Blue Devils begin season with burst of old spirit


CORDOVA — The Cordova Blue Devils are getting a fresh start by turning back the clock.

The football team and its supporters are reclaiming some forgotten traditions and starting new ones in their first season under head coach Justin Jones.

Until Saturday, fans would have had a difficult time locating an image of the mascot, whose fierce face was once displayed prominently in several places around town.

Members of the Cordova Quarterback Club spent Saturday painting a Blue Devil face at the end of Main Street near the railroad tracks and another at one of the entrances to Cordova High School.

"They used to do this years ago. We're trying to bring back what used to be. A lot of people have forgotten some of these traditions," Quarterback Club president Keith Mclemore said. 

The faces both serve as a way to show Blue Devil pride and could help visiting teams entering town from the interstate find their way to the stadium more easily. The locations of additional faces are currently being planned, Mclemore said. 

A larger version of the Blue Devil will be painted on the field prior to the Aug. 23 season opener against the Dora Bulldogs rather than waiting for the high drama of homecoming.

The Blue Devils are also bringing back the shiny red helmets worn by beloved teams of the past.

"They had gone to a flat red in the last few years. Now they really stand out and they have the sticker on the side that says 'Devils,'" Mclemore said.  

A new coach and new helmets are just the beginning for the Devils, who are shaking off the memories of a dismal 1-9 season.

Fans will notice this season that the flag pole has been moved from the end zone near the field house to the other end of the field near the scoreboard. 

Mclemore has asked the local Boy Scout troop to lower the flag between the third and fourth quarters and the Cordova High School band will play "Taps."

"Everybody will rise for the lowering of the flag. I saw that last year at a couple of away games and thought, 'If I'm ever in that position, I'm going to push for that.' Today's kids lose sight of what that means," he said.

Mclemore is also making plans to recognize certain groups at each home game, such as veterans and first responders. New CHS principal Alisa Brown will be recognized at the season opener and will have the honor of being part of the coin toss. 

The sign at Hudson-Kerby Field was repainted over the summer to correct a long-standing mispelling that remains a mystery. The field is named for two former Cordova principals, Wilburn Hudson and Theo Lynch Kerby. The latter was the first principal of Cordova High and also served as principal of its predecessor, Bankhead High School. Kerby died in 1942 at the age of 40.

The sign has featured the name Hudson-Kirby for an untold number of years, though some memorabilia exists proving that the field was known as Kerby Field before being renamed in the 1970s. 

The staff of Walker Magazine discovered the spelling mistake while doing research for an article that was published in the fall 2018 issue.

The new spelling now appears on the school's page on the Alabama High School Football Historical Society's website.

Mclemore said a member of the Kerby family visited CHS over the summer while the sign was down and announced that he would be bringing some of his family back with him for a game this year.

The Devils will be walking under the new sign as they make the entrance from their new makeshift field house. 

The old field house, which dates back to the 1950s, was condemned after Quarterback Club members began making much-needed improvements. 

"We had busted up the whole floor and then we noticed when we removed the lockers that the wall was bowed in nearly 6 inches. So we had to stop, and it was padlocked," Mclemore said.

For several seasons, the team had been playing without access to showers. 

Quarterback Club members, along with volunteers from Cordova First Baptist's mission group, made a locker room out of a building near the field used as a band room and later classroom space when Cordova High School was in its previous location.

Seventy lockers were installed, with some players doubling up into a more permanent solution is funded. 

Hours of labor were also dedicated to painting and plumbing and electrical upgrades. 

Fans will have two opportunities to meet the team and coaching staff before the season gets underway.

A "Meet the Devils" event is planned at CHS on Friday at 5 p.m. The team is selling spaghetti plates for $10. Dine in and take out will both be allowed.

After the spaghetti dinner, the team will take the field for a scrimmage. Entry to watch will be bringing liquid laundry detergent, a necessity for the new washer and dryer obtained for the team. In the past, parents have been responsible for splitting up the task of washing the team's game jerseys in their own homes. 

"We've never had a washer or dryer. Now we've got an industrial washer and dryer in our training room on the field. Our kids get their clothes washed every day. They never practice in dirty clothes," Mclemore said.

Blue Devil Day is set for Saturday at 5 p.m. at CHS with the pep rally scheduled for 7 p.m.

"We're expecting big things," Mclemore said of the upcoming season.