It has been a long time since a Bibb County public school team has taken on one of the big four private school teams in football.
Forty-nine years, in fact. Mark Smith, which was in its first season of football, took on Mount de Sales, a program that was only five years old itself, in 1965 at Henderson Stadium. Mark Smith beat Mount de Sales 20-0 en route to a 7-1 season.
Mark Smith played just four more seasons before consolidating into Northeast through a court-mandated desegregation plan. Mount de Sales remained in the GHSA through the 1979 season, but the closest the Cavaliers came to playing city school teams following that game against Mark Smith was in preseason scrimmages.
By the time Bibb County’s other three major private schools -- FPD, Stratford and Tattnall Square -- had football teams that were developed enough to play against the city school teams, they were playing in the GISA.
That half-century split comes to an end Friday night. The trip from Howard to FPD might only be 3 miles, but the gap that will be crossed will be a large one.
First, a little disclaimer: I attend FPD’s parent church, First Presbyterian in downtown Macon, on a fairly regular basis. I know a few FPD teachers through there, and I’ve seen former FPD girls basketball head coach Charley Chase in the pulpit a lot more than I’ve seen him on the basketball floor. But I did attend some good public schools in Ohio, and I would have no problem sending any children I might end up having to public school, as well.
Let’s face it. Schools in Bibb County have gone through more difficult situations than there is room to list. But let’s not cast stones here; this isn’t the time or place to do so.
Instead, let’s celebrate what is about to happen. Howard, a public school coached by a man in Barney Hester who won more than 300 games at a private school, is going to take on FPD, a school that opened as desegregation was taking place but is now part of the movement to bring people from different backgrounds in this community together.
It will be two schools from the northern end of Bibb County, one where parents pay tuition and another where taxpayers foot the bill, sharing the experience of a high school football game. Is there anything better than that on a Friday night?
The bonus in all of this is that Howard is a team on a rise. The Huskies won a couple of games last year after a couple of winless seasons, and a tie last week at 2013 GHSA Class AA runner-up Lamar County was no small feat. Howard will win some games this season, and I won’t be surprised if the Huskies -- who only have had a varsity program since 2008 -- surpass their all-time high in wins, the three wins recorded in 2009.
The crowd at George S. Johnson Stadium at FPD should be a good one. The game should be a good one, as well.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.