(STOCKBRIDGE, GA) – Until just twenty years ago, it was probably the biggest football game ever played in Henry County. It’s hard to believe now, but in 1991 there were only two high schools in Henry County, the Henry County Warhawks and the Stockbridge Tigers. Eagles Landing added varsity football in 1992, but it was a long way from the ten public schools in the county now. But in 1993, the Warhawks and the Tigers clashed in a win-or-go-home scenario for the final playoff berth from Region 5-AAA, and it was a classic.
The Warhawks began varsity football in 1951 but had yet to qualify for the state playoffs. Stockbridge had at least played in one region playoff game, a 41-0 loss to Woodward Academy in 1983. Henry County had to endure to back-to-back winless seasons in 1990 and 1991 while Stockbridge had three consecutive seasons of 1-9 from 1986 to 1988. Overall, it was not a stellar era for football in the county.
But things were looking up, Head Coach Kim Braswell for the Warhawks and Mike Creasman for the Tigers both had winning seasons in 1992, 7-3 for Henry County and 6-4 for Stockbridge. It was the first time both teams finished with a winning record in the same year.
Braswell was no stranger to Georgia High School football, he was an all-state player at Avondale and then went on to a successful kicking career for Vince Dooley at the University of Georgia. He started coaching in 1981 at Harris County and in 1983 legendary basketball coach and AD Chuck Miller for the Warhawks gave him a shot in McDonough.
Creasman was a long-time member of Bud Theodocion’s staff at Morrow and coached in the 1987 championship game where Morrow beat Effingham County 21-0. He hailed from Moultrie, Georgia and played his college football at Davidson. He was hired in 1989 and had steadily improved the Tigers fortunes.
Region 5-AAA was split into two sub-regions, and the top 2 teams from each side would move on to the postseason. Both coaches new they had a good team, but Marist was also in the mix behind their quarterback and future Georgia Tech basketball star Matt Harping. The Warhawks had beat Marist earlier in the year, but Stockbridge came up a touchdown short at home when they had their chance.
Unbeknownst to both teams on the night of their classic 1993 game, Marist lost a game they should have won to Westminster. That meant if Stockbridge had won that night, they and Henry County would both have been in the playoffs. But they game still had to play out.
It was a chilly night on the old Stockbridge High School football stadium just behind the railroad tracks in downtown. The game took several turns and the officials ending playing a big part of that. On their first possession, Henry County scored an apparent touchdown when Coach Braswell’s son and stating quarterback Kim Braswell, Jr. threw a 43-yard TD pass to DeVaugn Thomas, but the play was called back for offensive pass interference.
Kendrick Thomas scored on the next Warhawk drive to give them a 7-0 lead. The Warhawks dominated the first half, they held the ball 18 of the first 24 minutes and outgained them 215 yards to 64, but only took a 10-3 lead into the half.
After regrouping at the half, the Tigers seemed to settle in. They scored mid-way through the third quarter on a TD run by Kevin Carroll and looked to tie the game up, but the extra point was blocked. Everything changed moments later, the Tigers swarmed on a fumble and scored to give them the lead, but an official’s flag was dropped and the call was too many men of the field.
To this date there is conjecture about how many players were on the field for the fateful play, but the call was made and eventually time ran out with the Warhawks 10-9 winners in a classic.
Coach Creasman still vividly remembers,
““There was a play where they fumbled, and we scooped it up and scored, but an official called a penalty on us for too many men on the field. We checked afterwards; our film did not verify the 12th man. The next morning, the players woke me up knocking on my front door, they were crushed, they were hurting. It was tough.”
While there were no provisions for review, Creasman still wanted to make his case known, he felt like he owed it to the players. The GHSA listened and changed part of the process to ensure the correct number of players are on the field at all times. While it didn’t change the outcome, at least they made a difference.
Both teams won their final game and Henry County took the sub-region championship, which brought them a home game against Woodward Academy, which they lost the next week 33-29.
Things have moved on, the Warhawks would go through some successful seasons, winning back-to-back Region Championships behind QB Drew Little. The school moved this year and has a new name now, McDonough High School, but they are still the Warhawks. Stockbridge has had significant success recently under Kevin Whitley and now, Steven Boyd. And, there are eight other teams out there writing their own history. But for one chilly night in November, a classic game in Stockbridge left a lot of memories.
Rob’s Wrinkles –
1-Stockbridge built a new high school in 1997 and left old Tiger Stadium behind. It still sits in the shadow of the water tower behind Patrick Henry Academy
2-Old Stockbridge High School was used in 2017 as a set for the Netflix Series “Stranger Things.” It took on the persona of Hawkins Middle School.
3-Stockbridge Fullback Kevin Carroll went on to a four-year career at West Georgia and then went to training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1999.
4-Kim Braswell was a star kicker for the University of Georgia. His 14 field goals in 1972 set the SEC record at the time. Quite possibly his most memorable kick came in the 1972 Gator Bowl when he knocked one home with 37 seconds remaining in the contest to take down the vaunted Florida Gators 10-7.
5-Jarvis Tarplin was a sophomore running back for Stockbridge in 1993 who went on to become a star and later played at West Georgia. He is currently the Head Basketball Coach at Union Grove High School. He finished his career at Stockbridge with 3,055 career rushing yards.
6-Henry County won their first ever playoff game in 2007, a 28-24 win over Harris County. Stockbridge’s fist playoff win was in 2011, a 26-17 victory over Washington County.
7-The Henry County Warhawks played their last game at their home stadium on November 2, 2018, a 49-20 win over Druid Hills. They opened their new stadium in 2019.