By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
In 1951, Norman Dale arrived in rural Hickory, Indiana, to become a high school teacher and head basketball coach of the Huskers. He was hired by his longtime friend, principal Cletus Summers. Speaking with Cletus, Dale thanks him for the opportunity and mysteriously mentions that he hopes things will work out for him this time.
The townspeople are passionate about basketball. They are upset because the best player in town, Jimmy Chitwood, has left the team to focus on his schoolwork. He also is still mourning the death of the previous coach.
At a meet-and-greet session, Dale tells the townspeople he used to coach college ball and has been in the U.S. Navy for the past 10 years. Fellow teacher Myra Fleener, who senses something negative in Dale’s past, warns him not to try to persuade Jimmy to change his mind.
The school is so small that the Huskers have only seven players. At the first practice, Dale quickly dismisses Buddy Walker for rudeness, and Whit Butcher walks out. Dale begins drilling the remaining five players with fundamentals and conditioning but no scrimmages or shooting, much to the players’ dismay the eventual outcome of this classic movie is a state championship for Hickory, one of the smallest schools in Indiana.
Change some of the above names and faces and this could be the outcome of the upcoming 2018 Eto-wah County Boys Basketball Tournament, which will match all 10 area high schools at Gadsden City High School during the Christmas holiday break.
The tournament is the idea of Coosa Christian boys basketball coach Richard Hollingsworth and Hokes Bluff boys basketball coach Jeff Noah. The upcoming inaugural tournament, scheduled for Dec. 27, 28 and 29 of 2018 will feature 15 games to be played in three sessions. Session tickets will be available for each of the three days.
“This will give the smaller schools in the county a chance to see how they match up with the larger schools,” said Hollingsworth.
The format has been approved by each school’s administration, with the first year’s tournament featuring only the varsity boys. Hopefully, this format will be popular enough to replace the existing tournament that features only the six Etowah County Schools teams.
Calhoun County holds a true county tournament with its smallest school, Class 1A Sacred Heart, dominating that tournament for the last two years.