By Jonathan Deal
Friday night’s game between Athens and Cullman will have some very special guests in attendance. Members of the 1972 Athens football team that finished the regular season undefeated will gather for a reunion.
The ’72 team won the Tennessee Valley Conference, the premiere prep football league in North Alabama at the time. The Golden Eagles were ranked No. 1 throughout the season and clinched the championship with a win over No. 2 Cullman.
“Cullman and Athens have such great traditions of football. This game is falling on exactly the same weekend,” said Jimmy Woodroof, who helped organize the event. “The city of Athens has been behind us all the way and we’re excited about it.”
Athens and Cullman both entered that game in 1972 undefeated ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state, respectively. The win clinched the TVC Championship for Athens and was one of the most anticipated high school sporting events in Limestone County at the time.
“We played on what is now the middle school field that year. I remember they were concerned with the seating capacity,” Woodroof said. “With all the hype going into the game, you had two of the best teams in the state, both of us undefeated.
“I’ll never forget, it was all you could do to get to the field. They tied ropes and tied around the end zones to the sides of the fences. We had people standing on the sidelines all the way back to fences. That was the craziest atmosphere I had ever seen.”
While this year’s Cullman game might not have the ramifications of the 1972 version, tomorrow’s game will also be played on the third weekend in October, 40 years later.
“We had done well the year before,” Woodroof said. “The big thing for Athens was we played a 4A schedule which was the largest classification at the time. We dropped down to 3A that year and all of a sudden, we were competing against teams that were on par numbers-wise. That year kind of set the standard for the ‘70s.”
Athens went on to win its first state championship in 1975 under head coach Larry McCoy and again in 1976. The 1972 team laid the foundation for those state championship teams.
Woodroof said all 1972 teammates, coaches, managers and cheerleaders are invited to attend a pregame social under the tent on the west side of the stadium tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. The participants will be introduced and welcomed at halftime of the game.