Donald Stewart and the Tough Act He Followed

In our last edition we covered Ray Hadaway, member of Buford High School’s first football team. This issue’s article is about another Buford native, Donald Stewart, and his contribution to Buford history as a member of the 1946 Buford High Wolves football team.

17 year old Donald played half back and defensive back that season. He and his teammates left school early each afternoon, piling into cars to head over to the Bona Allen Field for practice. Though they didn’t have enough players to form a complete offense and defense, Donald says the boys would run plays and scrimmage with what they had. At the end of practice the coach would gather the boys and say, “Okay, let’s climb the bank,” and Donald and the boys would sprint up a small hill near the Bona Allen Field. “And that was hard,” said Donald, chuckling.

Donald and the boys on Buford’s 1946 team had a tough act to follow. The preceding team, despite being Buford High School’s first football team, was undefeated in 1945. After starting their season with a disappointing scoreless tie against Winder, the first Buford High School football team won their next eleven games while outscoring their opponents 207 to 19.

Donald Stewart is in the second row, fourth from the left. Coach Riden is in the second row, and Ray Hadaway is in the first row on the far right.
#22 Donald Stewart on the Bona Allen Field with some teammates. From L-R: Eugene Walls, Billy Smith, Elmer Lynn, and Donald Stewart

The 1946 season also started with a coaching change as Reverend George Sheffer, coach of the 1945 Wolves team, was replaced by Tom Riden, Buford High School’s newest Principal. Tom Riden, who also coached boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and track, would become a Buford sports legend. With Coach Riden at the helm, Donald and the Wolves football team of 1946 would shatter expectations.

The 1946 Buford High School Wolves football team played 11 games that season and Donald remembers a little bit about each of them. He says his most memorable game was the season-opener, when he scrambled 50 yards for his first touchdown and recovered a fumble while playing defense. Another game that Donald recalls vividly took place in Cornelia on a field that he says was “just dirt, dirt.” The field was in such bad shape that he skinned his elbow to the point that it “…bothered me all the rest of the year,” he said with a laugh.

Donald and his 1946 Wolves dominated on the gridiron, winning all 11 of their games, outscoring their opponents an astounding 409 points to just 26. Though they traveled to games as far away as Toccoa and Ellijay, they had a sizeable following of Buford fans even at away games. “Of course, we were winning,” Donald said, “They love a winner.”

Donald can’t recall if he scored 8 or 9 touchdowns that season, a modest contribution, but all the more impressive considering it was his first attempt at organized football. When Donald and I began talking about coach Tom Riden and the Buford Wolves Donald said, “That year that we had, that last year I played, that’s when all this began…” I’m inclined to agree, considering the Buford Wolves play their home games at Tom Riden field!

Donald Stewart turns 88 years old next week. Donald still lives on Hill Street, where he’s lived for all but 20 months of his long life. He still watches football and follows the Georgia Bulldogs and Buford Wolves closely. He says he also likes to watch the Braves, though he wishes they’d win more often!

 

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