‘It’s more than just a game’

By RON HARRIS
Posted 7/31/18

Jasper, Cullman football teams come together to forget the past, rekindle rivalryCULLMAN — All it took was a cookout Sunday afternoon to put to rest any concerns about rekindling the high …

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‘It’s more than just a game’

Posted

Jasper, Cullman football teams come 

together to forget the past, rekindle rivalry


CULLMAN — All it took was a cookout Sunday afternoon to put to rest any concerns about rekindling the high school football rivalry between Jasper High School and Cullman High School.  

Members of the two teams, which are set to square off Aug. 23 to open the 2018 season, enjoyed a cookout Sunday afternoon at Sportsman Lake Park in Cullman. The cookout — complete with burgers, hot dogs and a cornhole tournament and hosted by Desperation Church — was a simple gesture to bring together two teams still trying to overcome the stigma from a 2013 incident involving two former coaches.

Sunday’s cookout brought together two teams — while still somewhat stigmatized by the 2013 incident — that has two first-year head coaches, new coaching staffs and no players who were part of the 2013 teams. 

“What high school football is all about is one heartbeat. If you’re not coaching high school football for that reason, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons,” said Matt Plunkett, the first-year Cullman head coach. Plunkett took over at Cullman in January after coaching for five years at Gardendale. “That’s all what we want to accomplish here.

“We want to see these young men leave here to become good husbands, good fathers, great role models in their community,” Plunkett added. “If we’re not teaching that, and leading by example, then we don’t need to be in this profession.”

When the two teams meet on Aug. 23, it will mark the first time the two schools have met in football since Aug. 2013 when former Walker High coach John Holladay punched Cullman defensive coordinator Matt Hopper following the Bearcats’ 13-10 win.

Holladay was immediately placed on administrative leave, and he later resigned as head coach.

Jasper’s first –year coach Bryan Moore said Sunday’s cookout was a way to help everyone forget that unfortunate incident.

“The kids are going to let it go,” Moore said,” and it’s up to us to put them in this kind of environment so they can. I’m just excited to see both teams out here today.”

“I think this today can show everybody that we were in the wrong way of thinking back then, and now it’s a new day in both Jasper and Cullman and we’re moving forward,” Plunkett said. 

Sunday’s cookout was important, both Plunkett and Moore said. 

“This will help us in the game,” Moore said. “Putting the teams together like this alleviates any stress and anxiety out there. That’s what we wanted to do here today.”

 “As coaches, we should always lead by example, and when we talk about unity, this is a great example of that,” Plunkett said. “This is a great rivalry, and it’s a big game for both communities, so let’s do it the right way.”

“When you sign on to teach and coach, you sign on to impact lives and change the lives of young people,” Jasper High athletics director Jonathan Jordan said. “That’s a part of all this. If a kid from Cullman is changed because of this, or a kid from Jasper is changed because of what we’re doing today, it’s a win. It doesn’t matter how it happens or why it happens, it’s a win because this is what we got into this for.”

Jordan said when the two teams meet on Aug. 23, there will be a few things that’s not normally seen at a high school football game.

“You’re going to see some things on game day that might be a little different than what you’ve seen in the past,” he said, “because we want everybody who comes to that game to be positively impacted by it. We have to remember that it’s more than just a game, it’s about people and lives and we’re happy to be a part of it.”