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From the Archives: Taking a journey through the Southland Raiders’ historic 1986 football season; part 6

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

Editor’s note: We, at the Americus Times-Recorder (ATR), enjoy celebrating our area’s history of athletic excellence. Most recently, we have embarked on a journey into the past to detail the thirtieth anniversary of the Southland Academy Raiders’ awesome 1986 football season. While poring through our archives of old editions from the period, we have uncovered a wealth of knowledge about that epic football season, in which the Raiders plowed their way past competitor after competitor en route to the school’s very first football state championship victory.
While exploring the archives, I have found that the microfilms, on which many of the editions from the mid-1980’s were reproduced, has begun to deteriorate. Unfortunately, that means that I cannot go into the amount of detail that I would like to in retelling the stories of some of the Raiders’ exciting victories. Though this will likely be a disappointment to some fans, I can assure the Times-Recorder’s readers that I will make every effort to provide as much information as possible as the series progresses.
In our most recent installment, we read about the Raiders’ first region victory over the Deerfield-Windsor Knights as well as the team’s first and only loss of the season; a devastating 15-14 tilt that went to the Southwest Georgia Academy Warriors. True to their form, the Raiders picked themselves and proceeded to take down Riverview Academy 28-6 the following week to earn a spot in the state playoffs. The Raiders would face a familiar foe, the Mt. DeSales Cavaliers, in the first round of the playoffs.
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The fall of 1986 was a busy time for newspapers. In world news, speculation was rampant as to whether or not secretive North Korea leader, Kim Il-Sung, had passed away. In national news, US President, Ronald Reagan, was defending his administration against accusations of covertly selling arms to Iran in hopes of alleviating the ongoing Lebanon Hostage Crisis; a debate that would get very heated in the years to come.
Locally, the Times-Recorder reported that the community was preparing for a campaign visit from US congressman, Newt Gingrich, who would be speaking on the campus of Georgia Southwestern College, as well as the construction of a state-of-the-art hospital that had just been approved at a cost of three million dollars in Americus.
The ATR’s sports section was full of Associated Press articles about a talented young boxer, Mike Tyson, having just become the youngest heavyweight champion in history, as well as legendary 49’ers quarterback, Joe Montana’s recovery from recent back surgery.
In local sports, Southland’s David Roach had just been named the ATR’s Area Player of the Week as area schools prepared to transition from football to basketball… Not Southland, though… Not quite yet…
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Having earned a spot in the playoffs with their significant victory over Riverview, the Raiders were busily preparing to take on Mt. DeSales once more in the post-season.
Prior to the match-up, ATR sports editor, Ron Evans, wrote in his “This Week’s Picks” column, “Although the Raiders whipped Mt. DeSales during the regular season 31-7, it won’t be so easy this time. Mt. DeSales has improved, but it won’t matter. Southland will win by 10; 20-10.”
Evans was right about one thing, the Raiders certainly whipped the Cavaliers, but it was by a much higher margin than his prediction.
On Nov. 15, 1986, the Times-Recorder published an overview of the previous day’s match-up titled, “Raiders pass the Cavaliers”, by ATR sports writer, Mike Mead.
The content of this article is shared below:
Raiders pass the Cavaliers
By MIKE MEAD
ATR Sports Writer
“MACON, Ga. – Passes – one an interception and one a completion – sparked the Southland Academy Raiders Friday night to a 27-0 whipping of Mt. DeSales in the opening round of the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA football playoffs at First Presbyterian.
“Ray Clark intercepted Cavaliers quarterback, Brad Scott’s, shuffle pass in the middle of the line and raced for 33 yards for the first score of the game. He then added the point after.
“On the ensuing kickoff, Mt. DeSales was forced to punt and the Raiders took over at the Cavaliers’ 34 yard-line.
“On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback, Stephen Summers, hit Jeff Rix, who made an outstanding catch at the goal line to take the ball away from two defenders and Chan Reeves (107 yards on 27 carries) then scored from a yard out to give the Raiders a 14-0 intermission lead.
“For the night, the Raider defense took center stage by limiting the Cavaliers to just 57 total yards, 37 of them on the ground.
“‘The defense did another fine job,’ said Raider head coach, Loveard McMichael. ‘Our defense again shut them down. We knew it would be a tough game. Ray Clark’s big interception got us fired up as did Jeff Rix’s pass catch.’
“Control was the key in the second half as the Raiders controlled the Cavaliers and the clock to post 13 more points in the third quarter and put the game out of reach.
“The opening drive of the half ate up over eight minutes on the clock in a 16-play, 85-yard scoring match capped by Summers, who went in from a yard out.
“The last score came with 8:00 left in the game when David Roach spun into the end zone from eight yards out.
“The Raiders will now wait to see who they will have to face from the Savannah Christian v. John Milledge contest. The game will be played at the home of the winner of that contest Friday.
“‘We’ll just take them one game at a time,’ said McMichael.”
In the wake of this victory, Evans published an article two days later titled, “Americus home, Southland on the road.”
In this piece, Evans wrote, ““…For Southland, the Raiders, after a 27-0 thrashing of Mt. DeSales Friday, will take on Savannah Christian, which beat John Milledge 20-14 in Savannah.
“The Raiders defeated Savannah Christian 37-12 in the first game of the year.
“In the other semifinal game, Westfield, which beat Cavalry 53-0, will take on Stratford, which edged Southwest Georgia Academy 22-21.
Evans detailed the Raiders’ win over Mt. DeSales on Nov. 20, but, unfortunately, the text of the article is illegible on the microfilm on which the edition was preserved. What is known, however, is that the Raiders played up to their potential in the match, with the team’s powerful defense halting the Cavaliers’ progress at every turn as the Americus team’s offense went on a scoring spree to earn a 27-0 shutout victory. The Raiders made sure from the onset that the Cavaliers knew that they had come to win and would let nothing stand in their way.
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On Nov. 20, 1986, in anticipation of the upcoming second round of the state playoffs, Evans wrote in his “This Week’s Picks” column, “…Southland Academy is playing well, as is Savannah Christian. However, the defense has been there for the Raiders all season long and that will be the key in a Raider semifinal victory over Savannah Christian by 14; 21-7.
Evans was a little closer in his prediction this time around, as evidenced by an article following the match-up by ATR special writer, Karen Crouse titled, “Raiders defeat Red Raiders”.
The text of this article is shared below:
Raiders defeat Red Raiders
By KAREN CROUSE
Special to the T-R
“SAVANNAH, Ga. – The Southland Academy Raiders took a giant step towards a first-ever state football championship by downing host, Savannah Christian 13-0 in the semifinals of the Georgia Independent School Association Class AAA playoffs here Friday night.
“The Raiders, 11-1, will now take on Westfield, which defeated Stratford Academy 6-3 in overtime, in Perry next Friday for the title. Savannah Christian, which the Raiders beat 37-12 in the first game of the season in Americus, ends the season at 9-3.
“For senior tailback, Chan Reeves, who gained 91 yards to pace Southland, it was a sweet victory indeed. ‘They beat us my sophomore year in the state championship game and we remembered,’ he said.
“‘But we made some mistakes we don’t usually make in the second half and it kept Savannah Christian in the game. I wasn’t sure of the game until I saw zero-zero-zero on the scoreboard and we were ahead.’
“Southland, which rushed for 250 yards, scored first in the opening period with Reeves scoring from three yards out. Ray Clark added the extra point. The final score of the game came on a 12-yard run by Reeves in the second quarter.
“‘That was a good game for me,’ said Reeves, who had 56 yards at the half. ‘But it wasn’t my best one.’
“McCichael also pointed out the play of the defense. ‘They played super tonight,’ he said. ‘They bent but they didn’t break.’
“Savannah Christian wound up with 265 total yards; 188 by rushing and 77 by passing.”
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From the 1987 Southland Academy yearbook: Southland’s David Roach (8) carries the ball around a series of Mt. DeSales defenders as his teammates provide protection during the Raiders’ Nov. 14, 1986 playoff contest against the Cavaliers.

