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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Salem football fans -- there for their team

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bruce Springstun grills burgers and hot dogs as a group of Salem Greyhounds fans await the last regular season game of the year, which resulted in a victory over Cross Country to give the Greyhounds a perfect 10-0 season. Head Coach Cody Curtis says Salem's rabid fans have kept his team motivated, as it approaches the playoffs. [Order this photo]
It is still 90 minutes to game time, but Salem football fans, hyped up on the team's perfect record and conference championship, are already gathering outside Greyhounds' stadium for the Thursday, Nov. 1, grand finale to the regular season. There is excitement as fans wonder if Cross County High School will spoil the chance to go 10 and 0. Many are getting barbecue nachos at the No Buns Barbecue trailer, but one group gathered at a big R-V is producing serious smoke, as Bruce Springstun grills some burgers and hot dogs.

"It's a lot of fun," Springstun said of following Greyhounds' football. "Our son has started Mighty Mite football, and he may be on the (Greyhounds) team some day."

"I started shooting games for fun, but it's turned into a passion," Springstun's wife, Christy, the team's unofficial photographer, said.

The Springstun's lead a group of about 12 loyal Greyhounds' fans, who have gone to every game this perfect season -- piling into the R-V for away games, trips that didn't end until arrival back in Salem at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

"Going to Mayflower (in central Arkansas) was a long drive, and it was raining almost the whole time," Jody Sparks, mother of linebacker Justus Sparks, said. "It was worth it though. They are a much bigger school and we beat them. They (Mayflower fans) didn't think we would."

Sparks adds the Oct. 2 journey to East Poinsett County was the "roughest and most stressful." That is because EPC is a longtime rival, they were ranked number two in the state and Salem has rarely defeated them.

"We have this great season going, but we didn't know what was going to happen," Sparks said, "but we did it (upset EPC on its home turf)."

First year Head Coach Cody Curtis said loyal fans have been a great comfort to the team, especially on the road.

"Every week I turn around in the bus on the way to road games, and there have been five or six cars following us," Curtis said.

"It's been a great season," Bryon Price, a 1984 Salem grad, said from the back of his pickup truck, as he ate nachos with his family. "We finally got our first championship, since 1976."

Price remembers back in 1976, the year Salem began a football program. While Salem has had some good teams over the years, Price ranks this one the best ever.

Is he surprised at how well the team has performed?

"Yes and no," Price replies. "No, I'm not surprised, because I knew they had a good talent level going in. But, yes, I'm a little surprised, since we have a new coaching staff, and it usually takes a while for everything to gel with new coaches."

Back at the RV party, I ask Vikki Southerland, tight end Marcus Cagle's mother, if she has been to every game.

"Yeah, every game since the second grade," Sutherland laughs. Like many parents on the team, she has patiently sat through countless games from Mighty-Mite league play on into school team play.

"These are good kids," Christy Springstun said. "They know I'll have game photos on Facebook and they get on there and see what I came up with. I don't get paid for this, but they leave a lot of comments, and let me know how much they enjoy the pictures."

The tailgaters say they will be there to the finish, going where ever tournament plan takes them. After a bye next week, the Greyhounds' first tournament game will be a home contest.

That is something Coach Curtis believes will help his team get off to a good start.

"The fan base is amazing. It's not just this year. These fans have been watching these kids for years," Curtis said. "At home games, we couldn't get any more support from the local community. We've had a different church feed us a meal before every home game. To see these stands full every week, is just a great feeling for these kids and us coaches."

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