When my family moved to McComb, it was 1987, I was in second grade, and I had never been to a football game before. The following year, my older brother was on the team, so my dad and I would go watch the games. Most of the time that first season, we watched my brother get very cold on the sideline as a freshman, but we went for a pretty fun ride the next several years as we stood right along the ropes at about the 10 yard line on the north side of the stadium and watched him become one of the top running backs in the BVC.
When he was done, it was my turn to play, and believe me when I tell you there was nothing much to see then. I got to be a part of three Panther teams, two of which were responsible for the only two losing seasons in the last 40 years of McComb football.
Still though, my parents were right there, standing at the ropes at about the 10 yard line. I can remember looking over there during one play at Van Buren (one of our whopping 4 victories that season) knowing where I’d see my dad, safari hat with a button photo of me tacked to it, bag of popcorn in his hand, and a pile of sucker sticks on the ground in front of him.
Toward the end of my playing days, Coach Kris Alge married my sister. Awkward? A little, sure. But it DID give my dad and I a reason to go to games, even when we didn’t know most of the people on the field anymore. My dad likes going to support his son in law, I like going to support my brother in law, and I think we both like going because we enjoy knowing we’re going to see each other at least once a week during football season. A season which, in McComb, usually means 12-13 weeks.
If I’m honest, I think that’s what I like most about high school football. I was never very good at it, I never really enjoyed playing it, but I always have loved the general atmosphere around it. Some of my lifelong best friends are the guys I played football with, and even though we were terrible, we still talk about it 20 years later. And even though the stadiums are a little different, and even though the names change (although really just the FIRST names… I feel like there’s always a Dillon, a Schroeder, and some kind of Sherick on the team) my dad and I are almost always standing right there at about the 10 yard line, right up against the rope. Or now, at “Crosser’s Leaning Post” at Doc Miller Field’s chain link fence.
Especially in the small town schools like what we have in most of the BVC, Friday nights are community gatherings. I feel like I see a lot of the same faces at the games. Johnny Dee, Roger McDowell, Joe Wasson, Jason “Joe David” Shoemaker, Cory Aukerman, Jason Glaser, they’re always around, cheering on the Panthers, no matter who is on the field that season. That’s why I thought it would be fun, as the boys get ready for their 5th state semifinal appearance Saturday night, to hear from some of the people in the McComb community that love their Panthers. Each week during the regular season, I put together a special mix of “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney featuring highlights and conversations with the players, but this is a little different, so I enlisted the help of some others.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, and I hope you dig it!
Oh, and you can catch the game, on a real live, local radio station run by a McComb alum (this guy!) on Saturday night. You’ll hear this mix of The Boys Of Fall around 6:30, we’ll go on the air with the pregame show at 6:40 when you’ll hear McComb’s Head Coach Kris Alge talk about the preparation for the game, and then we’ll have every play live starting at 7:00., both on the air and online here.