By R. Alan Richardson
When people first read this headline they will probably think the sports editor is playing favorites since he has been my best friend since high school. He graduated in 1975 setting records in both football and doubles tennis with his close friend and football teammate Mike Ellis. So, if you have arguments, let’s look at a quick synopsis of his career at Morgan County, and see if you still disagree.
As a senior quarterback during the 1974 football season under first year head coach, Wayne Bradshaw, Ricky guided his team to an undefeated 10 wins during the regular season and then lost 1-0 on penetration to Harlem in the Region finals. In other words, they never really lost on the scoreboard.
In addition, he and Ellis went to the final four in tennis during the sophomore and junior years in doubles and to the elite eight their senior year under Coach Doug Ewing. These two guys may be the only players I know of who played on an undefeated team in one sport and went to the final four twice in another. What really sets him aside though is his faithful service to the Morgan County Touchdown Club having served as past president and his presence at many, many other sporting events.
Ricky commented, “Someone once asked me why I attend all these other games when I don’t have children or grandchildren playing? I simply replied, no but the Bulldogs are.” If you know others out there who can top that, please let us know.
Cochran started sports at a young age in Little League under Alvin White and had an undefeated season. That relationship would pay big dividends for him in the future. He also won the local punt, pass, and kick championship when it was about the only football that youngsters had to participate in. When integration occurred in 1970, he entered Morgan County Middle School at Pearl Street and played his first year of organized football with a bunch of new faces. He didn’t know that many of them would become lifelong friends and teammates. Cochran told us, “That first year we didn’t win a game under Coach Dean Lindsey, but there was a nucleus of us that stuck together like Lee Ruark, Leo Laborn, Steve Jewell, Ricky White, Mike Ellis, and Aaron Carter. We went from not winning a game to being undefeated five years later. Even though some of them have passed on, we all still stay in touch. That bond will always be there especially after you’ve given guys rides home, eaten together, played, and practiced together for five years.”
Ricky admits to being surrounded by great players, but we all know that everything starts with the snap and pre-snap. He jokingly said, “I tell people now that we threw it two times per game. We threw it to the referee to start the game and then we threw it to referee after we won. Our backfield of White, Jewell, and Ellis was one of the greatest of all-time at MCHS. All I had to do was get everybody in the right place and then manage the game. Get the ball to the guy and the right time. I’m just proud to have played at Morgan County. I probably wasn’t good enough to have played at Valdosta or Warner Robbins.”
Ricky told us about some of the differences in the game today, “We didn’t have all the weight lifting back then and only had three coaches in 1974, Bradshaw, Jim Booker, and Reggie Ross. They were all pretty new to us. Sometimes we threw the ball 8-10 per game and others only 2-3 depending on what we needed to do. We used run-based offenses like the I-formation and the wishbone. We didn’t run any shotgun, but I wish we had.” He laughed. “With that backfield, why would you. When you throw it there are two things that can go wrong out of three.”
After football his freshman year, he wanted to participate in another sports so he started looking for other sports to participate in. “I looked at baseball first. When Frankie Whitehead started throwing me that curveball, I knew immediately that baseball was not my game. I looked at the basketball court with Jack and Johnny Williams, Lewis Smith, and Alan Richardson. There was no way I was going to compete with them boys, so I talked Mike Ellis into going out for tennis our freshman year to play doubles. We survived our freshman year and went to a lot of success after that. We were just two big old football players trying to hit it as hard as we could.”
He complimented Coach Ewing with these words, “He was one of the most influential teachers and coaches in my life. Not only was he one of the most encouraging and supportive coaches I ever had, but he was also one of the best teachers I ever had in the classroom. A lot of people around Madison don’t even remember that Doug started his career as a science teacher at MCHS.”
Cochran got a degree in Business Management degree from GSU and was immediately hired by Little League Coach Alvin White at Federal Land Bank. At what is now Ag South/Farm Credit he has served 35+ years in that capacity.
“I was fortunate enough to be born in Morgan County and followed my Dad (Bill Cochran, Sr.) and brother (Bill Cochran, Jr. who passed away of cancer) back to Morgan County after attending college.
My Dad was a small business owner, served on the county commission, and was an avid supporter of the Bulldogs for many years, including several as Touchdown Club President as did my brother. My mother was a social studies teacher at Morgan for 25 years and was known as a tough but fair disciplinarian. The teachers never threatened to take me to the office when I got out of line. Instead they would ask if they needed to take me to my mom’s room. That was all I needed to hear. The repercussions there would have been much worse,” he said.
He mentioned some of his favorite football games he’s been a part of over the years.
1977-Big game Allen Crowley vs. Jeff Davis in State Playoffs beat in a real close game.
1980-Beat Lincoln County 1-0 on penetration at home.
1990-Beat Cedar Grove ranked in top five. Injury to Deangelo Warren
1995-Beat Lovett 21-0. Put a whupping on the boys. State Playoffs. Bill Corry Stadium Dedication.
2015-Beat Jackson County after Seth Stapleton’s untimely death. The team and community had been through so much. Hope it can propel them to do well this coming season.
The proud father then mentioned the success of his two children. “My daughter, Olivia, is a student at North Georgia and was an all-region fast-pitch catcher for the Lady Dogs in 2012. My son, Daniel, received a scholarship to Truett-McConnell in 2013 after playing soccer for Morgan.
The things that enamor me most about this long-time friend is that we both like sit and share memories at Burger King. We have been around the world together. In his younger days he was quite fancy on the dance floor so he got the nickname of twinkle toes. Hey bro, I miss those days.
So now you tell me. Does he belong on this select list of Morgan’s Finest. No question that he does.