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Sweet Water eyeing history

SWEET WATER —The Bulldogs have never won 30 games in a row. They came close once. Current head coach Stacy Luker remembers it well. He was Sweet Water’s quarterback the night the team’s first bid to accomplish the feat crashed to the turf.

“It’s been talked about over the years amongst the guys that were on the team,” Luker said.

The program’s first chance to reign victorious in 30 consecutive games fell short in the third week of the 1981 season against the Highland Home Flying Squadron. That contest ended 33-27.

Sweet Water’s latest attempt to win a school-record 30th straight game also comes during the third week of the season. Even though the parallels are somewhat eerie, Luker expects different results this time around.

“Because of what happened leading up to that, it’s really a whole different scenario right now,” he said. “Our football program right now is probably at the strength it was in the late ’70s.”

The Bulldogs went undefeated in 1978 and 1979 before a court order shut down the school before the 1980 season. That ruling splintered the program. Sweet Water dressed only 18 players for the 1981 season.

If not for that occurrence, Luker believes, tonight’s contest against Coffeeville would not carry the same weight. According to him, the team would have well surpassed the 30-game benchmark before it dropped a game. But that was then. Now Luker aims to prevent his 48 players from having to look back on Coffeeville the same way he and his former teammates reminisce about Highland Home.

“You’ll have something to tell your kids about and to brag about because no one else did it,” junior running back Johnny Lockett said. “It’s been a team goal since the season started. First we wanted to beat Thomasville two times in a row because hadn’t anybody done that. Now we want to win 30 in a row.”

“We tell them all the time that there is just so much to play for,” Luker said of a team that he says combats complacency every day despite having won three of the last four 1A state titles. “I remind them about it every practice, every day. I think it motivates them. It’s easy for them to come to work and to practice.”

“We talked about it all the time,” senior quarterback Damaraquis Williams said of the team’s potential milestone. “It’s an honor, a great honor.”

Due to an injury sustained during last week’s game against Marengo, Williams will be forced to watch tonight’s effort from the sideline. Still, he remains adamant that he will strive to be a factor in the decision.

“I talk to them and still be a leader by complimenting them and pushing them harder,” he said of his efforts to continue in a leadership capacity despite being unable to play.

His injury will force sophomore quarterback Randy Jackson into the starting role.

“We just expect our kids to be able to step in and play no matter what their age is, no matter who they are,” Luker said. “It doesn’t really limit us because we’re a running football team and a play-action passing football team and that’s just what we’re going to do.”

The Bulldogs have a handful of goals for which they will continue to strive throughout the season. They aim to win 42 games in a row. They look to win a region in which they have never competed. They desire to be the first team in school history to win three straight state championships. But tonight, they will look to adhere to the signs hung about the locker room that instruct them to “Protect the Tradition” as they seek to right a 27-year-old wrong.