(Media release from Rome City Schools):
Rome High students and fans blacked out Barron Stadium on Friday night during the Wolves 42-19 win over Allatoona but two large parts of the crowd wore some colors long-time Rome City Schools athletic fans certainly recognized.
A large scattering of blue and gold T-shirts and a large crowd of green and white clad fans stood and cheered right along with the black clad fans as Rome High paid homage to three historic teams celebrating milestones.
Before the contest began, close to 100 former coaches and players and family members representing some who have passed away gathered on Barron Stadium’s turf.
The players and coaches were from the 1977 East Rome High School state championship team, the 1982 West Rome High School state championship team and the 1992 Rome High football team. Public address announcer John McClellan read out the names of those on the field.
The 1977 East Rome Gladiators coached by Jerry Sharp finished the season with a 15-0 record, beating Early County 35-7 in the state Class A finals at Barron Stadium to claim the school’s first state football title. East Rome allowed only one touchdown during the regular season, shutting out nine of their 10 opponents. Larry Kinnebrew, Greg Gordon and Sylvester Elkins all earned first-team all-state honors that season and Ray Brown earned honorable mention all-state honors. East Rome would also go on to win the state title in 1978 as well.
The 1982 West Rome Chieftains’ squad is notorious for being the first of four consecutive state title winning football teams. The squad coached by Mike Hodges compiled a 15-0 record and topped Mary Persons 7-6 in the Class AA state finals to claim the school’s second state football title. The squad featured three first-team all-state selections in Eric Floyd, Keith Green and David McCluskey. The Chieftains would also win state titles in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Earlier in the school’s history, the West Rome squad of 1965 also won a state title, giving the Chieftains five football state titles.
The 1992 Rome High School Wolves coached by Danny Wiseman saw East Rome and West Rome come together. The squad won their first game of the season, topping Coosa 22-12, and also grabbed wins over Southeast Whitfield, Northwest Whitfield and Ridgeland. While the team didn’t reach the playoffs, it did set the foundation for the many great years of Rome High football to come.
After being introduced, the players from each squad gathered together for photos before ascending into the stands and helping cheer on the Wolves in the game.
Corey Kinnebrew, a member of the 1992 Rome High team, said he truly appreciated Rome High honoring his team and the other teams from the past.
“It means a lot to me to see the program that I played for is doing so well, and that they are also taking time to honor all of us,” he said. “It’s great to be able to come back and see all these old players and be out here on the field at Barron Stadium again.”
As for what his favorite memory as a Rome High player was, Kinnebrew gestured to the stands and smiled.
“The main thing was all the great support we had from the fans,” he said. “There is no greater feeling than Friday night lights.”
The idea of honoring great teams from the past was actually born when Rome High football coach John Reid had plaques honoring all five West Rome, both East Rome and both Rome state football titles placed on the press box at Barron Stadium. Rome High Athletic Director Chris Boden who was on the football staff at that time saw how much the community appreciated it and the idea was born.
“That got me to thinking. I remember how people reacted and how awesome that was,” Boden said. “As AD, I wanted to continue building that bridge and make everyone realize that we are one system, Rome City Schools, and we have had a lot of athletic success over the years.”
Boden spent a lot of time reaching out via phone, email and social media and managed to help pull everything together for the event.
“We decided that this year we were going to celebrate three football teams from our past at the Allatoona game,” Boden said. “The 1977 East Rome state champions because it’s their 45th anniversary, the 1982 West Rome state championship team because it’s their 40th anniversary and then we thought it would be neat because it’s the 30th anniversary of Rome High to celebrate the 1992 Rome High football team.”
Boden also said he’s hoping that Rome can continue to honor more historic teams and great athletes and team from Rome City Schools history.