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Famous coach accuses assistant he fired of stealing signs for foe in upset loss

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

An ethical scandal has rocked Georgia high school football thanks to some questionable actions from coaches who took in another game during their team's bye week, with fans and fellow coaches reviewing near Zapruder-film quality footage of an opposing coach watching a game with binoculars from just outside one team's coaching box.

The incident in question unfolded when Colquitt County (Ga.) High fell to Lowndes (Ga.) High, 17-14, in a Friday night upset. Colquitt County is coached by Rush Propst, the former coach of Hoover (Ala.) High who gained fame for the time when that program was featured on the MTV show "Two-A-Days."

Propst has remained a significant and controversial figure ever since, and he's certainly not one to shy away from letting people know when something has upset him.

On Friday, Propst was perturbed by the actions of the Thomas County (Ga.) Central High coaching staff, which watched the Colquitt-Lowndes game during their team's week off from action. As documented by the Thomasville Times Enterprise, Thomas County Central head coach Bill Shaver and one of his assistants, Mike Singletary, were clearly watching the game from an area behind one of the end zones, but one of the program's other assistants, Buzz Payne, was also at the game.

In fact, Payne was caught on video sitting directly beneath the Lowndes coaching press box with a pair of binoculars. Propst, who had previously employed Payne as an assistant on his own staff, has been accused of passing on signs from the sidelines to tip off the Lowndes coaches, helping a team he had no direct connection to knock off a coach he has a past history with at a district rival.

"There's no way that should happen," Propst told the Moultrie Observer about Payne's appearance with binoculars on the Lowndes side of the field. "And we let it happen."

Regardless of Propst's protestations, the Georgia High School Association has already declared that the results of the game will remain final.

While Shaver was adamant about his own innocence and that of Singletary, he fell short of that when asked about Payne.

"He had the night off. We didn't have anything assigned for him to do. What coach Payne does in his own time is his business," Shaver said. "I don't know what coach Payne did. They fired coach Payne two years ago. They played against coach Payne last year when he was at Valdosta.

"If Coach Payne could steal signs, then we sure would have stolen from them and tried to hold them underneath 35 points (this year when we played them).

"They couldn't move the ball on Lowndes. They shouldn't blame anybody for not being able to move the ball except themselves."

Of course, Payne had plenty of other things to do when Thomas County Central was playing Colquitt County, among them helping his own team try and deal with a dramatically more effective Colquitt offense than the one on display last night. While Propst's team was held to 14 points in its loss on Friday, it scored a whopping 35 in beating Thomas County Central, 35-33, on Aug. 31. That remains Thomas County Central's only loss of the 2012 season.

So, was Payne sign stealing out of sour grapes from his own past with Propst? Was he doing it to help Lowndes knock off Colquitt and drive down the state ranking of Propst's team, potentially helping Thomas County's stock in the process? Or was the entire incident just one big misunderstanding?

Whatever it was, it has the Georgia prep football community up in arms, with plenty of opinions about a case which is unseemly at best and outright bad spirited and unfair at worst.

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