From the 1987 Southland Academy yearbook:
Southland’s David Roach (8) carries the ball around a series of Mt. DeSales defenders as his teammates provide protection during the Raiders’ Nov. 14, 1986 playoff contest against the Cavaliers.

Just like that, the Raiders had secured themselves a spot in the championship game. The team immediately began their preparations for the big day, as McMichael and the players studied their opponents, looking for any way to gain an advantage and help secure a Southland victory.
The day before the team’s final tilt of the season, scheduled for Nov. 28, 1986, Evans penned a preview of the upcoming match-up titled, “Raiders will have its hands full of Hornets”.
The text of this article is shared below:
By RON EVANS
Sports Editor
“The Southland Academy Raiders will have their hands full Friday night as they take on the Westfield Hornets for the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA football championship.
“‘I really feel that the two best teams in the state are here,’ said Raider defensive coordinator, Don Marchman.
“Westfield, the Region 1-AAA champions, are led by Brad Bolton, a six foot two, 190-pound senior fullback who has rushed for 778 yards on 123 carries and 10 touchdowns. ‘He is the key to their offense,’ said Marchman. ‘The first thing we have to do is take him out of the game. He runs hard.’
“‘Westfield runs the Veer and Bolton is the main man. They will run a fullback trap and then try the inside and outside Veer,’ said Marchman.
“Another possible thorn in the side of the Raiders is junior quarterback, Joey Brett, who has connected on 49 passes on 102 attempts for eight touchdowns and just four interceptions and rushed for 393 yards on 91 totes and 20 touchdowns. ‘He is an action passer. He’ll be the best passer we’ll face,’ said Marchman.
“The key for Southland stopping the Westfield Veer will fall on ends, Phil Hart and Ken Greene. ‘The fullback sets up the option and if Brett pulls the ball out and turns the corner, he’s gone,’ said Marchman.
“‘This game is like Savannah Christian, whom the Raiders defeated last Friday in the semifinal contest. It’s like sitting on a powder keg. They are ready to explode and score a lot of points,’ said Marchman.
“Marchman said he feels that the big difference between Savannah Christian and Westfield is that the Hornets have a better passer.
“Westfield defeated Stratford 6-3 in overtime last Friday to qualify for their first ever appearance at a state final.”
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Be sure to join us next week as we conclude our series on the Southland Raiders’ epic 1986 football team and their rise to the top spot in the state. When we resume, we will be sharing the ATR’s detailed coverage of the Raiders’ victory over the Westfield Hornets, as well as more photos and other writings about the team’s journey to the school’s first ever gridiron championship.