Valdosta, Georgia is called Title Town, USA because they have won more high school football games and titles than anyone else. Some call them Winnersville. Whichever you prefer, this town has won a lot of high school football games over the years.
Valdosta High School has 24 state titles to it’s credit with the last one coming this past football season. They’ve won over 900 football games and lead the nation in that category as well. Most of the success was under head coaches Wright Bazemore and Nick Hyder. Bazemore was head coach at Valdosta High for 28 years and he compiled a record of 268-51-7 with 14 state championships. Bazemore retired after the 1971 season and that team was considered one of the very best teams of all time.
Nick Hyder coached Valdosta High to a 249-36-2 record and 7 state championships in 22 seasons. There’s no telling what else Hyder would have accomplished, but he died of a sudden and shocking heart attack in 1996.
The passion for football excellence runs deep in this city in southern Georgia.
But, it doesn’t stop with Valdosta High School. There is also Lowndes High School which has 5 state titles of its own.
There can be no denying that football is huge in Valdosta, Georgia. That’s my kind of place because everyone wants to talk about Friday night’s game.
Valdosta has produced a few college players over the years and a few of them have been Quarterbacks. I’m only going from my standard time period which is 1967 because that’s when I first started following the game. Valdosta High has also won a number of national championships, but those are hard to count because they are not won on the playing field.
Many people think that the Valdosta High 1971 team was the best high school team that they have ever seen. They do have some evidence to back up that bold statement because they crushed everyone they played. Cross town rival, Lowndes was no problem at all with a 40-0 plastering. Their 3 playoff games were ugly blowout wins with scores of 35-6, 54-20 and 62-12. Yes, they won the state title with a 50 point victory. This team was amazing.
They were loaded with talent, too. Their leader on offense was Quarterback Stan Bounds who would later sign with Ole Miss and play there for two seasons.
The Rome brothers were incredible. Older brother Roger was 6-6, 250 and played Tight End. He wound up playing basketball at Florida.
Stan Rome was the best player on the field and truly dominating. He was 6-4, 225 and as a Wide Receiver, he caught 72 passes for 1,583 yards and 20 Touchdowns. Some people say Stan Rome was the best high school football player they have ever seen. But, he was an All American in basketball. He signed with Clemson and played both sports there. Stan played in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.
On the defensive side of the ball, Safety Gary Rowe was their leader and he signed with the
Stan Bounds was all everything at Valdosta, but he split time with 3 other Quarterbacks at Ole Miss in 1973. The Rebels finished 6-5 in the last season of Ole Miss legend Johnny Vaught. Ken Cooper was the new head coach and Bounds sat out all of 1973 and the team finished 3-8. Ole Miss improved to 6-5 in 1975, but Bounds was mostly 2nd team that season.
Bounds was all everything in high school, but only a part time player at the college level.
Freshman Buck Belue took over the starting Quarterback job at Valdosta in 1974 and he didn’t give it back until he used up his eligibility. He was the first 4 year starter at Quarterback at Valdosta High school. Buck Belue Georgia QB
If you are a good ole boy from the South, it’s going to be hard to find a better name than Buck Belue. But, Belue was more than just a cool southern name. He could play a little bit, too. He didn’t have the prototypical size, or the arm, or even the athletic ability of a great Quarterback. But, Belue just had that ‘it’ factor. Belue had heart and a lot of drive.
He signed with the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1978 recruiting class and earned some playing time as a true freshman behind Jeff Pyburn. The following season, Belue moved into the starting lineup, but the Bulldogs slipped to 6-5 on the seasons.
Things would forever change at Georgia in 1980 with the arrival of super star Running Back, Herschel Walker. With Herschel Walker on the team, the Bulldogs finished the season at 12-0 and they beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to claim the national championship.
The championship would never have happened without Buck Belue hitting Lindsay Scott for the game winning Touchdown in one of the more famous plays of all time. Run Lindsay Run
Belue and Herschel Walker led the Bulldogs to a nice 10-2 record in 1981 during the Valdosta native’s senior season.
John Lastinger had always played Quarterback growing up, but as a freshman at Valdosta he moved to Wide Receiver because he was a good athlete and because Buck Belue was already entrenched at Quarterback and in his 2nd year as a starter in 1975. Belue left for Georgia and Lastinger moved back
to Quarterback and they won the state title.
Lastinger must have loved Buck Belue and Georgia because a year later he also signed with the Bulldogs. Unlike Belue, Lastinger redshirted as a freshman at Georgia in 1979. Then, he did not play in 1980.
Lastinger became Belue’s primary back up in 1981 and then he moved into the starting lineup in 1982. The 1982 season was also Herschel Walker’s Heisman Trophy winning season and the Bulldogs finished 11-1. The Bulldogs came really close to winning the national title in 1982 only losing to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Sugar Bowl by 4 points.
You have to be impressed with Lastinger much like Buck Belue. Even without Herschel Walker, Lastinger led the Bulldogs to an impressive 10-1-1 record including a shocking upset over 2nd ranked Texas which the Longhorns still have nightmares about. John Lastinger scored the winning Touchdown right after a fumbled punt by Texas’ Craig Curry. Texas would have been national champs if they had won thanks to the biggest upset of the day, #1 Nebraska losing.
Going back to high school, Lastinger lost 2 games in his entire career with a 34-2-1 record over all.
Three years in a row, Valdosta High had top Division 1 Quarterbacks in Buck Belue graduating in 1978, John Lastinger in 1979 and John Bond in 1980.
Bond was the best runner of the three and was recruited by option teams which were much more common back in those days.
In the 1979 high school playoffs Bond ran 60 yards for a Touchdown to give Valdosta a 24-21 win over rival Lowndes.
John Bond signed with Mississippi State and their coach Emory Ballard who invented the Wishbone formation. For the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, Bond was a 4 year starter and an All American. Bond ran for 2,280 yards and 24 Touchdowns. He also threw for 4,621 yards and 18 Touchdowns. The NFL has little use for Wishbone Quarterbacks and Bond went undrafted. He attempted to play in Canada, but that didn’t work so well either.
Greg Talley was another Valdosta Quarterback that signed with Georgia and he played in all 4
seasons he was eligible. In 1988, Wayne Johnson started for the Bulldogs, but Talley played enough to attempt 54 passes and throw 4 Touchdown passes.
Talley moved into the starting lineup, as a sophomore in 1989. Talley lost his starting job to the young Eric Zeier in 1991.
Alton Hitson won back to back state championships at Valdosta in 1989 and 1990 and was 27-1-1 as a starter. But, he was only able to gain a scholarship at Georgia Southern.
Dusty Bonner was a big Quarterback at 6-2, 240 and he signed with the Kentucky Wildcats when Hal Mumme was head coach. In 1998, Tim Couch of Kentucky was the starting Quarterback, but he left a year early for the NFL and he was the very first player picked. Dusty Bonner took over the starting job in 1999, but after one season he lost it to freshman Jared Lorenzen AKA the Hefty Lefty.
Bonner transferred to Valdosta State where he was a star. He won the Harland Hill trophy two years in a row which is the highest award available for Division 2 players.
24 state championships needs good coaching and good players and Valdosta has certainly had both of those. But, mostly they have had gritty guys with huge hearts. I am sure I missed a few Quarterbacks and some the went to smaller schools.
In 2016, Valdosta won their most recent state championship and hopefully there will be plenty more in their future.
This is the kind of high school that is fun to follow.