I have written about Coach Blackwell in these pages a few times. He and Cal Thomas organized little league sports in Buckhead out of Peachtree Hills Park back in the 1950s. He gave us the Northside Youth Organization (NYO), and Blackwell’s name adorns the premier field at the NYO sports complex in Chastain Park on Wieuca Road. A note from a reader just before Christmas related the stories of two national titles Blackwell delivered to Buckhead — one indisputable, the other somewhat questionable except by those on the team.
The letter was from Ted Haynes and began by saying it had been exactly 50 years since he last played in a football game. He wrote he knows because his last game was on New Year’s Eve in 1962 in Bradenton, Fla., where the Buckhead Red Devils won the Pop Warner national championship game. He then identified the coaches whose names were burned in his memory: Bob Blackwell, Bobby Blackwell Jr., Steve Arthur, Pete Hall and Candler Crim.Bob Blackwell first organized a midget football team of 13 12- and 13-year-olds at Peachtree Hills Park in 1951. This marked the beginning of the Buckhead Red Devils.
The team moved to Bagley Park on Pharr Road in 1958, a seminal event as the Red Devils won a national youth football championship just three years later. The 1961 Buckhead Red Devils defeated a team from North Carolina in the Little Lions Bowl on New Year’s Eve for the Pop Warner national championship according to Haynes, who at 12 played as a backup on a team of mostly 13-year-olds.
The next year the Buckhead Red Devils beat squads from as close as Chamblee and as far away as East Ridge, Tenn. They defeated the DeKalb Yellow Jackets in the city championship at Grady High School in Midtown. The Red Devils again traveled down to Bradenton for the national championship game and again emerged victorious over a team of “7-footers” from North Carolina.
It was later determined another team won the Pop Warner national championship due to a technicality. The boys who played on that Buckhead Red Devils team, however, will say they won the title with a perfect record and the decisive championship game played Dec. 31, 1962, regardless of what the record books state.
On that team were Haynes, Steve Granade, Kirk Evans, Tommy Wan, Tom Frazer, Lester Scherer, Raymond Jones, Gordon Lehy, Woody Torras, Darsell Cowell, Mike Millard, Chuck Kitchens, Stan Baumgartner, Steve Collier, Steve Norman, Jeff Daniel, Jim Crow, Bobby Helmer, Bim Clark, Bobby Walters, Ricky Haas, Gary Branch, Bob Woodward, Chip Wisdom, Malcolm Corbett, Pete Hall, Carlton Frey, Bill Kuhn, Bill Faith, Butch Andrews, Neil Portes and Gary Harrison.
Bob Blackwell and the Buckhead Red Devils won a total of seven national titles over the years. The team is still playing youth football and still wins a ton of games through NYO.While each championship team assuredly deserves a column, a 50-year anniversary is that rare milestone to reflect on how youth sports have shaped our community, a legacy that continues to this day.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.