Many small towns dream of their local high school football team making it to the big game and winning a coveted state title. For Walton County, though it hasn’t happened much, there have been some local teams that have found their way to the top and gotten to hoist the championship trophy, some as recently as 2013, while some as far back as 1968.
Walton County has a total of seven state championships in football spread across three different organizations, mostly in the private school-centric Georgia Independent School Association.
But there is one football state title at a public school in Walton County.
In 1968 a group lit up the scoreboard on offense and shut down opposing offenses with a stifling defense. Carver High School, the former segregated school in downtown Monroe, is Walton County’s only public school to win a state title in football.
From 1965 to 1968, led by head coach Leland Mangrum, the Wildcats went 33-2 while scoring an average of 40 points per game each season, but it was in 1968 when Carver really started to dominate opponents. In the school’s final year before desegregation, Carver defeated opponents by an average of 46-2 including a staggering nine shutouts during the 13-game season.
Despite falling a game short of the championship in 1966 and 1967, Carver finally broke through in the 1968 and won the Georgia Interscholastic Association Class AA title by defeating Risley High School of Brunswick 15-0 in the championship.
“It was about togetherness,” linebacker Tommy Hillman, a senior on the 1968 team who had a strong performance in the championship game, told me in 2017 while working on a story for one of our magazines. “We all grew up together and had nothing to do but play ball. After finishing with a losing record our freshman year, we got better and better and made the playoffs for three years straight.”
In 2018, the state championship Wildcats reflected on 50 years since they powered their way to a state title. Many members of the team were present when Monroe Mayor John Howard signed a proclamation honoring the team for its accomplishment. The team was also honored at halftime Monroe Area’s homecoming game in 2018.
Despite closing its doors after the 1968 season, Carver still shows up in the records of the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, which keeps track of all high school football teams In the state. Carver still ranks 48th all time for total scoring in a season (614) and 15th all time for average points scored per game (47.2).
Looking back through old bound editions of The Tribune, it was hard to find much information on that 1968 Carver team. Most of what I was able to gather for this piece was based off information on the Georgia High School Association, Georgia High School Football Historians Association and GIA heritage websites.
As we wrap up February, which is also Black History Month, I felt like it was appropriate to honor a group that didn’t get the recognition the deserved in 1968.