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  • John Macon Gillespie

Silence Saves Houlka's Football Program



Silence.

That is what filled the board room of the Chickasaw County School District on Tuesday. Citizens of Houlka knew that the school board was going to vote on whether or not to disband their high school's football program, and they showed up to the meeting so that their resolve could be seen and their opinions could be heard.

When asked if anyone wanted to make a motion to disband the program, the five school board members and superintendent Betsy Collums sat and said nothing. No one moved. No one raised their hand.

Silence.

Sometimes, silence can be deafening, and on Tuesday, it was. Members of the community showed up to show their support for their program, sons, daughters, and school. Although Houlka has not enjoyed a large amount of success in its football history, this community still banded together to make sure that their program survived.

But why?

It would have been easy for the Wildcats to throw in the towel. Houlka gained a football program in 2008, and in those nine seasons since, has gone a combined 16-65 on the gridiron. The school still does not have a home football field to call their own, and due to small roster size, has spent the last two seasons competing as an MHSAA independent, meaning they are not eligible for playoffs or a state championship.

Apparently, that doesn't matter to the Wildcat-faithful.

“It's for the benefit of the kids,” Houlka Booster Club President Anita Loftin told SES Mississippi.

To Loftin and the majority of those in attendance on Tuesday night, saving Houlka football was not about aspirations to become state champions or even eventually be eligible for the playoffs again. It's about the enjoyment and the opportunity the sport provides to the students.

“These boys need another outlet,” Loftin said. “Baseball, basketball, track is good, but this is another avenue for the boys to get to college. They've also learned in the last couple years when wins have been few and far between how to deal with losses, get over it, get back in the saddle and go again.”

The fact that families, players, and citizens showed up to this board meeting shows that there is still hope for Houlka football, that there is still potential for this young program. It just may not be easy.

Almost everyone can agree that high school football is an integral part of Mississippi culture. It may be a glorious sport, but success does not come without difficult times and hard work. The same can be said for the sustaining of this program. Just as the football players themselves must work to become better people, students and athletes, so the school and administration at Houlka must work to build a successful team. Like Loftin said, it's for the kids. No one promised it would be easy, but it can be rewarding.

The future is uncertain for Houlka football. We could find ourselves in this same situation next year with a question of whether or not it is worth it for Houlka to continue fielding a team. In the meantime, however, may we as high school football fans join with Houlka in celebration of keeping their program for at least another season.

Keep fighting, Wildcats. May your hard work pay off.

#JohnMaconGillespie #Houlka

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