High school football was always a favorite in Albany. Perhaps one of the highlights of football here occurred with the Albany High Indians Football season of 1959. The team was coached by John Tillitski, Pat Field and Bob Fowler and Graham Lowe was also on the coaching staff. The team included many names well-known to people in Albany such as Jerry Doyal, Marshal Tanner, twins Richard and Robert Creel, Eddie Ogletree as well as many others. Some of the team members even went on to be inducted into the Albany Sports Hall of Fame.
The boys that made up the 1959 Indians had all known each other since they were small children and had started out playing midget football together. They were not only a team but were close childhood friends.
The team had enjoyed a huge pep rally in the AHS gym after winning the South Georgia Championship. The Marietta team they were to play next had enjoyed an even better season and was expected to win the game easily. WALB had reportedly wanted to travel to Marietta and televise the game but had been denied the right to do so by Marietta. Football fever was high, friendly bets between the two cities were being made.
The Indians had beat many fine teams on their way to the championship, including a huge rival, Valdosta. Despite the fact that the team had won every game that season, the Atlanta newspapers had predicted that Marietta would beat Albany. Atlanta Journal columnist Furman Bisher had predicted Marietta would win by 20 to zero in the championship game. The game was played almost entirely in a hard rain. It rained so hard that the band had to put their drums back on the bus to keep them intact. The Atlanta newspapers had gotten the right score but it was Albany that soundly beat Marietta and won the State AAA Championship that night.
On the way home the team bus broke down but the jubilant team, cheerleaders, band and coaches were too happy to care. Albany threw a huge parade for the returning team. Thousands of people showed up to cheer on the champs. The Mayor of Marietta, the good-natured loser of a bet, had to push the Mayor of Albany in a wheelbarrow in the parade. Albany’s Mayor Jim Porter Watkins was decked out in an Indian Headdress for the occasion. The entire team and the coaches were led to the steps of city hall where Mayor Watkins presented the key to the City to team; it was accepted by team Co-Captain Robert Creel. The winning football season of 1959 is one that is still talked about fondly today.
Betty Rehberg is the historian for the Albany Journal and maintains a group on Facebook called Vintage Albany Georgia.