Traditions were strong at Richmond Academy in the 1950s. Before games, the baseball team sang The Lord’s Prayer.
The team’s beloved coach, A.L. Williams, would often tell his players their opponent – especially when it was from the Savannah, Ga. area – didn’t know how good the Musketeers were because its players couldn’t read.
So he told his boys it was the team’s job to show just how good Richmond Academy was.
More often than not, the players came through, as the Musketeers did something else just as habitually: winning championships. A lot of them.
The baseball team won seven consecutive state championships from 1951-1957 as part of a decade of athletic dominance at Richmond Academy.
This Friday, when the Musketeers football team plays Greenbrier, Richmond Academy will honor athletes from the memorable decade that saw seven state titles in baseball, six in boys golf, three in .22 rifle, two in football and one in boys track, according to the Georgia High School Association’s Web site.
“A lot of us came from the wrong side of the tracks,” 1954-56 baseball team member Cliff Channell said. “Almost everybody has gone on in life and done very well. (Williams) taught us to never give up – keep hustling. If you keep hustling everything works out.”
Duane Grice played on three state championship baseball teams and on the 1951 football squad that went 11-1 and beat O’Keefe in the state final.
Grice, who also played basketball, still wears the gold-square watch he got when the 1951 Musketeers football team, coached by Harry Milligan, played in the Peanut Bowl against Agawam (Mass.) on New Year’s Day in Columbus. It doesn’t matter Richmond Academy lost that game.
Under Frank Inman, the Musketeers later won a second state title in football in 1956, which was one of the rare times they didn’t beat Boys Catholic – now known as Aquinas. The two tied 0-0 that year and traditionally met Thanksgiving afternoon, when overflow crowds were the norm.
Of all the players to dress for Richmond Academy in the 1950s, including former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye, none had the same experience David Milligan had.
As the starting quarterback and son of the head coach, David Milligan believed it when he said his father was ahead of his time, especially when it comes to offense.
The younger Milligan remembered a game against Athens in the mid 1950s, when Fran Tarkenton quarterbacked Athens.
In those days, offenses were usually run, run and run. If that failed, maybe coaches would think about passing.
But Richmond Academy was different – in the second half, the Musketeers decided to experiment with the shotgun formation. David Milligan said he counted 14 pass attempts on the game film.
“He was way ahead of his time as coaches go,” David Milligan said about his father. “Nobody threw the ball much. “
On the diamond, players like Channell and future Major Leaguer Jack Fisher kept the wins coming. Channell estimated a three-year record of 82-2 when he played under coach Williams.
For the former players, their time with Richmond Academy went down as an era of athletic dominance.
“It’s something you wear like a badge,” Grice said. “You enjoy talking to people about it. It’s just something I’ll always cherish. It was an honor.”