Blackwell, founded in 1967 and based out of Noonday Park in northeast Cobb County, announced that it would not field any football or cheerleading teams for the 2014 fall season. The association posted through its Facebook page that the number of participants weren’t at the level needed to organize competitive teams for league play.
The Facebook post said Blackwell’s cheerleading program would continue as a competition squad.
Blackwell’s football program fed primarily into the Sprayberry, Lassiter and Kell districts, with North Cobb getting a few players.
“In a lot of ways, it’s a sad thing because Blackwell has been around so many years,” said Billy Shackelford, the football coach at Sprayberry, his alma mater. “In my opinion, they’ve done a lot for football interest, not only in this area but in Cobb County. There are so many people that have given time, effort and money to make that program what it is.
“If you look at the evolution of how football is going, everyone’s trying to create feeder programs in schools and, ultimately, that fazed them out.”
A couple of factors may have also attributed to Blackwell’s drop in numbers. Travel programs have increased in popularity over the years, and more high schools are inserting feeder programs in order for players to learn a school’s particular system at a younger age.
Blackwell said through its Facebook page that the group would not be shutting down and will instead take time to “restructure (and) rebuild this program that we all have grown to love.”
Though many of the players who came through the Blackwell program ended up at Sprayberry, some starred at other high schools.
Former Lassiter quarterback Hutson Mason, now the starter at Georgia, is a product of the Blackwell organization, as was his former high school teammate, the late Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Jonathan Dwyer, a Kell graduate who went on to star at Georgia Tech, also was also a Blackwell Bear. He’s now with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals after spending the first four years of his professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.