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It’s showtime at ACHS

  • It’s been called one of the greatest walk-ons in sports, but Anderson County High School football team’s play on the field is more than smoke and fireworks - it's seated in a community that has “a lot of skin” in the Maverick football program. - Ricky Williams

  • Not even kickoffs that result in a touchback are boring at Anderson County High School, where Ella, a choco- late lab, retrieves the kicking tee. Ella is a star in her own right. This weekend she will be competing in a “duck fetch” contest. - Ricky Williams

  • Anderson County High School Head Football Coach Davey Gillum was honored during Senior Night festivities before the Oct. 21 game with Bearden High School as the winningest coach at the school. He won his 111th game Oct. 6 against Gibbs High School. Gillum has coached at Anderson County High School since 2009. - Ricky Williams

It’s Friday night in the fall on the campus of Anderson County High School.

In about two hours, the homestanding Mavericks will take the field and play 6A power Bearden High School.

That’s two classifications above Anderson County High School.

Most 4A teams do not schedule a 6A team.

But Bearden High School is not the only higher classification school Anderson County has on its schedule this season.

They opened with 5A state champion Powell.

They played 6A Science Hill on the road in Johnson City.

They played 5A tradition-rich Rhea County.

They hosted another 4A power in the form of Elizabethton (whom they met again in the playoffs).

And now it’s senior night.

Bearden is waiting.

Of the five non-region games on Anderson County’s 2022 football schedule, all five made the playoffs. Two remain — Powell and Science Hill.

The Mavericks played the same teams in 2021. That team went 5-5 while winning the region, but lost all five non-region games.

It’s been six seasons since Anderson County has lost a region game.

But that doesn’t matter on this night.

Bearden is waiting.

“We’re not Maryville and Alcoa,” Anderson County Head Coach Davey Gillum said of the Mavericks.

“To be a rural school in a city school region and to have this kind of consistency … It’s an honor for me as a coach and says a lot about our program at a grass roots level.”

The game is still 90 minutes away. The players are coming onto the field for stretches, to get warmed up, to get psyched for the game.

A group of youngsters walks up to players and get high fives or fist bumps. They wear the Maverick blue and silver, or their school jerseys — Norris Middle School and Lake City Middle School.

Then after they get high fives and fist bumps, they go back to playing touch football or just tossing the football around.

It’s a Friday night home game and the excitement is starting to build.

Kids don’t come to Anderson County High School football wearing University of Tennessee swag, or Tennessee Titans jerseys. They wear Maverick gear. They wear their school gear, or their youth league gear — NAGAF and Lake City Lakers.

Those are the teams of choice on a Friday night at Anderson County High School.

“We work with the little leagues and the middle schools. We all work together,” Gillum notes.

“There are a lot of people who have ‘skin’ in the game with these kids.”

It shows on Friday nights.

And it’s not just the youngsters on hand to watch the Mavericks get ready.

There are adults — parents, grandparents, former players — all watching, shouting out to players, encouraging them.

It’s a like a big family picnic and a pick-up game of touch is about to be played.

But this is no pick-up game of football.

It’s Bearden.

And they’re waiting.

“We’re out here on Saturdays year-round working with little kids,” Gillum says of his coaching staff.

That’s the constant at Anderson County High School. The youth league coaches, the middle school coaches, the assistant coaches … They are part of what is about to transpire on the field this Friday night.

“We love it,” Gillum says of the work with the kids.

“It is an investment and to see the consistency as the fruit of that … It is rewarding.”

Anderson County will beat Bearden High School on this night. They will play physical football and they will dominate in about every phase of the game. It will be close, but never in doubt.

Every game at Anderson County High School starts this way. The warms ups, the kids, the “checking up” on how players are doing.

And then there is the Maverick walk on. It’s been called the best in sports. There are fireworks, smoke, a seriousness about the players until they get ready to crash the cheerleader’s banner.

The Maverick High School Marching Band is cranking out upbeat music, the fans are screaming, cow bells and milk jugs with rocks in them are making a racket and then there is the calm before the storm: The coin toss, the lining up for the kick off, the game itself.

There will be more fireworks (every time the Mavericks score), there will be more cow bells and rattling milk jugs, and big flashes and noise, noise, noise from the Jumbotron.

It’s not just a football game. It’s a rock show with good football — a WWE event with a pigskin.

It’s a testament to the Maverick community.

“There are a lot of good coaches out there and a lot of good rural schools that aren’t as fortunate as I’ve been to have the success we’ve had here,” Gillum says.

Earlier in the day he was honored for setting the mark as the school’s all-time winningest coach. He doesn’t mention that. He doesn’t mention what it to make that happen.

He talks about what it takes to make Anderson County High School football happen.

“It is rewarding to know how rare it is for a community like ours to have this success. You’re going to have classes of kids, but to have this consistency.”

And Gillum says it’s not just the players or the coaches or the program that makes Anderson County High School football what it is.

It’s the community and the support the Mavs have always received.

“Most places we go, we’ll outnumber the home team. That’s part of our community, giving our boys something to help them be men and fathers and good workers.” Gillum says.

“It’s something to be proud of and it bonds us all together.

“I love nothing more than Friday nights seeing 30 or 40 of my former players on the sideline and I love watching the little ones play touch football.”

This Friday night will be the same. Maybe.

It may be more.

Greeneville will be waiting.

And they will be waiting on the Mavericks’ home turf.