How ‘The Streak’ Began

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

The 1973 Andalusia Bulldog football team will be inducted into the Bulldog Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 13 at Andalusia High School for the extraordinary run to the state championship game and starting the Bulldogs on a streak of 58-straight regular-season games without a loss.

Don Sharpe came to Andalusia in 1973 and led the Bulldogs to their first ever playoff appearance in his first year.

Don Sharpe came to Andalusia in 1973 and led the Bulldogs to their first ever playoff appearance in his first year.

Coming off back-to-back eight-win seasons, the 1973 Andalusia Bulldogs weren’t really sure what the season held in store for them, especially after losing their coaching staff after the previous season.

“That was my senior year,” linebacker and team captain Lucky Cope said. “Coach (Wayne) Trawick left after getting another head coaching job, one of the coaches went with him and the third got job somewhere else. We didn’t know what we were going to have my senior year.”

In the summer of 1973, the Bulldogs took a chance on a young inexperienced coach in Don Sharpe. It turned out to be a great move by Andalusia.

“Ed Richardson, who was the principal at Andalusia High School at the time, really took a chance on me,” Sharpe said. “The only head coaching experience I had at the time was track coach at Jeff Davis.”

All the inexperienced head coached managed to do in his first season was win 11 games and take the Bulldogs to the state championship game.

“I had a pretty good core group of kids that were there my first year,” Sharpe said. “They had a lot talent, but they just weren’t as strong as they could have been. When I got to Andalusia, the first thing I did was put them on a summer weight program.”

The players coming back were very receptive to the new coach and his weight program.

“When Coach Sharpe came in, he put us on a weight program for the first time,” Cope said. “He started building us up on oneness, and just really bringing the team together. It was also the first time we had two-a-days during summer.”

Seniors leadership was a big part of the Bulldogs’ success in the 1973 season.

“We had a lot of seniors on that team,” Cope said. “In those days, it was rare to be a starter and not be a senior. We had nine seniors on one side of the and eight on the other.”

Another key to the Bulldogs’ success was how well the team played together.

“There was a very good team chemistry,” Cope said. “That was something that Coach Sharpe always spoke about. ‘Oneness’ was our team motto and it’s what we set out to achieve.”

Sharpe said that the oneness of the players was very essential.

“That was always part of my coaching philosophy,” Sharpe said. “We always down played the individual in the name of the team. I required a lot of discipline and dedication to the team.”

The first game of the season, the Bulldogs took on a tough Escambia County team, but still came away with a 33-12 victory.

“I remember before that first game, Coach Sharpe was just telling us not to worry about what happens early in the game because we still have them,” Cope said. “Well, they opened the game by returning the kickoff  98 yards for the touchdown. We just looked at it each other and said ‘Coach said not worry about what happens early’, and we came back and won.”

The win got the Bulldogs off and rolling, as Andalusia would start the season with a five-game winning streak.

Andalusia’s team not only scored a pile of points in those games, but they didn’t allow a single opponent to score more than 12 points during the first five games of the season.

The winning streak ended the next week when Andalusia and Carroll-Ozark battled to a 21-21 tie, which was the only regular season game the Bulldogs didn’t win over the next four years.

Andalusia’s players and coaches didn’t take to kindly to tie and went into the second half of the season playing in high form.

“After that tie we just kind of got on a roll,” Sharpe said. “We kept rolling right into the championship game, and I believe under different circumstances we could have won that game.”

The next week following the tie, Andalusia traveled to Brewton and handed the T.R. Miller Tigers a 14-8 defeat.

The eight points from T.R. Miller where the last points the Bulldog defense would allow in the regular season.

The following three weeks the Bulldogs hammered Elba 61-0, destroyed Evergreen 63-0 and dropped Opp 30-0 to put the Bulldogs in the 5A state playoffs.

In round one, Andalusia’s defense continued it’s shutout performance as they handed Thompson a 36-0 defeat.

Cherokee County didn’t fair much better against the Bulldogs in the second round as Andalusia rolled on to a 21-0 victory.

In the state championship game, the Bulldogs just couldn’t overcome a tough John Carroll team, and they fell in the title game 30-7.

Even though the 1973 Bulldogs just missed winning the state championship, they helped pave the way for the Bulldogs to go 58-straight regular-season games without a loss.

“One of the most impressive things to me was even with how many seniors we had in 1973, they still won 11 games the next year too,” Cope said. “That says a lot about the talent level that we had at Andalusia during that time.”

Cope said that Sharpe coached with such an excitement, that it was hard for players not to be excited with him.

“The best thing about Coach Sharpe and his staff was that you got rewarded when you did things the right way,” Cope said. “I can remember one day we were doing goal line drills and I think it was Gary Goodson that lit up someone on goal to keep him from scoring. We were only about two-thirds finished with practice and Coach Sharpe got so excited that he told us to just go on in. He would get as fired up as we did and maybe even more so.”

Cope said it was great team to be a part of.

“Anytime you have that kind of success, you look back on it and try to figure out where it came from,” Cope said. “I think for us, it came from us getting along so well. There wasn’t any fighting and we were there for each other. We had a chemistry that I guess you could say generates championships.”

The 1973 Bulldogs also had several players receive individual honors following the season.

Running back received first-team All-State honors from the Birmingham News and the Birmingham Press-Harold.

Harris Rabren was also a first-team All-State players for both Birmingham papers.

Mark Wiggins and Bryon McDougal received All-State honors from the Birmingham News. 

McDougal was also select the Alabama All-Star team.

The 1973 Bulldogs were the first playoff team in Andalusia High School history, as well as the first team to win 11 games in single season.

They outscored their opponents 414-95, and were the first Andalusia team to score more than 400 points in season.

“It was a fun team to be a part of,” Cope said. “I often wonder what we would have been like if Coach Sharpe would have came a few years earlier.”