Sunday, August 9, 2009


The 1960 Dublin Irish Football Team

Front Row L to R - Bill Riner, Back Of the Year;
Ronnie Baggett, MVP; Top Row: Ben Snipes,
Lineman of the Year; Tennyson Coleman, Most
Versatile Player.

Winning a state championship is hard in any sport. It takes hard work, talent, and a lot of luck. Winning two consecutive championships is obviously more difficult. Following the 1959 season, the Irish players, fans, and coaches could only hope to repeat as champions, The team, the smallest one in many years, had only three starting first string players coming back from the championship team. The Irish opened the season at home on Battle Field, which had completely been refurbished through the efforts of Sgt . B.A. Snipes, Touchdown Club president Spec Hall, and many others.

Crisp County was the first opponent. They had gone 9 and 1 in 1959. The Irish shutout the Rebels 13 to 0 winning their sixteenth consecutive game. Tennyson Coleman, Dublin’s star running back, scored two touchdowns. While the Rebels concentrated on stopping Coleman, the other backs, Bill Riner and Pete Jernigan, took up the slack and piled up impressive rushing stats.

The Irish traveled to Fort Valley to face the Greenwave, the last team to have beaten them back in 1958. While the game was closer than the final score, the Irish took their measure of revenge and defeated Fort Valley, 20 to 6. Coleman added two more TD scores to run his total to four. Jimmy Harrington, playing in the place of Jernigan ( who saw limited action on defense due to a knee injury) scored the final touchdown in the third quarter. Jim Hilburn was the defensive star, swiping a last second pass at the end of the first half and killing a scoring drive with another takeaway in the final stanza.

Bill Riner and Ben Snipes led Dublin to a 19-14 victory over Sandersville in the third game. Coleman led both teams in rushing. Tal Fuqua, John Reed Deamer, Wayne Thomas, and Jimmy Dixon had outstanding games up on the front line. Ronnie Baggett fielded a Washington County punt on the Washington County 36-yard line and handed off to Bill Riner. Riner followed a wall of green and white blockers into the opposing end zone to seal the third victory of the season.

Bill Riner

The Irish trailed the Statesboro Blue Devils at the end of the half of the fourth and most crucial game of the year. A near record crowd of four thousand fans surrounded Battle Field to cheer on the Irish. Coleman had to leave the game in the second quarter with an injury he suffered during the off week practice. Harrington stepped up and performed well. He spun through and around several Blue Devil defense men to tally Dublin’s only touchdown of the game. Bill Riner tossed a pass to left. Wayne Thomas cradled it in for the extra point, the margin of victory. Irish coaches praised Bill Brown, Hugh Palmer, Jimmy Scarborough, Hollis Neal, and Jimmy Hilburn for their fine play.

Riner took a reverse handoff and returned a punt for 70 yards for the first score against the Cochran Royals. Riner scored again on a 76 yard run from scrimmage. Riner scored a third time, a 57 yard run up the middle. Riner returned the favor from Baggett, giving him the ball on a reverse for another 70 yard touchdown return on a punt. As usual, Deamer, Brown, Hilburn, Harrington, Fuqua, Riner, Jernigan, and Snipes were stand outs on defense.

The Irish winning streak was stopped at 20 games by the Swainsboro Tigers, 19 to 13. Mistakes cost the Irish the game and jeopardized the chances of repeating even the Region championship. Despite a plague of injuries, the Irish came back the next week to defeat Eastman High, 20 to 6. Riner and Jernigan pushed across the first two Dublin scores. Jimmy Scarborough grabbed a Baggett pass at the end of the first half to end the scoring for the Irish, who held on in the second half for the victory. The Irish continued to roll over their opponents in the homecoming game against Screven County. Riner, Coleman, and Jernigan scored touchdowns for the Irish following a scoreless first half. The stubborn Irish defense held the Gamecocks scoreless for their second shutout of the year.

Coach Minton Williams was afraid of Jerry Reeves, star running back of the Americus Panthers and one of finest backs to ever play against the Irish. In the first nine games, Reeves's rushing average was more than 130 yards per game. The teams played before an overflow crowd at Battle Field in Dublin. Reaves again put up outstanding numbers. Dublin was ahead by one point at the end of third quarter. Near the end of the game, the Americus quarterback, who was a cousin of Jerry Reeves, scored on a one yard quarterback-sneak to put the Panthers ahead for good. The Irish lost 27 to 21. The quarterback who scored the winning touchdown went on to be a star player with the South Carolina Gamecocks. He played professional football with the Dallas Cowboys from 1965 to 1972, playing in two Super Bowls. After his playing career he went into coaching. He coached the Denver Broncos from 1981 to 1992 leading them to the Super Bowl in 1986, 1987, and 1989. He has been in eight Super Bowls as a player and coach, more than any other in the history of the NFL. He left the Broncos to take the job as coach of the New York Giants, where he was Coach of the Year in 1993. In 1999, he led the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl. The cousin at quarterback for the Americus Panthers, who beat the Dublin Irish on a last minute touchdown, was another Reeves - Dan Reeves.

The Irish ended their regular season with a 18 to 7 victory over Baldwin County. The Irish defeated their arch rival Blue Devils from Statesboro to win the 2-A Region Championship. Dublin scored on two long drives of 87 and 83 yards, most of them picked up a few yards at a time. Once again, Coleman, Riner, Baggett, and Snipes dominated the offensive attack in the 14 to 7 victory. Coleman, who gained more than a hundred yards on the ground, and Riner, who scored with less than ninety seconds in the game, scored touchdowns for the Irish.

Five thousand fans surrounded Battle Field to watch the Irish go head to head with Ware County for the South Georgia championship. The Irish, with touchdowns from Coleman, Snipes, Riner, and Thomas, scored in every quarter for a impressive 28 to 7 victory. Two of those scores came from passes from Baggett.

South Georgia Championship at Battle Field, Dublin.

The Irish traveled to Thomaston to meet Carrollton for the Class A State Championship. Ronnie Baggett scored three touchdowns on keepers and completed all six of his passes to highlight the Dublin offensive attack. The game was close until the fourth quarter when the Irish broke a 20-20 tie in the last stanza to win the game, 33-20 and established themselves as two time state champions. Scouting from the sidelines that night was the legendary Shug Jordan of Auburn University.

Other players who played on the Irish that year, not previously heretofore mentioned, were Bob Garbutt, Roland Hill, Douglas McIntyre, Carl Stone, Bill Davis, Roger Fountain, Eddie Scott, Phillip Haynes, Mike Belote, Sammy McAlexander, Ben Morgan, James Gardner, Malcolm Dunn, Hugh Hamrick and Jimmy Nelson. Coleman, Riner, Baggett, and Snipes were named to the All Middle Georgia team. The latter two were named to the All State Team along with their coach, Minton Williams.

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