Former Avondale Blue Devil Floyd Burdett likes to reminisce about the good ‘ol days from time to time.
When Avondale High School was the big game every opposing football team had marked on its calendar and when the caravan of rabid Blue Devils fans following their team to a road game stretched a mile or so down the highway.
“Wherever we’d go, we’d fill the stadium with Avondale people,” said Burdett, an Avondale High School volunteer and longtime Touch Down Club supporter of the football program.
“There’d be about six to eight buses with the players, band and cheerleaders and about 500 cars trailing right behind them. It was impressive to watch," he said.
Similar scenes routinely played out throughout the football team’s impressive run of success during the 1960s and ‘70s. However, the school’s fortunes – both athletic and academic - had fallen precipitously by the advent of the 1990s.
This rapid decline likely made it easier this spring for the DeKalb County School System to select Avondale High as one of two local schools to close next week in a controversial cost-saving measure. The other is Avondale Middle.
The closings are part of an overall redistricting plan that is expected to save DeKalb County Schools more than $12 million.
Built in 1954, Avondale High School will shutter its doors for good to students following the last day of school on May 20. It’s unclear at this point how or if the school will ever be used again.
Part of the school will remain open, however. magnet program will continue operating as planned.
However, the fate of Avondale High's many athletic trophies and memorabilia still remains unclear. City officials will meet next month with county school board officials to determine their fate, said Avondale Estates Mayor Pro Tem David Milliron.
Three possibilities emerged from a recent meeting to discuss the matter. Under one scenario, the trophies and memorabilia would be moved to the nearby , where residents could always come visit them during normal business hours.
Another possibility under consideration would entail moving the trophies and memorabilia to the private Avondale Community Club. The final option would be to leave the trophies and memorabilia locked in a trophy case at their current location.
Milliron was already leaning towards the City Hall option.
“It’s an appropriate place and we have the space,” he said, “but, ultimately, that decision is going to be made by the school board.”
Neither Avondale High School principal Tasharah Wilson, nor athletics director Michael Ireland, chose to comment.
The finality of it all has left alums like Burnett and Bobby Burgess to lament the end of an era.
“It’s pretty sad,” said Burgess, a 1969 graduate and former varsity football player who helped head up the school’s soon-to-disband Touchdown Club.
A state powerhouse in just about every sport in its heyday, Avondale was especially strong in football, winning more than 300 games since 1957. The school boasts 11 region championships and three state titles (1958, 1963 and 1976), according to its athletic website.
The Blue Devils, who once rode an impressive 22-game winning streak over the 1963 and ’64 seasons, have produced five players who went on to the NFL and 69 All-State selections, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website.
“Years ago, when you’d go up there,” Burgess said, “you knew you were going to get your [butt] beat.”
The once-proud program, however, had fallen on hard times in the 22 years since it last won a region crown in 1989. Avondale has enjoyed just one winning record since then, enduring four winless campaigns and even a dubious 24-game losing skid over the course of the 2002-05 seasons. The Blue Devils finished with a disappointing 2-8 mark this past fall under first-year coach Byron McCall.
McCall had succeeded Mike Carson to become the school’s 10th head football coach since 1989.
Nevertheless, nine players from the 2009 team that went 6-5 received full scholarships to various colleges, said Burgess.
“I know the spirit and pride run deep,” Milliron said. “Anytime you have a school slated to be closed, it is tough, it is emotional.”