Locals in College
Boynton, Usher help Mercer return to football
by Chris Goltermann
Coweta County certainly helped bridge the gap between Mercer’s football victory on Saturday and its previous from 1941 when the Bears had last taken the field for a college game.
Sharpsburg resident and 93-year-old football alum Clarence “Pappy” Boynton was an honorary captain and tossed the coin prior to Saturday’s game against Reinhardt before former Northgate High standout Payton Usher gave the Bears their first 100-yard rusher in 72 years en route to a 40-37 victory over the Eagles.
The area was well represented on both sidelines on Saturday, with longtime East Coweta head coach Danny Cronic also making his debut as a college head coach.
Mercer, which was led by Usher’s 115 yards on 18 carries, spoiled it on a last-minute field goal, the latter of two that capped off a comeback effort over the final 3:17 of play.
Usher, a sophomore who was playing in his first game since his senior year of high school when he gained 1,676 yards and 17 touchdowns, finished with 202 all-purpose yards while also returning two kickoffs and a punt.
He was essential in a game-tying drive for a field goal, carrying the ball four times for 37 yards and catching a pass.
The historic game began with Boynton handling coin-toss duties, while unable to fulfill an invitation two years ago from Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb to run out onto the field with the team for its 2013 return to football. But he suffered a partially torn ACL six weeks ago.
“I think I could have made the little jog onto the field but probably not nearly as quickly as they would want me to run,” Boynton told John Kosater of the Macon Telegraph. “I am very honored to be a part of the pregame ceremonies and to be sitting in the president’s box. When I heard that Mercer was going to play football again, I knew if there was any way possible, I would buy a ticket and be at the game.
“But Coach Lamb and President (William) Underwood, and many, many others have made this a very special day for me. I didn’t do anything special except I outlived most of my teammates. I guess that age does bring certain privileges.”
Boynton started for the 1941 Mercer team that opened the season against Georgia at Macon’s old Porter Stadium with many of his former teammates already had enlisted prior to Pearl Harbor. Georgia’s team included All-American Frank Sinkwich. Following a three-win season, Boynton served in the Army, flying C-47s for the Air Corps.
“I was a part of the first day of infamy, the second one being Pearl Harbor, but the first one when the University of Georgia came to play us in the first game of the 1941 season,” said Boynton, who remembers the stands being packed at the old Porter Stadium. “Mercer had already started de-emphasizing football by then, but that was a money game for the school. I remember them telling us that they cleared around $500. As for the football game, well, we came out fired up and played them tough, at least for the first two or three minutes.
Mercer’s lineup on Saturday also included contributions from former Newnan Cougar quarterback Lendell Arnold, who started at strong safety and made a solo tackle in the victory.
Reinhardt scored the opening six points of the game in a game that featured eight lead changes.
Mercer is off this week before hosting Warner on Sept. 14. Reinhardt hosts the first football game in school history on Saturday at 12 p.m., against Lindsey Wilson College.
Recapping other local efforts (in alphabetical order) for college programs last weekend:
RAY BENO (GEORGIA TECH): The redshirt senior returned for his third season as a starter while opening the year at left tackle for the Yellow Jackets in a 70-0 rout at home over Elon. Georgia Tech amassed 557 total yards of offense, 368 of which came on the ground. Beno has now made 28 starts the past three seasons while starting at center, guard and tackle during the span.
BRANDON FACYSON (Virginia Tech): The freshman and former Northgate High standout cornerback made a start in his first collegiate game, finishing with a tackle in the Hokies’ 35-10 loss to Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.
Virginia Tech hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.
ZACH HUTCHESON (SAVANNAH STATE): The Tigers sophomore and former East Coweta standout quarterback who transferred this season from Yuba (Calif.) Community College, came off the bench in a 77-9 loss at Georgia Southern to lead Savannah State to its only touchdown of the game.
While going 11-for-26 for 128 yards and two interceptions, Hutcheson completed a 29-yard pass on his first attempt and completed the drive with a 6-yard throw to receiver Kris Drummond.
Savannah State travels to Troy on Saturday.
WIL LUTZ (GEORGIA STATE): The sophomore kicker for the Panthers and former Northgate standout was 3-for-3 on PATs during Georgia State’s 31-21 loss to Samford. He remains perfect for his college career (21 of 21) on extra points.
TRAY MATTHEWS (GEORGIA): The former Newnan High standout make his collegiate debut as a freshman starter at safety for the previously eighth-ranked Bulldogs in a 38-35 loss to No. 4 Clemson. Matthews finished his first game with eight tackles, including four solo hits.
Georgia hosts No. 6-ranked South Carolina on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in a game to be televised on ESPN.
TAY WILLIS (SOUTHERN ILLINOIS): Willis, who made his debut for the Salukis after transferring from Highland Community (Kansas), had four carries for 17 yards in Saturday’s 42-34 loss to Illinois. The former East Coweta All-Region and All-County standout is among a group of running backs that also includes Georgia transfer Ken Malcome.