Courtesy Brandon K. Scott / Bearkat Athletics / GoBearkats.com
The amazing 12-0 run of the Sam Houston State football team plus the tremendous spirit generated by Bearkat fans, alumni and students have turned Elliott T. Bowers into the party place of Huntsville.
More than 8,100 fans filled the stadium and sat on the nearly grassy hills to watch Sam Houston rally for a 34-27 victory over Stony Brook Saturday Dec. 3.
Now the party continues as the Bearkats roll into the quarterfinals where they host Montana State on Saturday Dec. 10 at 11 a.m.
Anyone who attended Saturday’s victory over Stony Brook will be want to be part of the party again December. To quote the old saying, a good time was had by all.
The parents of two former Bearkats were typical of the fans who gathered at the Bearkat Alley pregame tailgate Saturday for Sam Houston State’s first playoff matchup since 2004.
Jim and Nancy Mosely of Houston used to attend Sam Houston sporting events pretty regularly when their daughter Stephanie spent four years helping lead the university’s softball team to 115-102 record and an NCAA playoff appearance in 2007.
“We’ve been to every LaQuinta in the Southland Conference,” Jim Mosely said with a smirk while sitting on the bed of his truck. “We come out here about twice a year now. We’ve been to the Battle of the Piney Woods the last couple of years. Our son Kyle graduated in August, but when we saw Sam Houston would be here for the playoffs, we knew we were coming.”
With Sam Houston in the playoffs just two seasons after posting a 5-6 record, it was to be expected for more Bearkats and more orange to be present at the stadium than usual.
For the first time this season, the visitor’s section – normally open to students for free with the presentation of their student identification – was nearly full.
So great was the crowd support that, following the final gun the football team rushed to the East stands and celebrated with the student section.
“Our crowd was so loud. That helped us big time,” All-Southland Conference safety and league defensive player of the year Darius Taylor said. “It’s a great feeling to have that kind of support.”
Head coach Willie Fritz agreed.
“This is the loudest I’ve ever heard our fans,” Fritz said whose team’s No. 1 seed in the playoffs earned the Bearkats the home field advantage. “Playing at home in front of fans like ours is huge. We’ve had great support all year.”
No team in the 96-year history of Bearkat football has gone 12-0. Sam Houston stands as the only unbeaten team in the NCAA Division I Football Subdivision and, counting the final two games of the 2010 season, owns a school record 14-game winning streak.
“This is probably the most exciting time for Sam Houston in my lifetime,” said Don Burton, a 1988 graduate of the university and president of the Parent’s Association. “For us, this is the pinnacle.”
Burton’s wife Sharon is also an alumni and member of the Parent’s Association. Their daughter Meghan just received her Master’s degree from Sam Houston in May, and is now employed by the university. The Burton’s are fixtures at Bearkat home games, as the Parent Association tailgates at every event.
“The support of our fans at Bowers Stadium this season has been crucial to the Bearkats’ success on the field in this great championship season,” SHSU director of athletics Bobby Williams said. “Saturday’s game day with Stony Brook and the second round victory was tremendous. We look for all those fans to return this weekend and any fans who missed the fun need last week need to come join the party for the quarterfinals.
“Sam Houston State has the opportunity to make a statement on a national level about what a great university and athletic program we have here. Our local Huntsville and Conroe area businesses have gotten behind the team and we thank everyone for their great support.”
Of course, the lead story was Sam Houston advancing to Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals to face Montana State after prevailing over Stony Brook.
The incredible run for the Bearkats continues.
University President Dr. Dana Gibson greeted the team in the locker room just before the post-game celebration began.
Gibson told the Bearkats that she was sure they would make it all the way.
Even though the moment is bound to come to an end at some point, whether it be a championship in Frisco or a disappointing loss, for now the lyrics of rapper Waka Flocka Flame are blasting through the locker room.
“It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party.”