(SHANNON, GA) – The Model Blue Devils host Gordon Central Friday night, and for Head Coach Jeff Hunnicutt, it’s an important one. With their final game of the season against undefeated Rockmart, the next two weeks are critical to Model’s playoff chances.
Few schools in Georgia can boast a taste of the historical success Model has earned over the years. They have three GHSA state football championships to boast, but they also have one of the most successful periods of any school in all sports. From 1953 through 1959, they won five total championships (two in football and three in baseball) and just missed out on another baseball title when they finished runner up.
During that special period, the namessakes of Model’s current stadium were the coaches, N.S. Woodard for football and Ralph Tuggle for baseball. Coach Tuggle actually replaced Coach Woodard as the head football when he stepped down in 1955. In all, the two-gentleman coached 27 years of football for Model.
Coach Woodard came to Model in 1945 after serving as an assistant football coach in Rome for two seasons. He was the boys’ and girls’ basketball coach as well as track and baseball. As if he didn’t have enough to do, he also put together the first Model football team in 1945.
Coach Woodard’s dedication to fundamentals paid off and only six seasons later in 1951, the Blue Devils had a region championship and an undefeated season led by back William Hartline. Although they would lose in the first round to West Point, the bar had been set. Hartline went on to star in the 1952 All-Star game where he rushed for 100 yards, returned punts and kickoffs and even had an interception. Then Georgia Head Coach Wally Butts said that “Hartline was the best back on the field.”
In 1953, Model and Coach Woodard put everything together. After an early season 1-point loss to Villa Rica, the Blue Devils went on a roll and defeated Irwin County in the Class B State Championship. The Shellnuts, not brothers but an uncle (Wayne) and a nephew (Mitchell) led the way. Mitchell scored three TDs in the 25-19 win.
The Blue Devils returned most of the 1953 team and ran the table in 1954 with a perfect 13-0 season, including a 14-0 win over Claxton in the championship game. The state championship game had drama throughout, Mitchell Shellnut broke his collarbone the week before in the North Georgia Championship, but Coach Woodard used a running back by committee to score twice in the final five minutes for the victory. A melee broke out at John Bell Memorial Field in Claxton that took local police, state patrolmen and school officials to clear away.
With the back-to-back football championships in tow, it was time for Coach Tuggle and the baseball team to get into the act. Wayne Shellnut pitched a two-hitter to beat Monticello to reach the final, but the Blue Devils were beaten by Milton for the championship.
Just two seasons later, Coach Tuggle and his team embarked on a three-season championship run. In 1957, they defeated Montgomery County in a series played in Thomaston, Georgia. In 1958, they got a one-hitter from Charles Stansell to defeat Tucker 8-0 and finally, in 1959 they beat Winder-Barrow 2-1 on a two-out balk.
There were four Model Blue Devil players who played on all three baseball championship teams; Larry Percy, Wyatt Webb, Jackie Braden and Doug McFalls.
Coach Tuggle assumed football coaching duties for the 1956 season when Coach Woodard retire, where he stayed until the end of the 1974 season. From a football perspective, Coach Woodard went 91-19 and Coach Tuggle went 87-95-12. For the school, the seven-year run of excellence brought together a close-knit community.
The coaches are now memorialized with their names on the field and the scoreboard. Every fan who looks up at the names on the scoreboard Friday night will be reminded of an era of excellence.
Other Wrinkles from Rob –
1-Buddy Minshew played on both state championship football teams of 53 & 54 and on the state baseball runner up team of 55. He later played baseball at West Georgia and later at the University of Georgia.
Minshew’s brother, Wayne, also played for Model High graduate and was captain of the 1958 Georgia Bulldogs. After a short minor league stint, Wayne went on to become the first Atlanta Brave beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
2-Mitchell Shellnut went on to play at Georgia from 1955 to 1958. He was a teammate of Fran Tarkenton.
3-William Hartline who starred on the 1951 team, did not play football in college. He went on to serve in the US Navy and then went into the Ministry where he served for 57 years.
4- Charlie Stansell and Bobby Joe Cross, members of Model’s 1957 & 1958 champion baseball teams, were signed after their senior season by the Baltimore Orioles. John Hanna was the local Oriole scout that signed the pair. “It’s a package deal, they are next door neighbors and close friends and they wanted to play together.” They both played one season for the Bluefield Orioles in West Virginia
5-Model Teacher William Hosmer put together an incredible video project about the 1953 and 1954 football teams. His site is one of the best around, differently worth a view. https://sites.google.com/floydboe.net/landofhoz/the-videos