Upperman High School goes for the first football state title in school history Saturday morning in Chattanooga, with Highway 111 expected to be busy with traffic.
Putnam County Director of Schools Corby King said said he expects fans countywide to make the drive in support of the Bees. King said the special thing about Putnam County is that the high schools pull for each other in games like this one.
“Sure, one team wants to beat the other,” King said. “But they’re not in the same division, that probably helps. When they move past those rivalry games and those games that are not in the division, they absolutely support each other and it is so good to see that.”
Baxter Mayor John Martin called this the most exciting time in Baxter history. Martin said while people outside of Putnam County do not seem to be giving Upperman a chance, he thinks the team has a great shot at the title.
“They’re going to play their heart out,” Martin said. “Win or lose, they’re still winners to get to the state so we’re going to cheer them on and I hope to bring the gold home.”
Martin said the players will wear stickers on their helmets to honor JT Butler, who Martin called one of the “biggest Bees” to ever live in Baxter. Butler passed away last week.
Martin also said much of the growth of the city of Baxter is due to the success of high school athletics.
“That’s why so many people are coming from out of state,” Martin said. “They hear about Baxter. You would not believe the people that I talk to that come to Baxter that buy homes that hear about how great our schools are in this city.”
King said the relationships between coaches and their players are the key to a program’s success. King said leaders of extracurriculars, sports and otherwise, often spend more time around kids than even their parents. King said it is vital that these coaches and leaders be people that impressionable students can look up to as mentors.
“It’s the connections,” King said. “The connections with the students. It’s stuff that the students want to do, they’re engaged in. It gives them a sense of being, a sense of purpose.”
King said his wife teaches in Baxter, so there is a bit of a rivalry in the King household given his background teaching in Cookeville, but he said he will be at the game in his Upperman hat, cheering for the Bees.
Kickoff is set for 10am Central. Live coverage begins at 9am on Sports Radio 104.7 and 106-9 Kicks Country.