I’ve been working quite a bit lately, and for me it’s a bit of a sin for Friday night in the fall to roll around and I’m not covering a football game for us or the Daily Citizen in Searcy.
I’ve been at a high school football game on every Friday night since Week Zero.
Last Friday, I decided to take a Friday night off.
What did I do?
I went to a high school football game.
If you have followed me much, you know that I graduated from Piggott High School in 1988, but have only been to a handful of games since I graduated, and because of the job, obviously, I’ve been to other high school stadiums.
I made the decision at 4 p.m. on Friday to make the nearly two-hour drive from my office in Batesville to Parker Field in Piggott.
I texted one of my former teammates Shawn Parker that I was coming, and he responded that he and another teammate Darrin Moore were doing the livestream for the game, and invited me up to the press box to come watch with them.
I immediately accepted.
So many thoughts raced through my head while I was driving.
I thought of my parents, who have both been gone for several years. I thought of the last time I was on those stripes and how long it had been since I had seen my teammates, especially Darrin.
Facebook is good for keeping in touch and reconnecting and I have with a lot of old classmates.
I pulled into a brand new parking lot and was immediately greeted by my former neighbor growing up, Wade Smart.
Wade’s cousin is Billy Ray Smith, Jr. is a former Arkansas Razorback and San Diego Chargers’ linebacker and is currently a radio host in San Diego. I remember Billy Ray Smith speaking at our football banquet in 7th grade.
I got into the press box and it was like the three of us had seen and talked with one another every day.
Then the game started, and the memories began to flood again of what it was like to be on that field, and the understanding the history that was made on that field Friday night.
The Piggott Mohawks had never hosted a playoff game in its history, and in the first half they dominated. Camden Harmony Grove had not snapped the ball in Piggott’s territory the entire first half. The Hornets did get a 50-yard TD pass in the first half, but Piggott led 24-6 at the half.
But the second half was a totally different story and the Mohawks’ unforgettable season ended with a 28-24 loss.
What made it unforgettable? The circumstances of the season, aside from COVID-19.
One of their brothers, Hunter Midkiff died in a heat-related incident in the preseason. In midseason, there was a controversial coaching change.
I’m not sure how you recover from any of those things, not to mention having to deal with both of those situations in just a few weeks.
Make no mistake, COVID had its say in the Mohawks’ season.
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, the Mohawks played three games.
They won all three. I’ve inquired from as many Arkansas high school football historians as I can think of, and none of them can recall any team winning three games in a 7-day period.
The man that finished the season in the head coaching position, Don Simmons deserves to be Coach of the Year.
I witnessed the heartbreak of the end of a football season that galvanized an entire community. The adversity that this team endured was unprecedented.
So was the success.
I walked the field after the game and spoke with a few folks that I knew. I missed a few as well.
I didn’t want to intrude on Simmons and his emotion and greeting of a community that hasn’t embraced a coach the way they have in 30 years.
On my way out, I took in the atmosphere one more time.
I walked by empty bleachers and paused to take a look at row five at the end spot near the aisle on the north end where my parents sat at every game. Mom always wanted to get there a little early to get her seat. It didn’t matter if I played that night or not, she was always there when I took the field.
I smiled a little to myself and realized that no matter how bad things get in our lives, no matter how divided we feel and how bad things might look, there is some good somewhere.