GLEN ROSE In the South, high school football is much more than a sport; it’s a way of life.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the small community of Glen Rose in Hot Spring County. Nestled between Malvern and Benton on Arkansas 67, Glen Rose is not an incorporated city, but the locals wear the badge of Glen Rose resident with pride.
Much of that pride stems from the school district and the high school football team, the Glen Rose Beavers. For the last few years, Glen Rose has risen to the top of the heap in the 3A classification, winning the 2007 state championship.
This year, the Beavers boasted a 10-0 record heading into Friday night’s second-round playoff game against the 7-4 Fordyce Redbugs. Residents showed up in full force for the game, as they believe the team represents not only the school, but everyone in the area.
Beverly Rimmer, who works at The Korner Store, a convenience store located across the highway from the high school, gets a firsthand look at the pageantry and fervor that come with each and every home game.
“The place is booming,” Rimmer said. “[We all] follow and support the team, win or lose.”
On Friday nights in the fall, the Glen Rose football field becomes one of the more densely populated places in the region, with the 1,600-seat capacity stadium overflowing. It is not uncommon to see fans setting up their lawn chairs along one of the end zones once all the allotted seats have been filled. On the other end of the field, the chain-link fence that separates the field from the concession area is lined with more fans, most of whom are former players returning to cheer their team on.
“The community has really embraced the program,” superintendent Nathan Gills said. “We don’t have a community center, so the school is the community center. The parents and students are greatly involved.”
On the night of a football game, especially a state playoff game, the home side of the stadium is at or near capacity while the team is warming up, more than 40 minutes before kickoff. With many fans armed with cowbells, a passerby might think the game had already started from the noise generated by the fans. By the time the opening kick is under way, the energy of the fans has reached a fever pitch, and with each solid play by their team, their noise becomes deafening.
Against Fordyce, the Beaver defense stopped the opening play for a 5-yard loss and received roars of approval from the fan base. By the time Dylan Ray caught a touchdown pass near the end of the first quarter, the fans showed no signs of letting up, and when it seemed the crowd could not get any louder, they exploded with excitement as Steven Kehner ran 40 yards to give Glen Rose its first lead of the night.
The appreciation of the fans was not lost on the players, nor their head coach, Mark Kehner.
“We always talk about playing for the guys on the fence,” Kehner said. “Expectations are pretty high. … Every Friday, they play their rear ends off.”
Friday night was no exception. The Glen Rose Beavers gave their fans plenty to be excited about, en route to a 28-27 overtime victory. The stands remained packed throughout the game, and even if it had not been nail-bitingly close, there is little doubt all of the fans would have stayed until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Whether it is a home game or an away game, Glen Rose fans show their allegiance with pride. For Rimmer, and many others, that pride extends to whenever she leaves the small community.
“I tell people I’m from Glen Rose,” Rimmer said. “I always have this [Glen Rose football] shirt on.”
The identity of the community has slowly merged with the identity of the high school football team, and it is evident how important the team is to all in the community.
“When we travel to away games, we usually have more people than the home team,” Gills said.
The traveling ability and willingness of the fans is also echoed by the head coach.
“Fans take great pride when on the road,” Kehner said. “Friday nights are a big deal in Glen Rose.”
Print Headline: Glen Rose football fans behind Beavers all the way