ROBERTA -- Crawford County will play a non-region football schedule during the next two seasons.
The Eagles are coming off a fourth straight winless season and have lost 43 consecutive football games, a record for Middle Georgia schools.
“We just felt at this stage, we can’t compete ... we’re not competing,” Crawford County athletics director Clyde Zachery said.
Crawford County will remain in GHSA Region 4-AA for all other sports, but it won’t compete against the other schools in the region for football and won’t be eligible for the playoffs for the next two seasons.
The Eagles last won on Oct. 9, 2009, a 24-12 victory over Jordan. Since that defeat, the Eagles have only had six games decided by 10 points or fewer.
Head coach Greg Street, a former Northside assistant coach, inherited a team with 23 straight losses in 2012. His Eagles lost by seven to Pacelli to open the season and by three to Strong Rock. They didn’t score a point in their final four games of 2012, although they did lose 7-0 to Monticello.
The closest game in 2013 was a 14-point loss to Twiggs County. The Eagles again didn’t score in their final four games and were outscored 302-7 in their final six games.
Lamar County offered to pay Crawford County to move its final home game of the season to Barnesville.
“I think our struggles have taken away motivation for kids to come out and play,” Zachery said. “It’s one thing to compete. It’s another thing to get beat 40-0, 50-0.”
Zachery hopes playing a non-region schedule will help build up some confidence through victories, which he said might entice others to participate. He said the plan is to move back to playing a region schedule in 2016.
Other Middle Georgia programs have benefitted from playing a non-region schedule in recent years.
Jeff Davis went 12-38 from 2004-09 but went to a non-region schedule in 2010. The Yellow Jackets went 6-4 in 2010 and 7-3 in 2011, marking the first two winning seasons for the school since 1999.
The Yellow Jackets have gone 3-17 the past two seasons after returning to a region schedule.
GMC has played a non-region schedule off and on in recent years.
The Bulldogs went 3-27 from 2005-07 before converting to a non-region schedule in 2008. They went 7-13 the first two years of the non-region schedule but went 12-8 in 2010-11. The Bulldogs are a respectable 8-12 since returning to a region schedule in 2012.
It’s not yet determined how many other programs in the state will play non-region football schedules during the next two seasons. The GHSA doesn’t require football schedules to be finalized until March 1. The following schools played non-region football the past two years: Class AAAAA (Clarkston), Class AAAA (Johnson-Gainesville), Class AAA (Cross Keys), Class A (North Cobb Christian, St. Francis, Glascock County, Lakeview Academy, Providence Christian, Rabun Gap, Towns County).
This isn’t the first bout of struggles for Crawford County football.
Crawford County has won just 31 percent (111-244) of the games in its history.
The Eagles lost 27 straight games from 1979-82, which coincided with a historic basketball run. Zachery coached the Eagles to back-to-back state basketball championships in 1981 and 1982 with Kenny Walker, the future Kentucky star, leading the way.
The program showed some signs of recovery in the mid-1980s and had fully transformed in the late 1990s under Tony Byram.
Byram led the Eagles to the state semifinals in both 1996 and 1997, losing out on a state championship appearance in 1997 following a 7-6 loss to Irwin County in the Georgia Dome in the semifinals. They made it to the quarterfinals in 1998, as well, the last time the Eagles made the playoffs. The 15-season playoff drought is the longest current streak in Middle Georgia.
The 43-game losing streak is the sixth longest in state history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Glascock County holds the record with 62 straight losses.