By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
The 1969-1970 school year was an exciting one for sports fans in Gadsden, and especially the Alabama City area.
The Emma Sansom High Rebels had enjoyed their best season on the gridiron in years, dominating their schedule while beating cross-town rival Gadsden High 14-7. The only blemishes on their record were a 24-14 loss to Etowah High and a 7-7 tie against the Blue Devils in the Charity Bowl.
This outstanding group of ESHS athletes was becoming local legends, and the future looked bright for the local high school. For the hundreds of local football fans, this season was long overdue although a group of baseball players from the Black Creek area would soon put the crown jewel into this record-setting year.
Led by head coach Gary Muskett and pitching ace Bobby Browning, the Rebels notched their first state championship on the diamond in 13 seasons. The Rebels previously brought home the state title in 1957.
Emma Sansom began its postseason march to the top in Huntsville against Lee High School. Browning proved that he was as good at the plate as he was on the mound when he doubled in two runs in the top of the third inning with two out.
Lee cut the lead to 2-1in the bottom of the inning, but the Rebels exploded for four runs in the top of the seventh on hits by Gary McFarland, Jeff Inman, Jimmy Snow and Philip Penland. Browning recorded the win, and the Rebels were off to the second round.
The Rebels were forced to travel once again for the quarterfinals against Dora. Sansom earned a hard-fought 9-2 win in a game that was tied 2-2 in the sixth inning. Browning recorded his sixth win of the season to remain perfect at 6-0. Emma Sansom’s record improved to 13-4 with the win. Jimmy Snow continued to be the big man at the plate with a .431 batting average.
Next in line for the Rebels was Ramsay High School of Birmingham. The Rebels broke open a tight game in the series opener to capture a 6-4 win. Game 2 of the best-of-three series went to Sansom, 3-0, on a pitching gem by Rebel starter Steve Stephens, who allowed only three hits over seven innings.
The victory over Ramsay set up a showdown with Shaw High School of Mobile for the state crown, with the Rebels once more hitting the road. Gary Muskett was confident about his team’s chances – after all, the Rebels had won their last title in Mobile against Theodore High School. Shaw entered the championship series with a 15-2 record, while Emma Sansom held a 15-4 mark.
Game 1 was close, with the contest going 10 innings. With the score tied at 2-2 Eddie Elkins smashed a double against the centerfield fence to drive in Inman for a 4-2 lead. Elkins’ game-winning hit broke up a pitchers duel between Browning and Shaw’s Price Thomas. It was Elkin’s third hit in five at-bats. Elkins had also thrown out two Shaw runners on steal attempts.
In game 2 on Saturday afternoon, Lavoy Gaither and Browning turned in key performances in a 5-3 Emma Sansom win that clinched the state championship. Gaither made a beautiful catch in shallow centerfield and threw out a Shaw runner at the plate in the sixth inning. Browning came on in relief in the sixth for Stephens, who recorded the win.
The Rebels ended their title run with a 17-4 record. Snow finished the season with a 14 game hitting streak, while Browning ended up with a perfect 7-0 record on the mound.