1987 had been great! A 14-1 record, a Region 3AA championship, the South Georgia Championship, and a trip to the state AA championship game had made the 1987 season one to remember for the R.E. Lee Rebels, There was one thing however that the Rebels wanted to add to their resume and that was a state championship.
As the 1988 season approached the Rebels and their coaching staff were confident of another strong team. There were twelve returning starters from the 1987 outfit including all-state running backs Randy Marshall and Tim Perry as well as all-state linebacker Marcus Hollis. Also back was starting quarterback Douglas Stanley who now had a year under his belt as the signal-caller in the Lee split-back veer offense. Other top returnees were receiver Gary Thornton. defensive back Hurley Wells. receiver/kicker Troy Woodard. lineman Jeff Brannon. and defensive end/tight end Anthony Thornton.
The Rebels did have some holes to fill however caused by the loss of 1987 stars Seth Sargent, Jimmy Haygood, Charlie Daniel, Lyie Robinson, Jeff Smith, Michael Kay. Charles Foster, Scott Etheridge, and David Kendall. Both lines of scrimmage had suffered severe losses and the Lee coaches had the job of finding replacements that could play at a championship level. The players were there and the coaches just had to fit them into the right places.
The state pollsters felt that the Rebels could continue their recent championship run as they ranked them high in all of their polls. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had the Rebels ranked #’1 in their state AA pro-season poll. This just added another burden to the Lee football express as entering the season ranked #1 would certainly make the Rebels the top target for each of their opponents. It would be very tough to go through an entire season with the #1 tag attached to their name but this Lee team was prepared to give it a try.
To win the state title Lee would have to go through a treacherous 15-game journey that would include a very tough Region 4AA schedule. Region foe, and chief rival, Mary Persons was ranked #6 in the pre-season polls and would visit Matthews Field for the season’s sixth game. Other strong region opponents like Manchester, Jackson, Perry, Jackson, and Lamar County dotted the Rebels’ schedule and Coach Tommy Perdue had also scheduled a top rated non-region opponent to open the season. The Rebels would open the 1988 campaign in Carrollton against the Class AAA Carrolton Trojans, who were a perennial state title contender. The schedule was filled with possible upsets.
Lee head coach Tommy Perdue, who had taken over the Rebel football program in 1976, had what was probably his best team and 1988 would be his best chance to challenge for the state championship. Maybe seeing the Rebels advance to the state championship game in 1987 had been somewhat of a surprise but 1988 would offer no such chance to sneak up on the state. AA football was ready for the Rebels and the Lee coaches and team had to be ready each week for their opponent’s best effort.
The 1988 Lee staff was made up of Doug Mills (offensive line). Nelson Hall (defensive line), Gary Ward (defensive backs), Jim Pruett (offensive backs), and Mike Swaney (linebackers/defensive ends). This was a relatively small group but they worked together well and brought valuable experience to the Rebels’ cause.
So the 1988 season was ready to go. To recognize the twentieth anniversary of this championship season. The Thomaston Times will print a weekly game review of that week’s corresponding game during the 1988 R.E. Lee championship season. This weekly look back at the 1988 season is sincerely dedicated to the memory of Coach Burns Pruett who graduated from R.E. Lee in 1945 and returned to join the coaching staff in 1955. He remained a part of the Lee staff as coach and business manager until the school closed in 1992.
Next week we’ll take a look at the Rebels season-opener against Carrollton.