It was more than a celebration of high school football.

For the second consecutive year, students from Eagleville School, faculty, administrators, parents and members of the community gathered at the football stadium for the annual Eagles Community Tailgate to mark the beginning of the school year.

There were hamburgers on the grill, cold drinks and high school football. They haven’t always had high school football in Eagleville — a rural town of less than 1,000 residents — but for the past 13 years the boys of fall have been the focal point of Friday nights. And there’s plenty of anticipation for the upcoming 2016 season.

“It’s a small town football atmosphere here,” said Bruce Haley, who is beginning his 34th year as an agriculture education instructor at the school. “There are a couple things that make it Eagleville: churches and schools.”

He added, “Everybody is involved.”

In the early 2000s, Haley once spoke to the Rutherford County School Board as a parent of two sons —Isaac and Lytton — and his desire for them to have the opportunity to grow up playing football, but it was the late Rhonda Holton who worked tirelessly to make football a reality.

Holton, who came to Eagleville from Chapel Hill, originally arrived as an assistant principal and later became principal.

“She couldn’t believe we didn’t have football,” recalled Haley. “That was something she took under her belt.”

Teri Cook, who along with her husband Lance, have been involved in Eagle football for the past decade, said, “(Holton) was instrumental in wanting the school to have a football team. You can have other sports and, like I said, my son (Ethan) plays those sports, but football has a unique quality that brings the community out on Friday night.”

Much like a Monday morning watercooler, the football stadium is a rally-point for Eagleville and a center-point of pride for those who call the town home.

“She’s the mother of football here,” said Bill Tollett, who succeeded Holton as principal of the only K-12 school in Rutherford County. He is a firm believer in the notion that high school football gave the town, that many would otherwise overlook, an identity of its own.

“There’s nothing like it, I’m talking on Friday nights” . Read the rest of the story here.

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