Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Everyone lifts a finger to declare Brewer is No. 1, and the gesture has more meaning for the Patriots this season than in any year since 2000.
Patriots on the rise
Brewer enjoys fan reaction
to best season since 2000
By Mark Edwards
email@example.com · 340-2461
FLORETTE — Brewer High senior Miles Cloer works a part-time job at a Hartselle grocery store, and he sometimes sees friends who play football at Hartselle.
A fullback for the Patriots, Cloer often will hear them speak this phrase about his team's football fortunes: "Same old Brewer."
But he hasn't heard that much lately. Halfway through the regular season, the Patriots already have posted more wins than any of the previous six Brewer teams.
After winning only seven games during 2001-06, the Patriots are 3-2 this year with wins over Priceville, West Point and Hayden. They barely missed another win over Muscle Shoals, which pulled out a fourth-quarter victory over Brewer 21-14.
The last Brewer team to win more than two games was the 2000 squad, which went 4-6 after winning the last three contests of the year.
The success of this year's squad has produced a new level of excitement outside the team, and the players say it's hard not to notice the support they're getting.
Senior defensive lineman Zack Graham attended Big Spring Jam in Huntsville and saw several former Brewer players there.
"They were telling me that we're kicking butt and that they're real proud of us," Graham said. "They said we're getting the program back.
"It's like that in school, too. At Brewer, we've been put down before, and sometimes we don't get much respect. But we're earning respect now."
Friday's 14-7 win over Hayden gave Brewer two straight victories. It also gave the seniors a homecoming victory for the first time since they were freshman.
On Monday afternoon, one of about every four or five cars in the Brewer High parking lot still had decorations left over from game week.
"Everybody has been asking me what we're doing different," senior lineman Nathanael Thomas said. "I've just told them we're working harder."
The players also experienced something unusual in the locker room afterward — instead of an all-out celebration, they spoke about having rolled up more than 400 yards of offense and how they should've scored more than 14 points.
"It's odd being disappointed after a win," Cloer said, smiling.
Brewer has had good teams before. According to a year-by-year history on a wall in the school's football fieldhouse, the Patriots made the state playoffs three straight years in 1997, '98 and '99.
They finished with at least seven wins eight times since 1976. They were 7-3 as recently as 1992, '95 and '99.
But after the recent victory drought and the loss of 21 seniors from last year's 2-8 team, this season's success might have come as a surprise.
"People around here are proud of us, and they're really appreciative," senior lineman John Tallent said. "But they are acting surprised because we lost so many seniors, and we only have 14 this year.
"We've had a lot of underclassmen filling spots."
The Brewer schedule will toughen in the second half of the season.
The Patriots face rival Hartselle on the road Friday. Although the Tigers are 1-4, they're traditionally strong and won 11 games last year. On Oct. 12, Brewer will host J.O. Johnson (3-2), which was No. 1 in the state earlier this season.
The Patriots will visit defending Class 5A state champion Athens (2-3)on Oct. 19, and they'll host Decatur (4-1) on Oct. 26.
All four of those games are 5A, Region 8 games, and Brewer, which is 1-2 in the region, needs to do well in that stretch to make the state playoffs.
For now, however, Brewer is enjoying its taste of victory, and the players say they're doing little more than looking forward to the next game — the big one against Hartselle.
The Patriots haven't beaten the Tigers since 2000, when they won a 35-30 heart-stopper to open the season.
"We're very excited about playing them," Cloer said. "Even though they're 1-4, we know they're good. They have a stable full of running backs, and they have a lot of speed.
"I hope we can keep up with them."
A good start for Brewer
After posting a 7-53 record during 2001-06, Brewer has started this season 3-2.
The last time Brewer won more games was in 2000 when the Patriots went 4-6, including victories over Hartselle, Pell City,Arab and HazelGreen.
Brewer has beaten Priceville, West Point and Hayden this year, but the Patriots have games remaining against Hartselle (1-4), J.O. Johnson (3-2), Athens (2-3), Decatur (4-1) and Arab (1-4).
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