It’s finally here.
Game week has arrived for the Winder-Barrow High School football team.
And it seems for the first time in who knows how long, the anticipation is just as great for WBHS fans as well. There is a true sense of excitement in the air that has been building since the announcement of Heath Webb as head coach several months ago.
I haven’t been a Winder resident as long as some, but clearly in the time I have been here (more than 15 years) there has never been this much preseason buzz about the program. It’s not just emerging from inside the confines of the WBHS fieldhouse where the school’s football program is headquartered.
Friday night’s season opener, by some estimations, will see the largest crowd inside W. Clair Harris Stadium in years. Typically there is excitement, curiosity and enthusiasm for any season opener. It’s been months since a game has been played and most who follow high school football are eager for the new campaign to arrive.
However, when a program has been as down as the one at WBHS has for so long, that level of enthusiasm, even for the season opener, can certainly dip. Fans get to the point where they have the mindset of “you have to prove something to me before I will show back up.”
Webb has not won his first game with the Bulldoggs yet, but fans overall seem to think that will happen quickly this fall. The new head coach, who spent the past couple of seasons as an assistant, has virtually started a fire under what had become a dormant fan base.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the WBHS program, this year and moving forward. It starts with Webb himself who has caught on with the fan base as much as any coach since Phil Jones.
Second, Webb rebuilt the coaching staff, hiring assistants with years of experience, as well as some with head coaching experience.
Third, the support Webb is receiving from the administration is where it needs to be. The principal, athletic director and coach are all on the same page.
The importance of that cannot be overstressed. The right pieces are now in place even at the Barrow County School Board office to make this work.
What will happen in 2014 for the Bulldoggs on the football field? No one is saying the team will go 10-0. That will be too much to ask and no one is really expecting that. What fans see possible is the team winning several games this fall and using it as a springboard into the future.
Region 8-AAAAA is one of the toughest in the state. Webb knows that. His coaching staff knows that. His players know that. Even fans, who at times can be unrealistic, know that.
It has been a long drought for the WBHS football program. Something which was once a point of pride for the community hasn’t had a lot to brag about in recent seasons. We could discuss all day the reason for it, but what counts the most is this Friday.
A tough Jefferson High School team will roll into W. Clair Harris Stadium expecting to win.
The difference this time is the home team expects to win as well. It will be fun to see what transpires.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.