Former Coosa quarterback Gary Graves looks back on the Eagles’ 1969 state championship team not as star-studded bunch of athletes, but as a tight-knit group of friends.
“It was a bunch of guys that were really close friends,” Graves said. “There were some pretty good athletes in the bunch, but overall it was just a bunch of guys that worked hard and committed to that season and stuck with it. It was a lot of fun.”
It’s been 50 years since the Eagles last won a state championship, but Graves gets reminders of the event frequently.
“I never thought 50 years from the time we won that people would still be talking about it,” Graves said. “That year made such a big impact. I don’t know that we understood what the impact was, but people are still talking 50 years later.”
Graves doesn’t have anything extravagant planned for the anniversary of the title game. He just wants to round up as many of his former teammates as he can and enjoy the weekend.
The group will meet Nov. 8 as the Eagles face Gordon Central.
“After 50 years, I’m not sure if the FBI can find some of them,” Graves said. “We’re just going to meet at the school early and go to the game together. Saturday morning, we’ll get together and have breakfast and get caught up.”
The Eagles finished 12-1 in the 1969 season and captured the Region 3-A title finishing a perfect 5-0 against region opponents.
The Eagles topped Carrollton 9-7 in a region playoff game, and defeated Toccoa 38-14 in the semifinals before rolling to a 28-8 win against Fitzgerald in the championship game.
Graves maintained a love for football, and after playing at the college level, returned to Coosa where he coached the team for eight years beginning in 1984. He retired from Adairsville High School where he was head football coach and athletic director for 14 years, and is now the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Rome.
The team will return with their coach, in a way, as the field bears the name Branch Bragg Field. Bragg, who passed away in 2011, was a longtime coach for the Eagles, coaching the team for 19 years and leading the Eagles to two state titles — the other coming in 1961 when the team finished with a perfect 12-0 record.
Bragg’s son Bo Bragg was on the sidelines for the 1969 season in his freshman year.
The son of the coach was team manager and played on the JV team.
“I was a waterboy,” Bragg said. “That was my big claim in life. I knew they had a chance that year. They had good athletes and good chemistry. They were a well-coached team.”
Bragg, who worked 32 years in the Floyd County school system, said he could tell from his home life that year that something special was going to happen on the field.
“Dad was a man of few words, but he was very optimistic all the way through the season,” Bragg said. “Living with a coach, you know when things are going good and going bad at the dinner table. I could tell he was optimistic about that team. The practices were always well-spirited, and the kids practiced hard. They had a great work ethic is what I remember.”
The Nov. 8 game against the Warriors will close out the regular season for the Eagles.