It’s offense was known as “The Blue Streak” and it powered a team to find a way to win week in and week out during the 1979 season.
And on one cold night in December, the Model High School football team had its drive and determination tested before its team-first mentality carried them to a state championship.
The players and coaches from that team are able to look back 40 years later and know that there was something special about that season and the game that took their undefeated record to the brink.
“It was a wonderful group of guys to be around. Not just because of their character, but because of their determination to succeed, to back one another up,” said Lee Jones, who played free safety on the team. “There was this tenacity to overcome whatever was put in front of us.”
Model won the 1979 Class AA state championship by defeating Lincoln County 24-21 on Dec. 8 at Model’s football stadium — now named Woodard-Tuggle Stadium. It was a game where the Blue Devils trailed for nearly the entire game, tying it 21-21 with less than five minutes left to play.
Jones then provided the big play with an interception and, battling the clock and the opposing Red Devils, Model moved down to 5-yard line. Norris Allen, a running back, then kicked his first-ever field goal with two seconds on the clock, giving his team the lead and ultimately the win.
Running back David Stone and lineman Tim Reynolds were both named first-team All-State that season, while Allen earned an honorable mention nod.
Several of the members of that team, including players and coaches, came together for a night of memories and recognition as they were honored before Model’s game against Chattooga last Friday. It was an opportunity for many of them to return to the scene of their triumphant comeback.
“Of course it’s a memory you’ll never forget, but to see the guys and hear the stories of that night is just a good feeling,” Allen said. “This place will always be home and I’m glad to be back here, but it’s just good to hear the guys talk about it and their memories of it. Being the one that kicked the field goal, you have your memory of it, but there were a lot of stories surrounding that moment that I’ve heard through the years.
Model had lost in the first round of the region playoffs the year before and had gone 2-8 the season before that. The Blue Devils won back-to-back state titles in 1953 and 1954 under head coach N.S. Woodard, but there had been little to celebrate in Shannon since then.
“We had worked really hard that year to prepare for the state championship game. We played a lot of good teams. And we knew if we got passed those teams that we could face Lincoln County and give them a good game,” said Randy Martin, who played nose guard.
“It was a lot of hype going into it. We were both undefeated. We knew it was going to be a knock-down, drag-out, slobber-knocker, and it sure was.”
With Wayne Huntley in his fifth year as head coach and Namon Wisemon coaching the defense, Model had it’s most successful season, dominating defenses and winning the Region 7-AA title before moving into the three-round state playoffs. Lincoln County that year was coached by the legendary Larry Campbell, who was in his eighth season of a 42-year long career leading the Red Devils and already had two state championships under his belt.
“As far as a team, we kind of had that ‘bend don’t break’ philosophy, and all night long we had been playing behind,” Jones said. “But with about a minute left the defense pulled together, and we were able to get a big play out of that and hand the ball back to a pretty powerful offense.”
The 1979 team was the last time Model won a region or state championship, but the players from that team believe their way of playing is still alive in the small Floyd County community.
They got to see a positive step in that direction last Friday as Model worked to stifle Chattooga and claim a 12-6 region victory under first-year head coach Jeff Hunnicutt. It was the first time the Blue Devils had defeated Chattooga in four years.
“We knew that as we worked and moved up we had a tight bond together, and that’s what we left as a legacy — being teammates and not individual players. We all played as a team and there was no one who thought they were better than everyone else,” Martin said.
“Today, the Model teams today play that same way. They tackle as a group. And that’s what our coaches taught us. I think we’re able to see that. And while it might be a couple of years, we believe we’ll see Model win the region and head toward another state championship. That’s our hope.”
“It was a tremendous night and something I’ll carry with me the rest of my life,” Allen said. “My children and my grandchildren have heard about it, and hopefully it lives on. Because until Model does it again, that’s what we have as the last state championship. But hopefully Model will get back to that soon and win another one. And they’ll talk about them for a while.”