Semifinal game draws huge crowd, devoted fans [with gallery]

Published 1:01 am Saturday, November 26, 2016

Andalusia Bulldog fans might have set an attendance record Friday, when a crowd estimated at 4,000 to 5,000 people showed up to cheer their team in the semi-finals of the AHSAA high school playoffs.

An estimated 2,000 advance tickets were sold in Andalusia alone, and the city set up additional portable bleachers on the visitors’ side to accommodate the crowd. There were a few seats still available in the stadium, but there also were people seated on the grass and standing in the endzone.

“There haven’t been this many people here since I’ve been here,” AHS principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare said of the crowd. “This is the most we’ve had.”

The spirited crowd began arriving early to claim those seats. Laurie Dean, Shonna Reeves, Hannah Fleming and Caroline Reeves were at the very front of the line Friday.

Dean arrived at 3 to get her spot.

“Normally, I get here at 4:30,” she said. “I like to be at the front of the line.”

Her son is #36, Andrew Dean.

Reeves said she got there early, “so we can get our seats.”

She was in good company. Regular-season reserved seats are first-come, first-serve when playoffs begin. As a result, Andalusia fans arrive early to stake their claims.

Reeves is a Pleasant Home grad, but said she hasn’t missed a game this year. She’s following her nephews, Matthew and Caleb Fleming, #51 and #73, on the Bulldog team.

D.J. Daris works for Harper Electric. Friday, his boss, Mark Harper, sent him to the stadium at noon to make sure he got the Harpers a spot in line.

Daris said there were Handley fans already waiting in the parking lot when he arrived.

Marrianne Harper Dubose also was near the front of the line with a red wagon full of gear. To the amusement of those who waited with her, she had Pizza Hut deliver supper to the stadium.

The former AHS cheerleader and mother of a current Bulldog said she packed five air horns, seven shakers, four pom poms, four signs, umbrellas, blankets, gum, cow bells, and stadium seats. She passes the noisemakers out to those who sit near her, she said.

Before the gates were open, she

channelled her nervous energy by leading cheers.

“Give me an A,” she yelled, and the crowd joined in.

If most fans had nervous energy, Ramona Wilson had more reasons than most to be anxious. Her sons, Trent Taylor and Ray Wilson, are the head coach and offensive coordinator, and her grandson, Ethan Wilson, is the quarterback.

As she waited in line, Mrs. Wilson said she’s accustomed to the emotion, and was anxious when her sons played ball, too.

“We have a long line of football players in our family,” she said. Her brother, Evergreen native Wayne Frazier, played at Auburn, and went on to a pro career.

On the opposite side of the stadium, the Bulldog moms were hosting a tailgate tent on the practice field. Volunteers painted faces, served food, and socialized as they waited for the game to begin.

Andalusia’s Randy Robertson had a full tailgate party of his own, setting up a motor home, grill and tents.

“We were planning to tailgate at Alabama this weekend, but then this came up,” Robertson said.

Robertson was grilling hamburgers and sausage, and enjoying visiting with the crowd that joined him.