The downside of Chattahoochee Tech finishing its football season earlier than other teams in the National Football Club Association was having to wait longer than anyone else to discover who would be crowned the national champion.
Chattahoochee Tech was “on pins and needles,” coach Tim Freeman said.
Three long weeks after the Golden Eagles romped defending club champion New Orleans 56-8 to end the regular season at Osborne High School’s Cardinal Field, Freeman received a call from NCFA president Sandy Sanderson. He was informed that the Golden Eagles were national champions in only the program’s second year.
“It was the call we were waiting for,” said Freeman, who has said he envisions Chattahoochee Tech becoming a full-fledged junior college program in the coming years. “(Sanderson) said he wanted to be the first to congratulate us for winning a national championship. He gave us a pat on the back on how good we’ve done this year. I was trying to figure out who to call first and tell. The players were excited. They were posting reactions on Facebook like, ‘When do we get our rings?’ But they were all overly excited.”
Chattahoochee Tech finished with a 7-3 record and received seven first-place votes from NCFA coaches, more than twice the number than any other team in contention. Beating the defending champion so soundly to end the regular season, not to mention going a perfect 6-0 at home, worked in Chattahoochee Tech’s favor.
The Golden Eagles also dominated at Cardinal Field by averaging 26 points a game and outscoring their opposition 211-47.
Chattahoochee Tech may have been spotless at home this season, but its 23-20 double-overtime victory over Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech in its second game of the season ended up setting the tone for the season.
The Golden Eagles trailed 14-7 at the half before battling in the second half to end regulation with a 20-all tie on Bryan Owens’ 9-yard touchdown pass to Javien Smith, a former Campbell High School standout. After neither team scored in the first overtime, Chattahoochee Tech made another defensive stop before Brett Snyder kicked the game-winning field goal.
Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech ended up second in the final national poll, only trailing Chattahoochee Tech by three votes. That’s how significant the Golden Eagles’ overtime victory was.
“If someone thought Orangeburg deserved it more, something else would have happened,” Freeman said.
That double-overtime win helped launch a 5-0 start for Chattahoochee Tech. A combination of injuries and stiff competition led to the Golden Eagles losing three of their last five games, but ended the season in dominant fashion over New Orleans.
Quarterback Rick Merritt had three touchdown passes against New Orleans, and Michael Bolwaire added two touchdowns of his own.
Freeman said the Golden Eagles were a run-oriented team this season behind Bolwaire, Alex Camp, Paul Walton and former Marietta standout Devin Davis.