|Wilcox Academy fielded its first team in 1970.|
The varsity football players at Wilcox Academy and Wilcox Central High School have been going through preseason football drills for over two weeks now as they prepare for their regular season openers on Aug. 25. Wilcox Academy will play Sparta Academy that night at Wildcat Field in Camden, while Wilcox Central will travel to Selma to take on Ellwood Christian at Memorial Stadium.
Like a lot of men reading this column, my football-playing days ended a long time ago, but I think that it’s important for today’s high school players at Wilcox Academy and Wilcox Central to know that they are taking part in a Wilcox County tradition that is nearly a century old.
As a hobby, for nearly 20 years, I’ve spent countless hours going through old newspapers looking up stories about old football games, recording their scores and outcomes and submitting them to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society. (In fact, I was one of six founding members of that organization when it was formed in 2007, and I’ve served on its board of directors ever since.)
I say all that to say that despite all the research that’s been done, a number of questions about high school football history in Wilcox County remain unanswered. When was the first official high school team fielded in Wilcox County? When and where was that team’s first official game played and who was their opponent? Who won and what was the score? Who was the first high school football coach in Wilcox County history?
Based on research done by the AHSFHS, it appears that Wilcox County High School in Camden fielded the first high school football team in the county’s history in 1921, and their first documented game was played on Oct. 15 against Jackson High School. In that game, Jackson reportedly beat WCHS, 102-0. (That is not a typo.) Jackson’s head coach that season was a man whose last name was Steed, but the name of WCHS’s coach that year is currently unknown.
|Wilcox County changed its name to Wilcox Central in 1989|
With that said, it is highly possible that WCHS fielded a team prior to 1921, but if so, AHSFHS researchers have not uncovered that information yet. High school football was very informal in its early years, and the news and results of high school games weren’t widely publicized like they are today. (Also, it wasn’t unheard of for non-students, recent graduates and grown men to come down out of the stands and play in full contact games, especially if the home or visiting team happened not to have enough players.)
Other Wilcox County schools known to have fielded teams at some point in their histories, aside from those already mentioned, include Camden Academy, Catherine Academy, Millers Ferry, Pine Apple, Pine Hill, Snow Hill Institute and Stokes Academy. If you’re interested in learning more about the teams at those schools, as well as past teams at Wilcox Academy, Wilcox Central and Wilcox County High School, I invite you to visit the AHSFHS’s website at www.ahsfhs.org. The website is constantly being updated as researchers uncover more information about Alabama high school football history.
In the end, I would like to hear from anyone in the reading audience who has more information about the early history of high school football in Wilcox County. In addition to old newspaper articles, other great sources for this type of information include old yearbooks, memory books, schedules and football programs. Any information that I receive will be passed along to the AHSFHS, so that it will be made available to future generations of researchers, football fans and Wilcox County residents for years to come.