On Sept. 9, 1966, what was then known as Central High School won a game in Thomas County Stadium for the first time, defeating Pelham by a score of 35-7. The ball from that game was saved, but has been under the care of a third party.
That is, until now.
In a ceremony prior to Friday night’s game against the visiting Valdosta Wildcats, the game ball was returned home to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that date, with Thomas County superintendent Dusty Kornegay, Thomas County Central principal Trista Jones and members of the 1966 football team in attendance.
The ball will now be put on display in the school's trophy case.
Before the construction of Thomas County Stadium, the Yellow Jackets played in Thomasville’s stadium when the Bulldogs weren’t using it. When Central finally moved into its own facility and won a game there for the first time, the ball was understandably given to someone who helped make Central’s own home happen.
“The gentleman in charge of the planning committee for the stadium was a man named Skeet McCormick,” Thomas County Central football radio broadcaster Randy Young said. “As a result of his efforts to design the stadium and everything, the game ball was presented to him after the game was over.”
McCormick kept the ball for a number of years before handing it down to his son, Hank McCormick. After moving north to Cumming, Ga., Hank noticed the date that was imprinted on the ball and a light bulb went off in his head. From there, he did what was necessary to get the ball back to the school.
“He felt a little tugged to get it back to Thomasville,” Young said. “He boxed it up and sent it to athletic director Sam Holland with a letter that explained why he was returning it.”
In 50 years, Thomas County Central has had a lot to look back on. For them, though, the memory that the ball represents stands alone.
“Every stadium has hallmark moments,” Young said. “If you beat your rival or win a championship on your home field, those are things to remember. But there will only ever be one first victory, and that was it.” - Story courtesy David Almeda with The Times-Enterprise