Right now, the school’s first football coach has every reason to be proud of the program he helped launch. His Warriors are in the state semifinals for the first time since he led them there in 1959.
The 86-year-old Matthews, who currently resides in Cartersville, remembers that semifinal victory over Dade as if it happened just last year. The game ended with no score and the Warriors won 2-1 based on penetration.
“They had to decide a champion,” Matthews said. “They decided by the team that had the most total yardage, who had more first downs and who had more penetration beyond the 20-yard line. We tied (one) of them (first downs) but we won because we had more (yardage and the deepest drive inside their 20).”
North Cobb was on the Dade 1-yard line when time ran out.
Matthews and the Warriors would go on to lose 6-0 to Hawkinsville in the state finals. He said that North Cobb scored a touchdown that would have likely given them a 7-6 victory and a Class C championship, but the officials claimed that a North Cobb’s runner was down at the 1-yard line before he stretched the ball into the end zone.
He’s hoping that the 2012 Warriors will have some better luck down the stretch.
“I’m just thrilled to death,” said Matthews of this year’s team. I’m behind them 150 percent and they’re doing a great job.”
Matthews’ pleasant memories of coaching stretches back to 1950 when he was the coach at Acworth High School. Acworth was 4-4 in the 1950 season and that fourth win came late in the season against Southwest DeKalb. He said he only had 14 “boys” on the roster while Southwest DeKalb dressed out roughly 150.
Acworth would win 18-13, handing Southwest DeKalb one of its two losses that season.
That win over Southwest DeKalb got the attention of other schools and brought him offers for different coaching job after that season. Matthews opted to stay put. He would go on and coach at Acworth until the school closed after the 1957 season when he took the Indians to the state championship game, and at North Cobb for a combined 18 years before stepping down after the 1967 season with a 72-85-3 overall record.
The reason Matthews hung up his whistle was because he said he needed a higher paying job in administration to help put his kids in college.
When Matthews was interviewed six years ago prior to being inducted to the North Cobb Hall of Fame, he described himself as a conservative coach who loved to run the football.
One of his running backs was Cobb County resident and World Golf Hall of Fame member Larry Nelson. Nelson played for Matthews in the 1960s before his storied career om the PGA Tour.
Matthews recalls Nelson seeing him before a game against rival Cherokee, and saying that one of his fingers may be broken. Matthews didn’t take it too seriously — he taped Nelson’s finger and said, “Go get em.”
“(Nelson) played in that game and (turns out) his finger was broke,” Matthews said. “I wouldn’t know if that affected his golf in later years but it might have helped him stay alert.”
North Cobb also runs in the family. His oldest son Albert, Jr. played for Matthews. His middle son Hal played for Matthews and Emory Sewell and his youngest son Brett played for Sewell.
He gets flooded with calls from former players, even to this day, reminding him of his tenure.
“Any time North Cobb comes up, he smiles,” his daughter Rhonda Dulaney said. “I’m amazed at (Matthews) ability to remember plays and the players who he calls his ‘boys.’ He talks about North Cobb very frequently. He has a lot of ownership with North Cobb and he helped them establish the orange and white.”