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Championship Games Stir Up Fond Memories

Fans are still talking about last year's controversial call in the Peach County-Calhoun game. (Photo - Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
 
Early to mid-December has always been a special time for me, not because Christmas is just around the corner, but as a long-time radio and TV broadcaster, its Prep Football Championship game time yet again. The next few days will see eight title games in seven classifications in two days in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
 
I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on many of the games I’ve either broadcast on radio or television over the years,  and have chosen a few of those to look back on, since I won’t be broadcasting a game at MBS here in 2018. 
 
I’m sure I’ll never forget last year’s “Snowy” outside, “controversial” inside, Peach County-Calhoun game which ended with Hal Lamb’s Yellow Jackets on top, 10-6. 
Bob Rathbun and I called the controversial play in that game on GPB-TV like we saw it live from the booth, and then to look at it several more times with the aid of instant replay.
 
I got the added opportunity to see it again the next 1,000 times I saw it (The Play) on Twitter, broken down in slow motion from every angle imaginable. It is a game I’ll never forget since it was at that moment that I finally realized how powerful social media has become. 
 
 That memorable game was just over a year ago and ironically Chad Campbell‘s Peach County Trojans defeated Calhoun, 22-7 a few days ago to earn the right to play Cedar Grove for the 2018 Class 3A title in this year’s finals. 
 
The remaining Day One championship games at Mercedes-Benz were postponed after the Calhoun-Peach County game due to snow and inclement weather, and a few days later I was honored to be in the booth with Larry Smith, to call the Class 7A final between Colquitt County and North Gwinnett in Suwanee.
 
It was 28 degrees at kickoff, and -- trust me -- it did not warm up any as the night progressed. The game was all any football fan could hope for, as both teams gave their all in pursuit of the prestigious title. Rush Propst’s Colquitt County Packers came from behind to take a 17-16 lead with 49-seconds remaining. 
 
The final moments of the game are still a blur to many, as the Packers were penalized for illegal participation (too many men on the field) on succeeding plays and then, a final referee’s flag was thrown on the last play of the game for pass interference. The game cannot end on a penalty, so after another penalty against Colquitt County, a 38-yard field goal by North Gwinnett’s Cameron Clark, after time had expired, gave Bill Stewart’s Bulldogs the win, and the title, 19-17.
 
(Photo - Gwinnett Daily Post)
One of the most amazing individual performances I saw in the Georgia Dome was on Dec. 14, 2012. Deshaun Watson of Gainesville put on a passing clinic for all gathered to see, as he led the Red Elephants past the Ware County Gators, 49-13. I broadcast the game on a statewide radio network and quite honestly, it was hard for me to describe just how perfect Watson’s performance was that night. 
 
Watson completed his first eight passes and the Gainesville High School Championship night by completing 27 of 36 pass attempts for 317 yards. He also rushed the ball 13 times for 85 yards. It was a night to remember in many ways, as I got to work the game with my long-time radio broadcasting friend, Tony Deloach as my color commentator, and my son Jay Palmer was updating us with what was going on from down on the sidelines. A memorable broadcast indeed.  
 
While I’m turning the clock back on some of the title games I’ve broadcast on radio and television through the years, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other championship games that always come to my memory at this time of the year.
 
Game No. 1:  December 2001. Buzz Busby’s Statesboro Blue Devils beat the Dalton Catamounts, 51-13 for the Class 4A Title at Womack Field in Statesboro before a standing –room only crowd. I broadcast that game with my long-time friend Mike Mull handling the color analysis. I’m sure Mike is anticipating this year’s championships more than ever, since his beloved Rockmart Yellow Jackets meet Heard County for this year’s 2A crown.
 
Game No. 2: December 1977. East Rome downed my alma mater, the Claxton Tigers, 26-9 in a game played at Bell Memorial Field in Claxton. East Rome scored on the first play from scrimmage and led 6-3 at the half. A couple of miscues (a fumbled punt and a fumbled handoff) in the second half doomed Claxton.
 
Ah, yes, there are some things about Championships in December one never forgets!
 
Enjoy the 2018 Championships on GPB-TV! Have a great Holiday Season … Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
  
Tommy Palmer

Tommy Palmer is a veteran Radio/Television Broadcaster who began his broadcast career at the age of 16. Palmer is an Associated Press award-winning sports broadcaster who has broadcast over 900 sporting events in his career including the GHSA... more