By Alvin Richardson
(Authors note: As a graduate of Morgan County High School and a former head football coach at my alumni, I am somewhat of an expert on this topic. Some of my fondest memories are of this game between these two great rivals. I had the distinct honor of coaching against my old high school basketball coach (Tom Temple) and one of Georgia’s all-time greats (Charlie Winslette). The memories are rich and burn brightly in my mind to this day.)
When Morgan County’s Bulldogs and Greene County’s Tigers line up to tangle Friday night it will be the continuation of a rivalry that has spanned nearly one hundred years. The two counties, separated by the Oconee River, have both had football programs that have flourished and brought pride to their citizens as well as giving fodder for the Monday morning quarterbacks to second guess what might have been. In a nutshell it has been one of Georgia’s finest and long-running contests in high school football.
Friday night should be no exception.
Morgan County is coached by Bill Malone who begins his eleventh campaign as the Head Dog. Malone first came to Madison with Kenny Moore who led the Dogs from 1994 through 2006 and when Moore retired Malone took the reins. He has posted a record of 56-50 in his tenure with five appearances in the state playoffs and a region title in 2016.
Greene County is coached by Robert Edwards a former Washington County and University of Georgia great. Edwards is starting his sixth season as head coach of the Tigers and has an overall record of 26-30 with four appearances in the state playoffs. Greene made a deep run in the 2016 playoffs with wins over Wheeler County (49-7) and Pelham (55-40) before losing to McIntosh County Academy 39-22 in the state quarterfinals.
Last year’s game between the two old rivals was a big one for Greene County. The Tigers snapped a seven game losing streak to Morgan that dated back to 2007. They won it with big plays in the fourth quarter from Devin Wynn who made runs of 65 and 68 yards. That contest was a see-saw affair over the final two periods of play. Morgan led 6-0 late in the third quarter but Wynn struck back and Greene led 7-6 early in the fourth period. Greene then took the lead on another jaunt by Wynn with 6:35 to go but Morgan’s M.J. Webb blocked to PAT to leave the score at 13-6. Morgan County put together a clutch 68 yard, nine play drive and reached the six yard line on a 39 yard pass from Trey Patterson to Blake Nelson and Richard Brooks went over from there with 2:35 remaining to make it 13-12 but the PAT flew wide and Greene prevailed in a classic game that is so typical of this rivalry.
Historically speaking the series dates back to 1917 and although records that far back can sometimes be shaky and short on accuracy here are a few items of interest:
First of all Greene County was actually known as Greensboro High from at least 1917 through 1955 and Morgan County was known as Madison High through 1947.
The two teams first played in 1917 and according to the most reliable records they actually played twice that year. On October 13th, 1917 Greensboro High lost to Madison High 25-0 in a game played in Madison. Greensboro bounced back a couple of weeks later on November 2nd and won 27-0 on their home turf.
Speaking of playing twice in one year here’s a tidbit. Two wins (over the other) in a single season by one of these two squads actually happened in 1987 when Greene stopped the Bulldogs 26-0 in the regular season and 24-3 in the region playoffs (to the chagrin of your humble author who was coaching the Bulldogs.) It also happened three seasons later in 1990 when Morgan County (also coached by your humble author) stopped Greene by a score of 6-0 in the regular season and then 19-7 a month later in the region playoffs.
If you add up all the combinations of wins and losses since 1917 the tally looks like this: Morgan County High / Madison High has posted a record against Greene County High / Greene Taliaferro / Greene County of 41-39-3. That’s the stuff that rivalries are made of. Neither of the two has the upper hand in any significant way and after nearly a century of playing one another the two old foes are nearly in a dead heat in terms of wins.
Here’s another cool aspect of the Greene / Morgan series. Both schools have had some of Georgia’s finest high school coaches at the helm of their program. On Greene’s side of the ledger are such names as Charlie Winslette, Luther Welsh, Larry Milligan, and Tom Temple. For Morgan it’s Charlie Brake, Bill Corry, and Wayne Bradshaw. The number of wins those guys had together would come to an impressive total.
Of course both schools have had their share of great players as well. For Greene County who can forget the brilliant Josh Nesbitt or local legends Seed Miller and Trey Rhodes and how many remember those two blocks of granite in Fitzgerald Davis and Curtis Hill? Unquestionably that list could go on. On Morgan’s side of the equation there were many stars as well. The old timers will vividly remember guys like Snooks and Jake Saye, Bill and Bob McWhorter, Roy and Toy Sims, John Shockley and Jerry Hilsman. Those that are not as old might recall names like Ricky White, William Clayton, and Derrick Ballard.
It would be remiss to leave out what was perhaps the greatest radio team and post-game radio show of all time in Greene County (and perhaps anywhere in the country). David Kopp, Big E (Emory Brown and still going), and Bobby Roper along with stat guy Johnny Satterfield (currently in his 44th year keeping stats) were simply the best. That group of guys made high school football in Greene County more fun than a barrel of monkeys and they are all part of the legend and this story.
In terms of greatest teams of all time the ones that stand out for Greene County would have to be Charlie Winslette’s state championship squad of 1993 (13-2) who beat Mary Persons 24-21 for the title, Winslette’s 1989 team (8-7) who nearly pulled off one of the greatest feats of all time by going 4-6 in the regular season only to get hot and make the state championship game, Tom Temple’s state runner-up team of 1984 (10-4) who fell to Commerce 28-14 in the title bout, and Larry Milligan’s 2005 crew who went 13-0 before losing 35-34 to Charlton County in the Georgia Dome. For Morgan County it was the dynasty of Bill Corry / Charlie Brake that stands out. Brake led the 1955 team to its first state title and then Corry fielded teams that won four state titles between 1956 and 1962.
What about winning streaks in the series? You would think at some point one team would have a dominant period but that’s not really the case. The longest winning streak for Greene in the series (since 1948) was a string of five consecutive victories. The Tigers accomplished that twice from 1969 to 1973 and from 1991 to 1995. Morgan’s longest winning streak was seven from 2007 through 2015 and ended in 2016 with Greene’s 13-12 victory.
So after one hundred years the conflict continues and this one should be no different from any of the others – well attended, fiercely contested and hotly debated. At the end of the night the vanquished will say “Just wait ‘til next year” and they will be right. No one is on top in this series for very long.
That’s why Morgan County versus Greene County is such a great rivalry.
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