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Shelia Mader

Shelia Mader

Sports Editor

Website URL:

Fans Make The Game

  • Published in Sports

Both loyal and not so loyal sports fans realize that it is an understatement that fans can make the game. Every venue---whether baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and the list goes on--- tends to have its own set of loyal fans – those who never miss a game, who never fail to let the referees or umpires know when they’ve missed a call, or the coach for a bogus, bonehead call. We have all observed them, fussed about them, encouraged them; yet we continued to look forward to a weekly dose of their entertainment.

When setting out to find those boisterous and entertaining fans, my first stop was a trio of fun-loving, ref-gouging men at Chipola College. It matters not if it’s the men or women playing. You can count on knowing every missed call just from the voices of Bobby Sims, Danny Sims, and Gary Jackson. The trio say they don’t exactly know when they became regulars but fans around them who have come and gone say it’s been some time now. Bobby Sims is an expert referee at basketball; he never misses a call. If you think he has missed one, ask him and he’ll let you know differently. If he had ever missed one or missed letting the official know when he messed up, he has plenty of backup from former superintendent of schools, Danny Sims, and retired businessman, Gary Jackson, who have his back. Of the three, Bobby is the most vocal of the group and usually the first to voice his opinion not only to the refs but also to the coaches. He may be vocal but is always politically correct in his criticism.

Travel down the road a piece to the basketball capital of Jackson County – Malone, Florida. The Tigers are known throughout the state for their basketball programs, girls’ and boys’. Just as well known is their loyal fan, Mr. Willie Hall. Mr. Hall is not clear on the dates he became a Tiger fan but is positive that it happened around the time integration came about in Jackson County. At that time, Mr. Hall relocated from Panama City and almost instantly became almost a Tiger fan. He’s cheered them through district titles, regional titles, but will tell you quickly that there’s nothing better than the thrill of a state title, a quest he’s been a part of for more than half a century. Willie is most animated, amazingly witty, and a virtual fixture at Malone games. But don’t let his antics deceive you; he is decidedly knowledgeable about the game. A devoted fan—he is one funny man.

Two of the more vocal fans I have had the pleasure of meeting reign from the town of Graceville – and these two take their basketball very seriously. Darrell Olds and Dennis Pittman are 1977-78 Graceville alumnae. Last Friday night at the Graceville-Cottondale game in Graceville, they were pretty convinced it was their play calling, coaching, and cheering from under the goal in the Cottondale gym that pulled off the Tiger victory. Bleachers are not their style; they are much more into the game from a standing position.

Moving to the eastern part of Jackson County to the Sneads Pirates, coaches and administrators will quickly tell you that Bubba Faircloth is hard to beat as a Sneads fan. He can usually be located on the top row of the bleachers and will be pulling hard for his Pirates. He has seen them through lean years and through some very prosperous years but no matter the outcome of the game, Faircloth is always a Pirate supporter. Fans can truly make the game enjoyable and much more often than not, this is what they do.

Fortunately, most such fans are only enjoying the game and each other in their own unique style. These diehard fans would never intentionally make anyone else from any team feel uncomfortable. Their participation is all in good fun. From those we know so well, there is never any truly negative or rowdy behavior. Of course, rarely there may be a situation involving fans who do let their own emotions get the best of them. All local sports events are monitored by administration and security who are familiar with the sports scenes locally and are there to deal with those who are determined to be inappropriately obnoxious. We, in Jackson County, are blessed to be able to enjoy funny, enthusiastic fans who are all there to cheer on their chosen teams. On your next outing enjoy the game and take time to seek out the loyal fans – they can give you insights and an education on the team(s) that you otherwise might not ever know.

Marianna Cheerleaders Compete in Blountstown

  • Published in Sports

Marianna’s cheerleaders combined their varsity and junior varsity squads this past weekend for competition in Blountstown. The team walked away with a second-place finish.

Varsity captain Anatasia Mitchell took first place in the Best Jump category. The girls demonstrated excellent cheer, jump, tumbling, and stunting skills in the two and a half minute routine, leaving room for few adjustments to be made prior to their next competition.

Following the competition, cheer coach Debbie Dryden expressed her pleasure in the girls’ performance, “Arnold won but they (MHS)did really well. It was close.”

