Two counties closed school this week for the flu, but in Smith County, they're closing school for a day of community pride.
The Gordonsville High School Tigers haven't won a state championship since 1984. Friday, they play the Huntington Mustangs for the state title.
So many people in town plan to attend that the school system canceled schools all over Smith County for the day. The schools couldn't get enough substitute teachers. They'll make up the day, Dec. 21, before Christmas break begins.
"Many people feel like they are part of these kids' lives. They know someone, or they are kin to their family, or they know their siblings. Everybody knows everybody in a small town," said Annette Hord, the principal of Gordonsville High School.
A lot of people feel this year's team is the best they've had in nearly 30 years; the seniors have played together since they were in peewee football.
Tyler Coen, a co-captain of the team, said he knows a win would mean a lot for their town.
"We're a town that's based on football. It's usually a ghost town on Friday nights because everybody's usually at the games. Everything is closed down, that's how important it is to them," Coen said.
Mark Medley, the coach who led the winning season in 1984, explained why he thinks football is so important in a small town.
"It's something that everyone identifies with, and people want to identify with something good. And in small towns, everyone knows everyone, and it makes it a little more special," Medley said.
"The 1984 team was a good group, they were good people," Medley said.
He said this is another of those rare teams that has the nucleus, the camaraderie and the talent to accomplish great things.
The game is at 11 a.m. at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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