News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Decatur honors seniors who took Raiders to '76 semifinals

From staff reports

Decatur High will honor the senior class of one of its most memorable football teams before its Friday night home game against West Point.

The Red Raiders' 1976 squad posted a 10-2 record and advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals before falling. At that time, the state had only four classifications instead of six, as there are today.

Those seniors graduated with the Class of 1977, which is sponsoring a reunion this weekend. They will have a tailgate party before the game.

That Decatur High squad went 9-1 in the regular season and received a bye through the first round of the state playoffs. In the final regular-season game, Decatur beat Austin 27-7 after rallying from a 7-6 halftime deficit.

Coming from behind was a theme in the playoffs, too.

In the quarterfinals, Decatur won at Butler 21-14 and joined Mountain Brook, West End and Murphy in the semifinals. Butler built a 14-0 lead after scoring touchdowns on its first two drives, but Decatur didn't allow any points after that.

With 56 seconds left in the first half, Decatur drove 88 yards for a touchdown, which came on a 24-yard run by Darnell Shackelford. After scoring on the opening drive of the second half to make it 14-14, Decatur got the winning points with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter. David Smith scored on a 1-yard run.

"We weren't ready at first, but we came on strong," Decatur coach Earl Webb told The Decatur Daily afterward.

"We didn't change anything at halftime. All we told them was to do the job or hang it up for the season."

Mountain Brook, the defending state champions, advanced with an 18-15 win over Hayes and were unbeaten heading into a matchup with Decatur at Ogle Stadium. Behind future Alabama standout Major Ogilvie, Mountain Brook downed Decatur 24-20 although the Red Raiders had the ball at the Spartans' 2 when time expired.

Mountain Brook led 17-7 at halftime with Decatur's only points coming on a 60-yard touchdown run by Benny Perrin. In the third period, Decatur rallied with two touchdowns — a 1-yard run by Smith and a 66-yard run by Stanley Thompson.

Ogilvie scored on a 56-yard run to put Mountain Brook ahead for good. Decatur drove to the 2 in the last minute but with no timeouts left, the Red Raiders fired four passes that fell incomplete.

"If we had had one timeout left, it might have been a different story,"Webb told The Daily afterward.

The next week, Mountain Brook hammered Murphy 52-26 to win another state title.

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