Their next competition will be held on January 10, 2015 at the annual Chipola College Cheer Extravaganza. On January 24, Marianna High School will host the FHSAA Region I Cheerleading Finals.

Team members are: front row- Alyssa Wiley, Allie Hinson, Cailee Heinemann, Cianna Harris, Anastasia Mitchell, Kiara White. Middle row- Grace Daffin, Delaney Basford, Maggie Larkin, Libby Buchanan, Amy Gearhart, Sydney Holland, Mallory Dykes, Alexandria Hencely, Sabrina Mandrekas, Shelley Dryden, TyAnna White. Back row-Zannah Glisson, Nyasia Rhodes, Ellory Fuqua, Marybeth Harkins, Alyson James, Hannah Nobles, Lauralee Gause, Lily Evans, and Devon Jernigan. The girls are coached by Debbie Dryden, Maria Long, and Jordan Moore

Ebby Harris

James Edward Harris left this world last Friday, less than two weeks after he and his family were told he had the big “C”, cancer. As I write this, I am in awe that I never knew a James Edward Harris – I knew a kind, always smiling, forever upbeat man named ‘Ebby’ Harris. Everyone whose life Ebby touched was richer for having known him. He touched lives in a quiet way, led them many times without them realizing he was changing their minds for the better. He had a way of influencing you and teaching you that left you with a feeling of accomplishment. He was very careful to never make anyone feel inferior when he was in charge.

Harris was a 17-year employee of James & Sikes Funeral Home. Chris Sikes says of Harris, “Ebby was my second daddy, I’ve told him many times how fortunate I was that he came into my life. We fished together; he took my boys fishing. He was a business advisor to me for almost 20 years and, to me, he had great business sense. He had learned from his dad, Floyd Harri,s and he learned well. He was a classy guy, always had it together. I don’t know that Ebby changed one bit in the 20 years I knew him. I used to tell him, if only I could age as gracefully as you have. He’d get on my tail when he needed to and if he thought I needed to change something, he would suggest it in a way that I knew he was right and never made me feel inadequate about it. His family took Traci, my boys, and me in; he was a mentor to all of us. When I lost my dad six years ago, Ebby stepped right in to fill those shoes. It was just a Godsend for me that God put him in the funeral home because he knew everyone and was liked by everyone and his presence there was felt by everyone.”

In life, everyone makes enemies, whether intentionally or not. Someone is not going to like something about the way you do this or that – not so with Ebby Harris. He made no enemies and everyone who met him walked away a better person. He had an infectious smile, a sense of humor most people can only dream of having. Those same sentiments are echoed by long time school board employee Sherri Johnson, “It was a pleasure to work with Ebby. He believed in having fun, but he wanted the work done and he wanted it done right. He was Gator fan and I was a Seminole. Oh, the fun we had going back and forth with that. But above all, he was a man that loved his family. That was always very evident. He will be missed by all that knew him.”

Rex Wimberly worked with Jackson County School Board during Ebby’s time there but knew him as a friend who showed him the way a civic organization should be run, “Ebby was a good man, a good father, and a mentor to all of us younger guys. Of course I’ve known the Harris family for a long time. Ebby and my mom graduated together. It was through civic clubs and other things that you really got to know what a fine man he was. We just enjoyed each other’s company. Dianne and I were just talking awhile ago about that little? rice smile that looked like he would break out laughing at any moment. Every Thursday, we sat right by each other at the Chipola Civic Club. If I wasn’t there he would take over my duties as secretary. He taught me how to be a secretary and to do it the right way. He just took me under his wings. His daughter Marsha just said the other day that I and many others were the sons he never had. He was just a mentor, he mentored many of us younger guys and we are all better for it. He just always made you feel very welcomed. He was all about helping the community in whatever way he could. He loved people and loved being around people. He was about helping the community and he always made sure that if there was a need in the community he was going to meet it. He loved Marianna; he loved the friends he had here. Ms. Jean was the love of his life and his family meant everything to him. He was a behind the scene guy, never searched for the attention for anything he did.”

