Archived Story

New book highlights local football program

Published 11:28am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Benjamin Maxwell
Special to the Enquirer

The struggles of the Brewer high school football program have never been much of a secret to the community and those surrounding it. The 40-year-old program has only amassed a 123-288-1 record in its history; 21-107 since 2000.

With a long record of disappointment, the team has never gained much attention from anyone who does not have direct connection to the school; much less attempt to capture a lackluster season in a book.

However, one man has.

Matthew Pierce is a Huntsville native who followed the Brewer Patriots through its 2011 season under former head Coach Daniel Gullion.

He trailed the team from the August preseason heat, through the Arab, Hartselle, Mortimer Jordan, and Walker road games, and into the final chilly October game in Priceville.

Pierce recorded his travels and vividly detailed the events in his book “Ghost in the Hills: A Forgotten Team and a Season of Survival.”

“I wanted to write a book no one else would write,” said Pierce.

Many who have not had any personal ties to the school or its football program might lack interest in a story like this.

After all in his own book Pierce admits:

“The story is not familiar. There is no commercial appeal, no recognizable plot line that recalls the football movies we have seen. There are no Hollywood miracles, no third act with a mysterious loner who arrives to rescue the team. The Brewer Patriots’ 2011 season was about survival, about a shrinking circle of brothers who locked arms and held each other in place as the year wore on.”

Through the book lacks hope for the reader that the book holds a glamorous and happy ending at the end, it is a story of truth, struggle, and perseverance that anyone can relate to and find hope in.

Pierce creates a respectful relationship with the real characters of his book that make up the team of 2011. The characters are of players, coaches, fans, and parents who despite the discouraging history of the program continue to pour their hearts and souls into it. Pierce shows especial attention to the Brewer players; a special type of athlete that continues to push through the discouragement of losing and at times the hard words of disgruntled fans and friends.

Pierce portrays the people and events in his story with unbiased attention. He gives no personal cause to what he finds to be the struggles of the program, though he does record the ideas of the community surrounding the team. He offers no special sympathy for the jaded program but instead offers a simple on looker’s perspective of a disenchanted base. Pierce does this but is also able to keep the reader’s attention through relatable detail which I find to be the greatest feat of his book.

The story, in some ways, resembles the 2006 film “We Are Marshall.” The film is based on the struggles of Marshall University following a fatal plane crash in 1970 that killed many members of the football team. The tragedy sparked a young team that through adversity and uncertainty claimed a remarkable two win season.

Though in Pierce’s story there is no clear tragedy that sparks the events, there isn’t even two wins. There is only young men bound by their community, relying on one another to persevere through adversity and discouragements despite the odds set before them.

The story develops a personal relationship with the reader, who will gain hope in the small victories and accomplishments made by the players and coaches. It is a story of real life that is not glamorous but that anyone can find favor in.

Pierce’s motivation for attempting the book came from his own high school days.

“I played basketball in high school,” Pierce recalled. “I remember what it felt like when the newspaper would not even print our score after a bad loss. It was like the world was telling us we only mattered if we won.”

The book can be found for sale at Oh’Bryan’s in Hartselle, at the Shak in Florette. A Kindle version of the book is also available on Amazon.com.

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