MOULTRIE — When Mike Singletary, who was the coordinator of the 1994 defense that many consider the best ever at Colquitt County, is asked about that group, his first response was how deep it was.
“We had some depth,” of the defense that was a key to the Packers going 15-0 and winning the program’s first state championship. “We had five or six guys on the line, four or five linebackers and five guys in the secondary.
“If someone had to miss, it wasn’t terrible for us. And they all got along well.”
The Packers surrendered just 101 points over the 15-game season.
But Singletary pointed out that not all those points were scored against his defense.
The only score by Valdosta in the first meeting between the two teams came on a punt return and East Coweta scored on fumble return.
And while the Packers defense was busy shutting down all comers, it also contributed to the team’s offense.
Corner Dextra Polite returned three interceptions for touchdowns and linebacker David Hunt took two picks to the end zone.
Defensive end Jerry Jones picked up a fumble and scored.
Jones was the Region 1-AAAA Player of the Year and he employed his height and strength to dominate opposing blockers.
“He was just so big and strong,” Singletary said.
The opposition did not have much luck against the rest of the starting four: Tyree King, Terry Turner and Danny Walker.
Jimmy Palmore and Jackie McNeal were outstanding off the bench.
The linebacking crew featured Torres Carr, who Singletary considers the smartest player he coached during his long coaching career.
“You could go over things one time with him and he knew it,” Singletary said. “And knew where everyone on the front seven needed to be.”
Also playing linebacker that season was Jerome McIntyre, who Singletary says is the best player he ever coached.
“When he wanted to play, he was unbelievable,” Singletary said, adding that in one game against Valdosta, McIntyre was credited with 37 tackles.
After that game, Valdosta coach Mike O’Brien asked Singletary, “How many No. 43s do you have?”
With Jones at the left end and McIntyre playing linebacker on the other side, offenses had to pick their poison when deciding to take the ball to the edge.
Jesse Sutton, the Packers leading tackler with 103 stops, was the emotional leader of the defense.
Hunt contributed 66 tackles and the two interceptions.
Polite was an all-state cornerback who went on to start at Clemson and recently finished his 19th season on the Colquitt County football coaching staff.
“Dextra was not going to let us have a bad practice,” Singletary remembers.
Jeff Davis started at the other corner and in addition to chipping in 44 tackles and two interceptions, he was an outstanding kick blocker.
Chris Davis “was all you could ask for in a safety,” Singletary said. “He was 6-foot-3 and could run like a deer.”
Chris Davis saved his best performance of the season for the 23-10 victory over Valdosta in the championship game, when he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble.
Frank Walker had three interceptions from his strong safety position.
The Packers intecepted 24 passes during the season, including two by leading receiver Ronald Bonner, who provided depth in the secondary.
“If the other team had to drive the ball 80 yards, it was unlikely they were going to score a touchdown,” Singletary said. “You just couldn’t take advantage of us.”
Singletary also credits an outstanding coaching staff with the team’s defensive performance.
Line coach Tony Kirkland, linebackers coach Scott Rider and secondary coach Jimmy Francis all joined the staff in 1992.
“They were all like sponges,” Singletary remembers. “And they were always willing to do whatever we asked of them.”
Three years later, they were guiding their group to a state championship.
The moment that stands out in Singletary’s mind about the 1994 season came in the waning moments of the quarterfinal victory over East Coweta.
Colquitt was trying to protect a five-point lead when the Indians drove to the Packers 1 with 17 seconds left. During a timeout, Singletary huddled with his players.
“There was not a one of them that looked afraid,” he said. “You’d think one of them might have some fear in his eye. But nobody panicked.”
East Coweta then fumbled a snap, Polite knocked down a desperation pass and the Packers advanced to the semifinals.