Every time an NFL team extends its record to 10-0, conversations immediately turn to the Dolphins team of decades past, which won 17 games altogether, including Super Bowl VII. The question is asked — Can another team go undefeated?
No one has. Not even the 2007 New England Patriots, whose run at perfection lasted 18 games before a loss in the Super Bowl.
When a Cobb County team threatens to win a football title, talk about the ’67 Marietta team is not far behind. To this day, that title is the only Georgia High School Association football state championship a school from Cobb County has ever won.
“It’s flattering,” said Bill Dykes, the tight end on the Blue Devils’ championship team. “I kind of like it that our team gets brought up. I continue to enjoy it 44 years later, but I would hope it would help teams understand — you have to be fortunate, you need luck and the stars have to align to win a state title.”
Walton is hoping all three scenarios come to fruition tonight, when the Raiders face Grayson at the Georgia Dome for the Class AAAAA state championship.
But unlike the Dolphins, whose players pop the cork and celebrate every time a team tries — and fails — to equal its level of perfection, the now 61-year-old Dykes said he and his former teammates would welcome Walton with open arms into the distinguished — albeit small — club of Cobb County winners.
“Cobb County (football) has really come into its own this year,” he said. “I think it would be a great thing for Walton, and for the county, if it could win.
“It’s time for Cobb County to start winning some state championships.”
The Raiders will be the ninth GHSA-affiliated school from Cobb to play for a title. Four teams tried before the 1967 championship — Acworth in 1957, North Cobb in ’59 and Marietta in ’59 and ’66. Walton is the fourth team to reach the finals since, joining Wheeler in ’73, McEachern in ’98 and Harrison in 2000.
Dykes is surprised that it’s taken Cobb County this long to win another title, but he learned a long time ago that the best team does not always win when it steps on the field.
“There is no way in the world you would say the ’67 team was the best team ever to come out of Cobb County,” he said.
His former coach, French Johnson, told him as much.
One time, after Dykes graduated from Marietta, he ran into Johnson at a game and they began talking about their championship season. Dykes asked Johnson a bit of a loaded question — of the three Blue Devil teams the coach took to the state championship game, which was his favorite?
“‘The 1959 team (which lost to Albany 20-0) was my favorite,’” Dykes recollected as Johnson’s answer. “‘They were just a good bunch of guys and good football players. The 1966 team (which lost to Valdosta 14-3) was the most talented team I ever coached.’”
Dykes then asked about the ’67 team.
“‘They were the biggest group of overachievers I’ve ever seen,’” Johnson told him.
Marietta was 10-2 heading into the championship against what some considered a bigger and better Columbus team. But Dykes said any advantage the opponent may have had vanished when the game was played in the cold and driving rain at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field.
The Blue Devils trailed 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter before quarterback Hal Mote went around the right end for a 12-yard touchdown run.
Marietta won the game the next time it touched the ball, when Dykes provided the key block to spring Eddie Woody for a 61-yard punt return.
Marietta was fortunate to reach the game, but it got a little luck with the weather and the stars aligned for the victory.
Walton won’t have to worry about the weather tonight in the Dome, but it is fortunate as it appears Zack Blaylock and Jim Hogue have recovered enough from injuries to lineup on defense tonight.
The Raiders have had a little luck, beating Dacula two weeks ago while not playing their best and holding off Lassiter last week without their defensive leaders.
Only question remains — Have Walton’s stars properly aligned?
Dykes and his Marietta teammates hope so.
So does the rest of Cobb County.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and through Twitter at www.twitter.com/jbednarowski.