The 1949 football season began with a heightened sense of optimism. With fourteen returning seniors featuring a seasoned quarterback, veteran linemen and an outstanding running back, many fans eagerly anticipated the season opener.
The coaches of the '49 squad were Hutch Hutchinson, Earle J. Moore and Barney S. Haynes. They anticipated 45 young men would turn out for the early summer drills. The Gamecock co-captains elected by their peers were Francis "Sugar" Cain, quarterback, and Robert Brunson, center.
After a series of intense practices, the coaches announced the starting lineup before the opening game with Conway. The lineup consisted of Dale Garrison, right half; Laverne Hill, fullback; Marion "Sugar" Cain, quarterback; and Russell Sutton, left half. In the line were Gene Shorter, right end; Horace Boykin, right tackle; Joe Parish, right guard; Robert Brunson center, Edwin "Ting" Commins, left guard; Homer Morris, left tackle; and Frank "Buck" Strange, left end."
The team was successful in reeling off eight consecutive victories before suffering a heartbreaking loss to Chester High 13-12 in a rain storm at the Sumter fairgrounds. The Sumter team capped off its magical season by defeating Florence High 21-0 for their 10th victory. This marked "the 20th-straight time that Florence had failed to gain a victory over a Gamecock eleven. The teams have come up with several ties, and one year a tie was played off, the Birds coming out on top in the extra contest."
Following the season, Sumter would dominate the Charlotte Observer's All-South Carolina high school football team. Missing by one vote of being selected co-captain was the center for the Gamecocks, Robert Brunson. Also selected were Russell Sutton, fleet Gamecock back, and Frank Strange, end, the only junior selected to the team. William Timmons, guard, and Marion Cain, quarterback, received honorable mention. Much to the surprise of the Sumter populace, Robert Sutton was not selected to participate in the Shrine Bowl. In its final poll, the Charlotte Observer listed the unbeaten Greenwood Emeralds as the No. 1 AA team in South Carolina, awarding them 88 points Sumter and Chester, each received 87 points and finished tied for second with identical 10-1 records.
Information used in preparing this was taken from The Sumter Item archives.
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