Breaking news:

Prep Rally

48 years later, African American state football champions finally receive their rings

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Decatur (Ga.) Trinity High won a state football championship in 1965. It knocked off Tifton-Wilson (Ga.) High in the state championship game by a score of 19-14, earning a Georgia Interscholastic Association crown. There was no debating the score, or the honor. Yet there was one thing missing: title rings.

As reported by Atlanta TV network WSBT, and brought to Prep Rally's attention by our friends at Online Sports Guys, the Trinity squad never received any official tokens of their historic state title win simply because the all-African American school couldn't afford any.

The lack of that official acknowledgement has helped keep one of Georgia's most historic prep football squads under the radar, despite one of the most heroic performances in prep sports history nationwide. Before kickoff of the state title game in Tifton, the Ku Klux Klan stopped the team's bus and threatened the lives of the Trinity players if they won the game.

Following suit, Tifton took a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. Then the mother of one player intervened, helping inspire her son's team to play regardless of consequences.

"My mother stepped forward and walked into the end zone," Trinity alum Willie Armstead told WSBT. "She crossed her arms and sat there, patting her foot." Clearly, Mrs. Armstead was upset that she felt the team was rolling over for its white opponents. They sprung into action, pulling out a victory and vowing to face whatever consequences came together.

"We looked at each other and said, 'If we're going to die, we'll die as champions.'"

Finally, Trinity is getting its just due, with the members of that championship Trinity squad receiving official state championship rings for their magical season nearly five decades later. Trinity and nearby (and then all-white) Decatur (Ga.) High have long since merged into a single school, and the Decatur athletic director decided to honor Trinity's historic squad in 2013 by awarding all the surviving members of that team with state championship rings.

Regardless of how one feels about the significance of a piece of jewelry, it's undebatable that the symbolic act brought a moving capstone to a truly brave and historic sports team.

"I've talked to all of my teammates, my coaches," Armstead said. "It's like a kid experiencing Christmas."

Want more on the best stories in high school sports? Connect with Prep Rally on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

View Comments (471)