LOCUST FORK, Ala. (WIAT) – It takes a special kind of tough to play 3A football in Alabama. Teams are talented to go toe-to-toe with bigger schools, but small enough that depth can be a real issue. That’s why during the simmering summer mornings in Locust Fork you’ll see the football team running stadium stairs, flipping tires, and pushing trucks. “It’s crucial because the same guys that play offense and defense have to play special teams too,” said head coach Chris Musso as he watched his team end the day with a light-hearted game of touch football. “They’ll do whatever we ask them to do, and all these guys are good guys. They’re hard workers.”
The hard work has paid off on the field. The Hornets have finished .500 or better each of Musso’s three seasons at the helm after suffering ten consecutive losing seasons from 2003-2012; However, this summer the team is working for more than wins.
Jewel Staton stood on her front porch marveling at the work being done in her yard. “They are just unbelievable in how good they are and how much they are trying to help somebody,” she said behind her dark sunglasses. The elderly woman, who lives just a couple miles from Locust Fork High School, is watching the football team sweat away in her yard. The players are cutting tree limbs, mowing the grass, building a new fence, and even picking blueberries for Mrs. Staton. She is a widow, and Musso has made it a point for his players to perform service projects after practice for someone in need. “The Bible tells you to take care of the orphans and the widows,” said Musso. “So, anytime we can give back and take care of anybody that we can take care of we certainly want to do that.”
Despite the fact that they have already put it more than two hours of work at summer conditioning the players don’t complain. In fact, they seem to have fun with the yard work. “They’re my brothers,” said senior quarterback Chase Rice. “Being out every day in the heat, eventually you develop a bond.”
“We’ll be burning plenty of calories today,” Rice added with a laugh as the summer sun beat down on him as he tore apart a decaying fence.
Mrs. Staton isn’t the first window to benefit from the Hornets’ hard work. The players on the team that also play basketball performed a similar project Wednesday before leaving for a camp at the University of Alabama. The team did their best to make her feel like the most important person in the world while they were there. Every student-athlete introduced themselves to her and littered the air with “Yes ma’am,” and “No ma’am,” as they tried to meet the high standards her husband always took with his yard. “I like it done the right way,” she said with a tired smile. She looked back at the dozen or so players working diligently on her fence and thought about her husband. “He would love it,” she said. “He would enjoy being out here seeing it done.”