By R. Alan Richardson
In a not-so-rare move of class act that has become something for which the Morgan County Bulldogs are known; the Lady Dogs gave a senior night final hoorah to the two Eastside softball seniors playing their final game at the Dog Pound. Coaches Anne Stamps and head softball coach Jason McBay found out before Friday’s matchup between the two schools that Newton County’s powers-that-be had canceled all fall sports activities. Ultimately this became the final at-bat for Eastside’s Kelsey Ellis and Riley Hannah. With this in mind, the MOCO coaching staff put together a nice last-minute “Senior Night” presentation for these two young ladies to give them the honor of a final game on the diamond sendoff they would not have had. That’s Morgan County. That’s the Dogs. That’s the Class Act they have become known.
The brain trust behind the idea was Head Ladies’ Soccer Coach and Assistant AD Anne Stamps. “Last spring there were so many seniors that had their final season snatched out from under them.” said Stamps “They didn’t get to play the game that they loved for their school nor did they get to be recognized and celebrated for the work that they had put into the program during a Senior Night. When I heard that Newton County had suspended their fall sports programs, I knew that those two Eastside seniors may be playing their last high school softball game against us. Even though we weren’t playing at their home field, I wanted those girls to know that their dedication to the game was appreciated. Those girls deserved to be recognized as the Seniors of that program and that’s all that we did. It was the very least that we could do. A balloon and a flower may not add up to much but we hoped it would at least let them know that at the foundation of high school sports, we should all support each other.” Word of the good deed spread quickly and was covered by numerous area newspapers as well as WSBTV.
Eastside’s head softball coach, Heather Wood, said she was thankful for the hand of sportsmanship that the Lady Dogs extended to her team and her seniors. She said, “Our softball program will forever be grateful for the incredible demonstration of kindness and support MCHS showed our seniors. Friday was a very emotional day for the team, and we are extremely thankful for the entire MC Bulldog Nation for lifting our spirits in the midst of the sorrow. This is a reminder of what makes athletics and competition so great. On behalf of Eastside, a sincere thank you to our classy neighbor.”
McBay hit a number of high notes with his remarks sent out to numerous papers. “We found out that sports in Newton County had been canceled with a 3:30 decision. Once we realized that sports were indeed postponed for their county, it became a no-brainer to honor their two seniors. Coach Stamps pitched the idea to us of getting some balloons and flowers for an impromptu ‘Senior Night’ in their honor. I talked to our PA announcer and our lone senior Sarah Ellen Mercer about our plan. It was the least we could do for these girls that may never have the opportunity to play the game they love again. Coach Stamps and I are members of the same church and congregation. We are outwardly focused on reaching other and being a light to others. I think extending grace and putting others ahead of ourselves is the way we should operate in times such as these. I hope that Eastside’s seniors will be able to look back and recollect on all the moments, memories and relationships they have had through sports. Even if we are opponents, at the end of the day we are all humans that need to extend grace, think of others, and focus on the blessings we have in life. I’m glad that Coach Stamps alerted me and came up with the idea. It was great that we had the opportunity to carry out the gesture.
“I know this decision stinks for them. Because of their mascot (Lady Eagles) the Bible verse from Isaiah 40:31 came to me last night. ‘But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.’ ”
“I just wish we could have done more.” said McBay.Yep, the Dogs always fly high. And when they do, it’s always First-Class.