Sometimes it’s just bigger than football.

The Huntsville Hornets know this as well as anyone.

Last Thursday, a bus carrying the Hornet freshman team was involved in a rollover wreck on its way to a game in Montgomery. There were no fatalities or serious injuries, but nonetheless, it was a scary moment.

First responders were on the scene almost instantly, helping the team through the difficult situation. So when Huntsville takes the field for Friday’s homecoming game against Lamar Consolidated, it’s only fitting that the team will be honoring these individuals that serve our community every day.

“We're recognizing first responders, and we added military to it,” Huntsville head coach Rodney Southern said. “We planned this a long time ago. We have a red, white and blue 'H' that's going to be on the left side of our helmet, and that's just a way to show we do care and we do understand.

“It really hit home last week with the bus accident, where I saw 27 first responder vehicles up close. That's never something you want to do, but just watching those people and how they handled our kids in that situation, it all just fell into place. They're intertwined in this community just like we are, so we want to do something special for them.”

The special edition helmets are not the only way first responders will be recognized. They will also serve as honorary captains for the game.

Last week, Southern invited Lt. Jim Barnes of the Huntsville Police Department, Huntsville Fire Chief Greg Mathis, Sheriff Clint McRae of the Walker County Sheriff's Office and Huntsville-Walker County EMS Director John Nabors to meet with the team. The local leaders took part in a photo-op, and also shared an important message.

“We took a picture the other day with the chiefs, and the sheriff made a comment to the kids about the examples they need to be,” Southern added. “Obviously this group of seniors have been. The guys understand that this is a small community ... and I want them to be able to see firsthand what our kids do. Then on the other hand, some of them saw first responders in action the other day in a little different light.

“Anytime you can do that it's not a big deal, but it's a big deal to some of those people. You need to take the opportunity.”

The Hornets will also continue to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month when they take the field.

“We're going to have a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on the back of our helmet again,” Southern said. “I do it a little different ... I asked the kids to put the name or initials of somebody. There are going to be kids whose moms have passed from cancer, and a lot of grandparents that have dealt with it. It's always good to listen to them talk about the people they've lost.”

There’s no doubt that Friday marks a pivotal point in Huntsville’s season. The Hornets and Mustangs are tied for third-place in District 10-5A Division II — one game behind first-place A&M Consolidated and Katy Paetow — and a win will create a clear path to the playoffs for either team.

But as Southern is quick to note, sometimes “it’s bigger than the game.”

“We know we want to go out and win a football game Friday night because it helps us get closer to securing a playoff spot,” the coach said. “But sometimes, there are bigger things than football.”

Kickoff for Friday’s homecoming game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Bower Stadium.

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