Legendary Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell spent decades as a friend of former Thomson coach Luther Welsh.
Their teams played against each other in spring games. They also faced off in scrimmages. But every season since taking over in 1972 at Lincoln County, Larry Campbell kept one tradition alive -- he never scheduled Thomson for a regular season game.
"There was some fight on the field between the teams in the 1940s," Campbell said. "I was told not to schedule them. I don't know why. Luther and I never had anything against each other."
Local football coaches spent Thursday remembering Welsh, who died at age 79 earlier in the day. They talked about how Welsh was much more than a coach.
Former Westside High School football coach Gerald Barnes said Welsh would call and check on him after his wife, Sissy, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2005. Sissy Barnes died five years later.
"He was always a good person," Gerald Barnes said. "He was always fair to me and people I know -- always treats us the same way, win or lose. ... It was beyond sports even though he loved sports. He loved working with kids.
"He was just a good person. If you had to rate him on a 1 to 10 scale, he was a 12."
Laney coach Lemuel Lackey said he was impressed with Welsh when he called last summer and wanted to participate in a passing camp. Normally, Lackey said, just assistants attend passing camps. Welsh arrived with his full staff in tow to Augusta.
"It was an honor just to know him as a football coach," Lackey said. "He was a great guy for the profession -- a great role model for coaches who want to succeed in this business, doing the little things like working hard. Everyone knows Luther worked very hard putting together a good football team. He did it all the way until the end. It's a big loss not just for Thomson football but the football people and the people in the Augusta area. It really is."
In 1999, in his third year at Laney, coach Eric Parker almost led his up-and-coming squad to an upset over Thomson. The Wildcats fell 21-20, and Welsh commended Parker, now the head coach at Burke County.
"I remember him walking across the field and patting me on the back. He said I was doing all the right things," Parker said. "In this business, you'll sometimes meet some people you'll never forget. Coach Welsh is one of those people."