Out Here in Left Field

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I’ve been around Bertie High School now for more than 25 years.

I enrolled in the school as a freshman in 1985 and I have been around Bertie football ever since. I was manager of the football team and sports editor of the high school yearbook.

In that quarter of a century, we’ve seen good times and bad times and some mediocre seasons, but Bertie High School has always maintained a proud heritage and what always seems like a promising future.

The “Bertie way” has always meant something. It means doing things the right way, hitting hard and then helping up your opponent, working longer and harder than anyone else and taking pride in the name on the front of the jersey.

It’s a tradition that includes great names in football like Chip Williams, Bing Mitchell, Ron Cooke, Bill Hawkins, Roy Bond and many, many more. The “Bertie way” has produced a pair of state championships and three appearances in the finals in the history of the school.

Unfortunately, the proud history that has been Bertie High School has fallen on hard times. The Falcons have struggled mightily in the past decade. Coach Bond’s last season was a sub-.500 team and none of his successors have been able to duplicate the success he had in his career.

Coach Willie Roberson was put in a no-win situation. He was brought in for two seasons and given the reins at a time when the program was already on a downturn. He was close to retirement and his successor was named the same day he got the job.

After that came Coach Tony Hoggard, whose young, energetic approach was supposed to be the key to turning around the program. For reasons probably no one will ever understand, it just didn’t happen. It’s not because he didn’t work hard or didn’t push his kids to be the best, it just never clicked.

Bertie High School officials then did what was one time seemed unthinkable – they went outside the Falcon family to hire a new coach – and brought in Greg Watford. The new coach brought with him a wealth of success and knowledge and a proven track record.

In less than two seasons, the team is already making progress. The first year, the Falcons were simply not good. This season, the team can’t seem to catch a break even though they’re significantly better than last season.

While the football team and its coaches are working hard to get back on top, for some it has become the “Bertie way” to gripe, complain and moan. Some fans at the game are downright embarrassing. They yell at the coaches, which I don’t like, but is part of how things are in high school sports. My problem comes when they yell at the young men on the team. It’s never okay to scream at a 16 or 17-year-old kid.

The Falcon faithful are, quite frankly, spoiled.

Too many of us have forgotten that Roy Bond was 4-6 for three straight seasons and was under an ultimatum to win when his team finally broke through. Because the administration was patient for four years, however, he did break through and brought home two state championships.

The “Bertie way” should be about working hard, supporting your team and your kids and knowing that it takes time to build a winner. That’s what Greg Watford and his staff are doing and they need patience and support, not yelling and asinine behavior.

Bertie folks need to reclaim the “Bertie way.”

Thadd White is the Sports Editor for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or by telephone at 332-7211.