Jacksonville State University is playing a 4-game football schedule this fall and they will play their 7-game OVC conference schedule in February and March.

There was one home game on the fall schedule and it was last Saturday. Normally, this would not matter to me in the least. It mattered this year because my son Kyle is a member of the Marching Southerners band.

Last Saturday was that home game and it was our only chance to see our son play with the Southerners. So even though it was coming a monsoon, we trundled off to Jacksonville to see the game.

I was not a happy camper. I don’t hunt or fish in the rain and I dang sure don’t watch football in the rain if I can help it.

It turned out better than I expected. It poured rain, but I ended up having a good time. The Southerners sounded awesome. I don’t know exactly how many Guntersville kids are part of the band, but it’s several, at least 10 or 12, quite possibly more.

Dr. Ken Bodiford is the director of Southerners and his former band members are making quite a mark on the high school band scene in Marshall County. Corey Hyman, the former Guntersville High band director who is now at Albertville, was a Southerner. So was current GHS band director Skylar McHan.

The Southerners march 450 to 500 kids on a regular basis. If memory serves, it is the largest marching band in the state of Alabama, larger even than the University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band.

When we got in the car to head to JSU, my wife Mary said, “Can you believe we are going to see a college football game and our son is part of a college marching band?”

It is pretty cool when you think about it. I just hate that it had to start during this crazy pandemic. The kids have lost so much not just in terms of marching, but in their overall educational experience.

I’ve gone to Jacksonville State many, many times over the years to watch high school regional tournament basketball games at Pete Mathews Coliseum. I’ve called it the best venue in high school basketball. The seats on the lower level of “the Pete” are right on the floor. It is just a great place to watch a game. There’s not a bad seat in the house.

It turns out Burgess-Snow Field is just an outdoor version of the Pete. We were sitting on about the 20-yard line, about 5 rows up. It was as though we could reach out and touch the players almost and we could hear the “crack” of a good lick.

JSU was playing Mercer and it was spirited game. The Gamecocks got behind early, rallied to go ahead and then withstood a late surge by Mercer. In the end, Jacksonville prevailed 34-28.

If you get a chance, go see some of our state’s smaller schools play football. From my limited experience, it sure looked like these guys play at a high level with a lot of precision. It’s definitely a step up in speed from the high school football we all love and enjoy.

My only regret this fall is that last weekend was the only “game day experience” we get this year. Maybe next year will be better and the spring schedule is just around the corner.

Marshall County has tons of ties to Jacksonville State. There’s a healthy contingent of Marshall County kids going to school down there. I’m told we have a big JSU alumni group in the county.

Patrick Williams, the Boaz High assistant principal, is the JSU football announcer and does a terrific job with it. Guntersville’s own Randy Jones is chairman of the board of trustees at JSU. The list of Marshall County-JSU ties goes on and on.

Despite my only JSU game being a miserable, rainy one, I am now a dedicated JSU fan. I hope they get to play the basketball season, because I want to take in some of those games too.

Mary and I may not be JSU alumni, but with 2 kids in school there, we feel as though we too are proud Gamecocks now.

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