Danny Sims spoke with the highest regard about Ebby, “He did everything with integrity,was honest, straightforward, and a good employee that cared about the schools. My time with Ebby goes way back. When Ebby was in high school and even earlier, my dad had a little grocery store out in Elsi Demonde ??Heights. Every day Ebby would get off the bus and immediately head to daddy’s store. He would work doing anything Daddy would give him to do. Before long he was working every day. He wanted to work all the time. My dad married late, in his thirties, and so he took off a couple of days to go to Panama City after his wedding. He talked to Ebby’s dad, Floyd, and asked if he could use Ebby for those two to three days while he was gone. So, Ebby had permission to miss school at 14 years old to run the store. Ebby was the only one he trusted.

Yes, Marianna lost an amazing man today but, oh, the memories he left behind. Though many are saddened by his loss, there is also joy in the remembrance of the relationships he enjoyed, the memories we have of him, and the impact he had on the lives of so many.

“Coach Hud” A Legend then...A Legend Now

  • Published in Sports

Long before John Hudson ever thought about teaching, an American author summed up the philosophy he went by when working with young people. Mark Twain wrote, “That which we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” For many years John Hudson worked to prove him right. That is not to say that learning specifics from Coach Hudson was always funny or easy, but the overall effect was that students enjoyed being around him and learned from him. Why? The main reason was that Coach Hudson enjoyed being with them. He applied many psychological principles as he worked to teach character or to coach desire; yet, the students rarely realized that he was doing more than having fun or loving them ---each one as an individual. Rarely has an individual been more openly loved for his exaggerated character than John Hudson. It has been said by educators in the community that Hud, as he was called, did all the wrong things for all the right reasons and, as a result, impacted kids on a whole new level. One has only to look to some of those he influenced to know that his is a lasting impact because those he first taught continue to work to keep his memory and his unusual methods alive for the kids of today. He represented what was the best in each of us….love and, when necessary, forgiveness. Coach Hudson was the “encourager” from whom many kids got a lesson in love when they needed it most. Though he loomed large and loud, he presented a far more effective side to kids who came in contact with him. The mannerisms which made him so different endeared him to all who knew him.

Once each year, some of those same students on whom he had such a pronounced influence work together to hold a golf tournament to raise funds for the scholarship the group established in Hud’s name. Prior to the event, a large banner featuring his smiling face is put up to announce the event to passersby. Just the drive by glimpse of this image is enough to bring kids back to his classroom or onto the practice field. Several former students and colleagues have offered their thoughts on Coach Hud and what it was that made him a special part of their lives. John Donaldson, Marianna High School football coaching staff, considered Hud his best friend during their coaching days together. He recalls Hud’s mentoring him when things required a bit more thought or when Hud believed that more action was called for within the program. “I like to believe that one way to measure success is by your impact on others. He has been gone nearly 10 years and I still hear his name weekly. I am so thankful that our lives crossed paths and for the impact he had on me. Walking the halls of MHS with him was like walking with Elvis. The kids loved him, spoke to him, hugged him, and he loved to talk to them. There will never be another COACH HUDSON.”

Don Dowling, former Marianna High football coach, found Hud to be as entertaining as he was helpful. With any team, discipline and desire rank at the top of the most basic needs. Hud was instrumental in accomplishing both of these, often without the direct knowledge of the head coach. At times, it was as if he and the players were in a conspiracy that only they knew about. Mutual respect and high regard was the agreement they shared. Because they knew he cared, the boys would respond no matter how tough his expectations were of them. When they pleased him, they had pleased themselves. Dowling says his fondest and most profound memory of Hud is his call to a player or student when he wanted to converse with them, “Hey boy, come ‘ere.”

