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In 1924, the local high school — Douglasville High School — welcomed a new student from Birmingham, Alabama, named Howard Thompson whose father, R.W. Thompson, was a track supervisor for Southern Railway. Thompson liked his new school except for one thing — there was no football team. He had played the sport at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham and began to petition the school superintendent, E.P. Ennis, to form a team here in Douglasville.

At that time the entire population of Douglas County was under 10,000 and the enrollment at Douglasville High School was approximately 300 students. While the school did have a basketball and baseball team, school officials had been slow to add additional sports because many saw sports as a distraction from the real business of school — academics.

Howard Thompson couldn’t bear the thought of going through the last two years of his high school career with no football team and no place to play his favorite game. Finally, the powers that be relented and a call went out for boys to report to the practice field.

At that time Douglasville High School was using the old Douglasville College building that was located on Church Street approximately where the fire department and armory are situated today. It wasn’t a real practice field as we would think of today. Mainly it was some empty space reportedly covered with cinders and rocks, but the boys made it work. The team practiced for two periods each afternoon, with the players arranging their class schedules so that they could be free from classes at that time.

Howard Thompson was the only player on the roster who had played football, so he filled in as a coach that first year as well as serving as quarterback for the team. Yes, a student was the coach for that very first season! Superintendent Ennis and a teacher by the name of Mr. Anthony kept an eye on the team as well.

Some of those players in the first couple of years were Emmett Heaton who played half-back and carried the nickname "Heavy" even though he only weighed 155 pounds and was said to be an elusive runner. "Bloody Buck" Barrow was another as well as Ralph "Cutie" Eubanks.

The first game was an away game played against Atlanta’s Tech High. The Douglasville team lost 13 to 0. Of course, the fledgling team had been matched with one a bit more experienced. While those involved were disappointed, Weldon Miller, a team member and sophomore, submitted an article to the "Sentinel" giving thanks to Messrs. Ennis and Anthony for their support and stated with proper training and support the team would be able to "put up some first-class games."

The very first home game for the Douglasville Tigers was not played on the practice field, but on the sports field located at the Lois Cotton Mill on Bankhead Highway, and as I see it this is just one more reason why that property that today sits in a mess, is one of the most historical and IGNORED spots in our county.

Fatty Elrod, one of the popular announcers at the time for Rell Spiller’s Atlanta Crackers at the ballpark along Ponce de Leon Avenue and a celebrity referee for local boxing and high school games, came out to Douglasville a couple of times to announce the games.

Other teams played that first season were the boys at the A & M school in Power Springs (a loss 44 to 0) and Atlanta’s O’Keefe High (a loss 27 to 0). The Douglasville team did chalk up two wins that first season against Atlanta’s Joe Brown High (14 to 2) and the team from Dallas (19 to 6).

Howard Thompson went on to Georgia Tech where he played football. He returned to Douglasville where as an adult he was instrumental in getting Florence Field at Douglas County High School constructed, and he reassumed his job as coach free of charge after the football program had been dropped due to the Depression. Thompson also coached, managed, and organized the first Little League baseball team here, according to information compiled by the late Joe Baggett.

K.B. Fincher worked tirelessly for many years to get some sort of recognition for Howard Thompson’s efforts with high school football. Finally, in 1988, the Thompson trophy was established with the help of Douglas County School Superintendent Katherine Shehane and Commercial Bank president, Bob Pope. At the time Mr. Pope stated, "This award commemorates [Howard Thompson] who gave so much of his time and talents to Douglas County. He did a lot for the youth of the county and he did it in a quiet way."

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer’s Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.