Over the last couple weeks I have heard a lot of discussion and frankly a lot of grumbling in regards to the Pisgah Bears having to play the playoff games at Weatherby Stadium.

I was born and raised in Canton. I graduated from Pisgah and three of my four children are students at Pisgah. My daughter is a varsity cheerleader and my son is a Bethel youth football player who I anxiously anticipate seeing play under the Friday night lights at Pisgah Memorial Stadium someday.

All that said, I am extremely grateful to the Tuscola Athletic Department, Tuscola High School, and Haywood County Schools for making the venue a possibility.

The heart of the Pisgah Football Program does not solely lie on the home field. Yes, statistics show that home field advantage is a major part of morale. But with the year that we have had in our community I want to remind everyone who is grumbling that heart lies in other places as well.

It is in the community members and athletes that showed up on Aug. 18 and in the days that followed the flood to clean up and collect items for flood victims.

It lies in the cheerleaders who are about to be cheering for two sports as well as preparing for state competition and yet they show up looking beautiful in their uniforms cheering and supporting their team on Friday.

It lies in the fans, some of whom are actively rebuilding their homes and lives that pack the stands every week. My kids came up in the Bethel Youth Organization and we always say that Bethel and Canton travel well. People can count on us to fill the stands.

It is true at Pisgah as well. Whether it is cold and raining as we played Tuscola in February due to a delay in the season from a pandemic, hot Friday nights in September, or finger numbing temperatures this past week. That heart of Pisgah football is displayed in the stands on Friday night regardless of temperature.

The heart is in the coaches who coach tirelessly all week. Then give up their free time to mentor these boys outside of the field of practice and play. They coach as well as teach. They are the role models. They spend more time with the players than their own parents do. If you think about it, they get more awake hours than their parents.

The heart of Pisgah football is in the parents that pay for the price both monetarily and with their time. Getting the players to and from practice or simply being sure their player is well rested, fed, and ready daily for the rigors of the sport. The same parents that look on with pride and trepidation as they take the field each week. I can remember after Dakota Sorrells made an impressive block one week hearing his mom comment after hearing his name over the intercom that she had waited forever to hear that on Friday night. Her face was full of the pride that represents that heart.

The heart is in the churches and groups that prepare meals for the players before games and serve them while encouraging them to do their best on and off the field.

Most importantly and noteworthy is that it lies in the hearts of those players who show up in the drizzling rain of February, blazing heat of summer, the long hours and extra practices, as well as the now cold temperatures. It is further displayed by those boys who play even though they are

injured and if they are too injured to play stand on the sidelines supporting their teammates. The heart of Pisgah football is displayed in those same boys who shake hands and smile and talk to the fans young and old as they make their way to the field. I have watched time and time again as a group of rambunctious high school boys make their way to the field pumped up and full of excitement, yet are more polite to those around them than some of the adults, they pause to acknowledge those fans cheering them on.

I watched Heath Ammons at East Henderson High School come back through the bleachers on his way back to the field at halftime and he stopped and spoke to everyone who spoke to him.

His season was over and at that point he was awaiting surgery and he still took time to talk to some older folk that just wanted to discuss the game with him. The heart is in the boys that shielded Hudson Sorrells as the kid threw up his guts on the sideline. The heart is in Hudson as he put his helmet back on and returned to the field to keep playing.

The heart is in a group of boys playing their first round of playoffs and getting finished late but still going to the home of a teammate that had surgery to let him know he was missed and is cared for by his team.

The heart is in those players showing up to Bethel’s field and supporting the kids who look up to them as they play their Super Bowl even though they had a long week and late night themselves the night before.

The heart is in Ian Rogers, Dez Rodriguez, and Logan Free as they charge through the line to attempt to get the needed yardage for that next down or touchdown. The heart is in Caden Robinson and Evan Easton when they catch one of those rare long passes that Michael Irons or Free throw them(we need more of those long passes). The heart of the Pisgah Football Program is in each and every player on that field.

The heart is in those seniors who get to have another week to play a sport they love even if not on their own field so that as they graduate in June they can take those memories with them.

For those not looking to play at the collegiate level these will be their final games. Would it have been nice to dress out and play under the lights at Pisgah Memorial Stadium? Yes, it would have but ultimately they get to play.

I know I will show up wherever they play as will so many others because we do in fact travel well. I will join the other fans cheering for those great plays and booing the refs for bad calls. Regardless of where they play, the heart of Pisgah Football will be there. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to keep winning on our rival’s field? I think so, but that is just this fan’s opinion.

Alecia Robbins lives in the Canton community.

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