Sweet Water has set bar high in football over last 35 years

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“At Thomasville, we always believed you could win championships at Sweet Water with the talent in this area,” he said. “I felt that if somebody could come in that knew the tradition, and the people, they could be successful.”

In Luker’s first season, he led the Bulldogs to 7-3 regular season and a region championship before losing in the first round of the playoffs. In 2003, he led the Bulldogs to a return trip to the playoffs, and made it to the second round before being knocked out.

The 2004 season began a streak that put Sweet Water back on the map as a football powerhouse. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with an 8-2 record, and got hot in the playoffs to end up as state champions for the first time since 1986.

“That was a special season, and it was surprising as well,” Luker said. “We started a lot of sophomores and freshmen on that team, and it felt like we were about to take off.”

In 2005, the Bulldogs were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by Brantley, but 2006 saw Sweet Water return to the state championship game. The Bulldogs left no doubt in the championship game, as they dominated Cedar Bluff, 48-0.

This was Luker’s second state title in three years, but he had no plans of slowing down.

“When I came in, the bloodlines were coming back through,” he said. “If you look at the ’78 and ’79 teams, you’ll see a lot of the same names on the teams that I’ve had.”

The 2007 season proved to be one of the most dominant for the Bulldogs under Luker. They outscored their opponents 712-133 in the 14 games, and were only threatened once in the playoffs by Maplesville in the semifinals, which Sweet Water won 46-36. The championship game was another blowout, as the Bulldogs defeated Talladega County Central 42-7 for Luker’s third title in four years.

“My 100th win came in the 2007 against St. Jude in the second round of the playoffs,” Luker said, “and that was really special because I had three sons on that team that I was able to share that with.”

As special as the 2007 season was, though, 2008 was even better. The Bulldogs dominated their opponents throughout the season, outscoring them 730-101. A 36-game win streak did come to an end during this season, though, in the final game of the regular season against Leroy. Sweet Water coasted through the playoffs once again and shut out Speake in the title game 42-0.

The 2008 season marked the third straight state championship for Sweet Water, and the fourth in Luker’s first six years. The 730 points scored were a school record for Sweet Water.

Sweet Water had another dominant regular season in 2009, but were bounced in the third round of the playoffs to end their streak of state titles.

It didn’t take long for them to rebound, though, and in 2010, they returned to the state championship game, despite having three regular season losses. All three losses were to teams in higher classifications, and the Bulldogs still went undefeated in region play. The championship game pitted them against R.A. Hubbard, and Sweet Water coasted to a 36-0 win for Luker’s fifth state title and the ninth for the school.

Region rival Linden knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs in the semifinals in 2011 in Sweet Water’s last season in 1A.