BILLINGSLEY, AL (WSFA) - The start of the new football season is less than two weeks away for most public and private schools and out of all of them, Billingsley School is probably the most excited.
The team hasn't played at home in two years. Landon Messer remembers all too well how he felt when he and his team were told they wouldn't play a game at home during the 2017 season.
"It was disappointing. Not many people who usually came to the game came," said Messer, who is a senior at Billingsley and a stalwart on the defensive line.
School principal Greg Pittman made the decision based on safety. The old concrete bleachers built decades ago were simply too old. The 5 home games last year were played at Marbury, Jemison and Faulkner University.
"There are some people, without their help we could not have gotten this done," said Pittman.
Mims Field now sports new aluminum bleachers, $200,000 worth for the home and visiting teams, on new foundation. The new seats opened the gate to even more improvements: new goal posts, new light poles, a fresh coat of paint on the concession stand, and the new scoreboard is on the way. Much of this was donated.
"We're excited. The players are very excited," said Billingsley School head football coach Marvin Morton.
Morton is counting on the newness of it all to become a motivating factor for a winning season and maybe something more.
"This year, us being back home and being familiar with our surroundings, it should be a tremendous boost for us," said Coach Morton.
Even though the Bears ended the season last year with a disappointing 3 and 7 record, they may have gained something far more important in the long run: a life lesson.
"No matter how hard it seems, it will work out in the end," said Messer.
The first home game is against Isabella on Aug. 31. Landon Messer is counting the days along with coach Morton. Meantime, school leaders are encouraging volunteers to show up Saturday morning at 7 a.m. for a 'clean-up' day. Most of the improvements have been completed and volunteers are needed to prepare for the season.
The school is requesting volunteers to bring cleaning supplies and equipment such as weed eaters, pressure-washers and wheelbarrows.
Mims Field was named after the late community leader Park Mims. Mims provided equipment and labor to get the field completed long ago.