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The Gadsden Times

'One of those magical years': A look back on the 1973 Glencoe state football championship

By Maxwell Donaldson, Gadsden Times,


Glencoe High School has played football for 101 years but only one of those years have ended in the promise land.

It's been 50 years since the 1973 team finished 13-0, still the only undefeated season in school history. This Friday the school is honoring the team ahead of its game. There were plenty of firsts that year: the first playoff appearance for Glencoe, and Etowah County, first playoff wins and first (and only) state title.

There was some differences between the path to a state title in 1973 and now, 50 years later. First, there was no regions so only the top-eight teams made the state playoffs, meaning a team had to go almost undefeated in the regular season just to make the postseason. The finals were played at a school, not at one of the premier stadiums in the state, and the Blue Map Trophy.

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A Magical Year

Going into the 1973 season, the Yellow Jackets had gone 8-2 each of the two years before, barely missing the playoffs in 1971, falling in the final game of the season and sliding out of the rankings. Glencoe cruised through most of the 1973 season, with rivalry wins against Hokes Bluff, Sardis, West End and more. The game against Southside, a 21-20 victory, was the only time that the dream of a perfect season was in doubt.

David Burgess, a senior safety on the team, remembers the season as magical but not just for the football team but the whole Glencoe community.

"We was the team that was playing on the field, but the whole year, it was just one of those magical years, the band, the cheerleaders, the community. It was 100%, where anybody was going to be on Friday nights," Burgess said.

Going into the playoffs the Yellow Jackets were the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A (only four classes in 1973) before beating Lauderdale County and Holtville to reach the state title game. They had to travel down to Florala, near the Florida border, where they actually stayed at a Florida motel.

In the state championship game , the Yellow Jackets fell behind 14-3 before scoring a touchdown, and were down three heading into the half. The second half was all Glencoe as it scored 13 points to win the game 24-14. Hal Smith led the way with 99 yards and Willie Davis had three touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Davis didn't play his best game that day but said he thinks time has a way to help people forget about that.

"I was telling my wife earlier, the older I get, the better I was. Nobody remembers much, I tell them how good I was. It's good that when we get around each other, it's fun to talk about that kind of stuff," Davis said.

Still being honored

This Friday before the Yellow Jackets game versus region rival Plainview, there will be a pregame ceremony to honor the 1973 team. Most of the players who are still alive will be in attendance, as will their coach Lyle Darnell. This isn't the first time that the team has been honored by Glencoe, but it still means a lot to those on the team that they are invited back every few years for recognition.

"It really does means a lot that they would still remember us after all this time. Some of the old Glencoe people it still means a lot to them, people who have been here forever," Davenport said. "...It just means a lot to us, having them remember us, remember our name and what we done, it means a lot, it really does."

Maxwell Donaldson covers high school sports and Jacksonville State athletics for the Gadsden Times. Find him on Twitter/X @_Max_Donaldson and contact him at .

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: 'One of those magical years': A look back on the 1973 Glencoe state football championship

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