) was a white man," Lofton said. "That shows the closeness, the biggest thing that made us. Those are the things that are important."
And that, Lofton said, is what it means to be an East Hall Viking.