Rex Torbett, former Marianna High standout in both football and wrestling, relates that “Coach Hudson was a unique fellow. You always knew where you stood with him because he was not afraid to share his feelings. He always had the other coaches backs though. He may not have been the most knowledgeable about the sport but he was always trying to better himself. He would go to coaching clinics on his own and you would never know about it. He would study the game and read books about it. I am not sure but in all the years he coached, whether he was ever paid anything. One thing is for sure, he loved kids and the kids loved him. One thing I remember most about him was how he always responded when asked to do something. Whether he knew how to do it or not he would always say, “Ain’t no problem.” You always knew the job would be done.“

Petey Sims echoes the sentiments of all who worked with Hud. Though his methods could prove aggravating and somewhat unorthodox at times, he was powerfully effective even with the most reluctant students. “No matter what you asked Hud to do his reply was always, “No problem”. Hud was subbing in band for few days and after the first day he came to my office and wanted to see me. He asked if we could close the door so I became a little concerned. He looked at me and said, “Mr. Sims I got a problem.” Now I am really concerned because Hud never had a problem. He looked me square in the face and without cracking a smile stated, “I’m subbing in band and that 3/4 time is kicking my butt!” (of course butt is not an exact quote) I fell out because I knew he was not beating out 3/4, 4/4 or any other kind of musical time and he knew that I knew it. Typical Hud, always good for a laugh.”

As a parent of one of those befriended by Coach Hudson, Harold Donaldson has a different perspective on the important role Coach Hudson had in the school at large. ”Coach Hud was a special kind of guy who took a lot of time with my son when he first came into Marianna High School and coaching, took him under his wings and kind of helped him understand the coaching system in the high school. I knew Coach Hud probably 40-45 years and he was just was a great guy”.

Perhaps the most moving testimony is that of Hunter Nolan, athlete, MMS Coach, and current MMS assistant principal. Quite simply, Hunter sums up Hud’s influence on his own life. At one point, Coach Hud wrote his young friend advising him to get busy living up to his potential to become the man he was capable of becoming. Due to Hud’s solid relationship with him, Hunter Nolan heeded that advice. The result has played out before our eyes as Coach Nolen ran a middle school football (and for many years basketball) program that was second to none. His leadership enriched the lives of many who played and watched. Hud told him what he could be and do; Hunter thought enough of Hud to believe in himself and take up the challenge. Nolen tells of Hud’s influence in this way, “When I was in my early years at Marianna High, I started to head down a wrong path in life until I had the pleasure to be coached by Coach Hudson. He coached JV basketball at that time. He changed my way of thinking and I straightened my life out because of my interactions with this man. He had a tough love way of getting my attention that I took a liking to. It helped me become the person I am today. He even wrote me a letter way back in 1994 that I still have to this day. My first year as head football coach at Marianna Middle School and Coach Hudson didn’t want to help at Marianna High School that year so he asked me if he could be on my staff and of course I said yes. Anyway, I was young and our team was getting better every game, so we were 6 and 0 going into our last game. We were preparing for the next opponent, which I think was Honeysuckle Middle School from Dothan, AL. We always watched the game tape on the first day of practice. Right before we went into the film room I assembled my coaches right outside the room and told them that our team was getting the big head and we needed to refocus the players’ attention because we could hear them just inside the film room laughing and fooling around, not focused. All of a sudden Coach Hudson turned to me with a stern look on his face and said, “Coach I got this”. He went into the room with all the players talking and walks up to the front of the room and punches a filing cabinet so hard that he puts a huge dent in the thing. After he punches the filing cabinet, you could have heard a pin drop in that room. When he removed his hand from the filing cabinet, he said “Now guys, pay attention to Coach Nolen because we need to have an undefeated season and no talking”. One of the players raises his hand and Coach Hudson turns to look at him and said, “WHAT!”. The player says “ Coach, you have blood running down your hand”. Coach Hudson looked at his hand, licked the blood off his hand and we had one of the most intense practices of the year that day and eventually that team finished the season undefeated. Coach Hud was a very important person in my life and I was very fortunate to have him coach me in high school. I was probably even more so to have him on my staff as I began my coaching career.”

Of course, Coach John Hudson was a human being and, as such, he probably made some mistakes. But the one mistake he did NOT make was in living a life without of passion and love. He gave 100% and he asked that of others. He loved that way and he forgave that way. An unlikely role model in some ways, he was, nevertheless, a profound influence on many. Had we been able to collect all the “Hud” stories through the years, he could easily have been featured in the section of Reader’s Digest , “My Most Unforgettable Character.” He was, above all else, himself. An active member of Eastside Baptist Church, Coach Hudson was known for his Christian testimony. His unique style allowed him a mix a huge dose of daily fun with a serious concern for character. The lesson was not missed by those who knew him.

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