In 1967, the Alabama High School Athletic Association expanded its high school football playoff system to include schools of every size classification. In the fifty two years since, every high school competing has reached the playoffs at least once, except one. The Bullock County Hornets, in 2019, have officially eliminated the “except one” from the AHSAA record books. Friday the team competes in the school’s first ever playoff game. The team, their coaches, their families, and their community are rightly proud of this achievement.
Such achievements do not happen overnight, nor do they simply come about because a particular group of players is more talented than those who have ever come before. This group is undoubtedly talented, but there is far more going on here that we’d all do well to pay attention to. Building any program is back-breakingly hard work. It is snail’s-pace slow work. It requires the patience of Job. It requires buy-in not just from the players but from everyone around them. It requires significant resources, often more than most small rural systems feel like they can do on their own. It requires people standing in the gaps that inevitably appear along the way.
But most of all, ending a fifty two year streak of missing the playoffs requires an immense amount of faith – faith in things never before experienced, faith in a process, faith in a leader and a vision, faith in each other, sustaining faith to get through a losing record to start the season, and faith in themselves and their potential to be good enough as individuals and as a team to compete with anyone. One of the most pernicious ideas that can affect people in underperforming areas is a sense of being inherently less-than, that others in other places are better than we are. The reality is, of course, that this is a grand lie, but it is a lie that often is absorbed and contributes to things not changing. Here’s to a football team, a group of dedicated young men, who have confronted the lie and exposed it for what it is. Given the resources and support to achieve, and given the hope and vision for something different, kids from Bullock County, and kids from anywhere, can not only compete, but they can excel. Congratulations, team. Your community is so proud of your hard work, your character, your accomplishments, and your witness to the rest of us to believe. Good luck, & Go Hornets!
Nathan Dickson is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.