For as much hype as the Howard-FPD game received last week as the first meeting between Bibb County’s public and private school teams in nearly 50 years, very few people could have expected the outcome.
Simply put, it was a game in which all expectations were surpassed. Any lingering questions as to the private schools’ viability in the GHSA were firmly put to rest. So, too, was the notion that Bibb County public schools don’t bring fans to their games, as Howard’s side of the field at George S. Johnson Stadium was absolutely packed.
It was a night during which high school football shined with two teams fighting to win a football game, two strong fan bases and two marching bands that hold their own, as well. Bonus points, too, for the heart-stopping overtime that had everyone on their feet and emotionally invested.
FPD won, but only when quarterback Will McCormick came up with the best timing for an option pitch that I’ve seen out of a high school quarterback in quite some time when he fed Jam Morris in overtime for a 16-yard scoring run.
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Howard, which has struggled mightily in its few years of operation, proved it has things headed in the right direction under second-year head coach Barney Hester.
Also headed in the right direction, at least through the first week of the season, is Central, where head coach Jesse Hicks has the team off to a fast start after winning three games his first two seasons. The Chargers beat Wilkinson County -- a team that usually makes the playoffs -- handily last week.
Southwest, which bounced back from a winless season with a season-opening win last week over Northeast, is also taking steps to build its program.
It should be an exciting time when Howard and Central meet Friday night at Henderson Stadium. For both teams -- teams led by experienced head coaches who have won elsewhere -- it will be a chance to get some momentum built.
The goal for both Hester and Hicks, obviously, is to develop programs that are successful for the long term. That hasn’t been easy to do in Bibb County, where only Westside and Northeast have posted winning records with any sort of regularity.
With all of the issues that have plagued the Bibb County School District through the years, it’s good to see that an effort is being made to develop some quality football programs. Sure, the people who say that school should be just about books and being in the classroom would like to believe that the effort should be focused elsewhere, but having a good football program can set such a positive tone that extends throughout a school, not just among football players but among all students and faculty -- and even the community as a whole.
As the Bibb County School District prepares to hire a new superintendent, it should consider how the candidates see the role that football -- and extracurricular activities in general -- play in developing successful high schools. In a district where centralization has paved the way to mediocrity in the past, the new superintendent should empower his or her high school principals to do whatever it takes to develop strong school communities.
We’re already starting to see the potential under interim superintendent Steve Smith. Now it’s up to the school district to make the right hire and turn that potential into something that’s successful and lasting.
Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org