“Its great to be a Guntersville Wildcat,” the old familiar cheer goes.
And last Friday certainly bore that out. It was a whirlwind day for the Wildcats, especially the seniors, and for an old reporter trying to keep up with them. It included stops at 3 schools for me:
- The senior pep rally was held at Guntersville Elementary School at 8:30 that morning. Senior football players, cheerleaders and band members return to the school where many of them began their education. Funny stories about their elementary days, many from their former teachers, are shared by “Voice of the Wildcats” Bill Yancy. It’s a terrific celebration. It was extra special for my family this year because our son Kyle is a senior in the Crimson Guard band.
- Immediately after the pep rally, Elementary School principal John Doyle was “slimed” by several students. The school exceeded its fall fundraising goal of $35,000 by instead raising $45,000. The students enjoyed dumping homemade green slime on their principal to celebrate.
- Then it was on to Guntersville Middle School, where principal Vohn Enloe, teacher Matt Holliday and others were dressed as rockers for Red Ribbon Week. They sang and played during their students’ lunch hour and they were good.
- The senior pep rally at Guntersville High followed that. Seniors make their own mortarboard hats which are quite creative and enjoy the last football pep rally of their careers. It really brings it around that time is quickly moving towards graduation for the Class of 2020. But the day was far from over.
- The senior festivities were made a little more special because football player Kobe Hampton was back. He suffered a torn ACL and meniscus awhile back and had surgery to repair it just a week ago. He was back, albeit in a wheelchair, for senior day. It was moving to see his teammates looking out for him at both pep rallies.
- Rained out a week earlier, the Homecoming parade rolled down Gunter Avenue on a picture perfect late fall afternoon seemingly tailor made for a parade. It was a lovely parade.
- Then there was the main event, the 105th meeting on the football field of Guntersville and Albertville, the oldest high school rivalry in the state. Bill Yancy has often said “you can throw out the records” when these teams get together. It’s a knock-down drag-out for bragging rights. This one was as good as ever.
Guntersville’s Logan Pate opened the scoring less than a minute into the game with a 50-yard dash to the endzone. While it looked briefly like the game might be a runaway, that hope for Wildcat fans soon faded.
It ended up being a back and forth battle all the way. A late score by Guntersville followed by a defensive stand gave the Wildcats the victory and the county football championship.
And then the party ensued.
Three years ago, the Advertiser-Gleam began presenting two county championship trophies. The Quad Cities Trophy goes to the city team from Marshall County that wins the county race. This is the traditional longstanding county championship among Guntersville, Albertville, Arab and Boaz.
The III Mountain Trophy goes to the county school winning the county race over its rivals. This one is between DAR, Douglas, Brindlee and Asbury. DAR owned it the first 2 years and claimed it again this season.
I have to admit. The trophies were not my idea and I was a bit skeptical when it all started. After all, the schools had been awarding their own trophies for years and had gotten along just fine without us meddling in their affairs.
But I’m an all-in believer now and that’s because of what I saw Friday night, as well as what I saw last year when I gave it to Albertville and the first year, when I presented it to DAR.
Who doesn’t want a big old trophy? And it’s a little more exciting to get it on the field after it’s won that to wait until a later date to receive it.
Friday night, I was supposed to hand the trophy off, then make a picture. But as soon as I handed it off, players immediately surrounded me. By happenstance, I was in the middle of their celebration and it took a bit to extricate myself and get my picture.
My friend Tim Hayes had announced from the press box that I was giving the trophy. I saw him Saturday night and he said, “I looked for you on the field and couldn’t see you.”
That was because I was in the very middle of a bunch of exuberant Wildcats celebrating an incredible season. It did my old heart good to get to experience their joy in a very firsthand and immediate way.
I hope everyone can understand just what this team accomplished. They don’t have quite the depth of talent that some past Wildcat teams have had. But the coaches and players bought in, worked hard and they finished with a 7-2 record that very easily could have been 8-1.
It has been a terrific bunch to be around and they’ve brought us some fun Friday nights with a playoff game still to come.
It’s great to be a Guntersville Wildcat.