From Bearcats to Red Devils
III. The Bufford-Bunch Years: 1957-1971
Carrol "Buddy" Bufford and Thomas Bunch were named Co-Head Coaches and Athletic Directors in 1957. The Lincolnton Red Devils showed remarkable improvement almost immediately, regaining their position as a viable Region 2-C Championship contender.
The most interesting game of 1957 was in Sparta. Lincolnton won the game 1-0 by forfeit. One account has it that on the first play of the game the ball was placed on the rain-soaked Sparta field and floated five yards away; the officials then called the game off. Another version says that several Sparta players were very sick with the flu and Sparta chose to forfeit the game rather than dress out.
In 1958 Lincolnton ended the season as the 2-C runner-up, losing to Waynesboro for the title. Over two thousand people attended the Washington-Wilkes game, setting a new school record.
The year 1959 also saw the Red Devils finish the season as the 2-C runners-up. The first field goal for Lincolnton High School was booted October 23, 1959, in Warrenton. Sparta was the opponent, losing 10-0; Sparta had been undefeated and unscored upon. Weems Pennington kicked the unprecedented field goal from the hold of Bobby Freeman.
In 1960, the Red Devils, led by an ill Buddy Bufford (see appendix) roared through twelve gridiron opponents on their way to the 1960 Class C State Title, Lincolnton's first state football championship. High points of the regular season were a 25-19 season-opening victory over Washington-Wilkes, which later won the 1960 Class B title, and the amassing of 426 yards of total offense against Sparta and of 403 yards against Harlem. Lincolnton's 39-7 victory over Wrens was outstanding since Wrens had yielded only twelve points in its four previous games.
Bufford was named Class C Coach-of-the-Year while Gene Goldman was named Class C Lineman-of-the-Year. The 1960 season was the first in which the Devil's home field was equipped with an electric scoreboard clock. The Booster Club contributed $1,500 with sponsors meeting the remainder of the costs. Nearly $500 was spent on additional lights.
According to a newspaper the 1960 Devils had five characteristics that made them Champions of Champions; (1) They could come from behind and win close games; (2) They could score from anywhere on the field; (3) They could deliver "Knockout Blows" early and discourage the opponents; (4) They were hard-hitting; (5) They were called the greatest team in the history of Class C. Football.
Buddy Bufford died in an Augusta Hospital the morning of February 24, 1961. Thomas Bunch was named to coach the Red Devils. After a season-opening loss to Washington-Wilkes, Lincolnton ran off ten straight victories to capture the Class C South Georgia Championship. The state title game, the last game played under the lights in Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens, was lost 21-0 to Coosa High School of Rome.
An unstoppable offense and an unmovable defense was synonymous for the Lincolnton High School Red Devils during the 1962 and 1963 seasons. "Big Red" went 12-0-0 each year, winning the state Class C titles.
Thomas Bunch was named Class C Coach-of-the-Year both years while Randall Edmunds was twice named Class C Lineman-of-the-Year.
The 1962 Devil defense allowed six points on a touchdown run in the first quarter of the first game. In the second quarter of the second game Greensboro intercepted a pitchout and returned the ball for a touchdown. After that Lincolnton did not allow a point until the second quarter of the twelfth (state) game. The offense was spotlighted in the Sparta game, gaining 442 yards with 24 first downs.
In 1963, The Red Devils did not yield a point until the third quarter of the last regular season game played in Warrenton. As the Warrenton back was carrying the ball toward the goal line, he was hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone where Lincolnton recovered. The officials said the Warrenton runner crossed the goal line but Lincolnton fans disagreed. West Point scored on a pass in the second quarter of the last game of the season, but Lincolnton had outscored twelve opponents by a total score of 427-13. In five seasons, 1959-1963, Lincolnton's Red Devils won fifty-one football games, tied one game, and lost only four.
Lincolnton finished third in Region 2-C in 1964 but ended the season with a 6-0 victory over Warrenton, the eventual region champions. The win over Wadley in the fourth game was Lincolnton's fortieth consecutive region victory.
The year 1965 saw Lincolnton finish as the Region 2-C Runner-up. The 39-0 win over Wrightsville in the ninth game was Lincolnton's thirty-fifth consecutive home game without a loss. Curtis McGill was named Class C. Lineman-of-the-Year.
The loss to Washington-Wilkes in the opening game of the 1966 season was the Red Devils' first home loss since October 16, 1959. The Warren County game was witness by over three thousand spectators at Buddy Bufford Field. A new press box was built and the light poles were moved for the 1966 season. Lincolnton was the region runner-up.
Lincolnton finished fourth in Region 2-C in 1967 with a 5-2-1 region mark. The Devils outscored opponents 180-109, including a 66-0 victory over Sparta there. Lincolnton won four of its five home games, demonstrating the effects of the hometown support.
The Red Devils finished second in 2-C in 1968. The season was highlighted by a 7-0 victory over defending Class "B" Champions Washington-Wilkes, and a 13-0 win over Class AAA Glenn Hills, and a 63-0 victory over Sparta. The Booster Club purchased a new public address system for the football field.
The Lincolnton High School Red Devils finished out the 1960's with a 3-6-I overall record and a 3-3-0 Region 2-C record in 1969. It was the first losing season for the Devils since 1955.
Lincolnton High School and Westside High School were integrated in 1970 to form Lincoln County High School. The Georgia High School Association changed its classification system from C-B-A-AA-AAA to B-A-AA-AAA. Lincoln County High School was put in Region 3-A where it finished the 1970 season with a respectable 5-2-1 region record. Both region losses were by a total of ten point. Putnam County scored on a thirty-plus-yard field goal on a rain-soaked muddy field.
Many observers commented that the cooperation exhibited on the gridiron between the black and white players greatly helped the overall community to adjust to integration.
Lincoln County roared out the starting blocks in 1971, winning its first two games, but lost seven straight after that; six of the seven losses were by less than ten points. In the second game LCHS defeated Putnam County 21-7; Putnam won the 1971 3-A Championship.
During "The Bufford-Bunch Years", the Red Devils won three state titles and were runner-up to a fourth. Lincolnton-Lincoln County played 156 football games; the Devils won 108, lost forty, and tied eight. This gave Lincolnton-Lincoln County a winning percentage of almost seventy-three percent. Winning - that was the name of "The Bufford-Bunch Years" and the heritage of "The Campbell Years." IV. The Campbell Years: 1972-1979