The Brookland Bearcats fielded a varsity football team for the first time in school history in 2012. Seven years later, they’re still searching for their first playoff berth.
Now, the promised land is in sight for the Bearcats for the first time.
Playoffs in Sight for Brookland Bearcats
Brookland Football History
When the football program launched at Brookland in 2008, the future of the program was nothing more than an abstract idea. At the time, only 7th and 8th graders could participate as Friday Night Lights seemed a lifetime away. Finally, in 2012, the journey officially began.
In the inaugural season, the Bearcats managed a 3-6 record with a lone win in the 4A-3 conference. A year later, they set a school-high for wins with a 4-6 record, though they still compiled a dismal 1-6 conference mark. Just as the program was looking up, Brookland went on to win just seven of 30 games in the next three seasons.
In 2017, Brookland broke through their slump, posting a school-record 5-5 overall mark for the year, but a 2-5 conference mark left the Bearcats at home during the postseason. They then took another step back in 2018, going just 2-8 for the year.
Now, in their final season as a 4A school, the Bearcats are in an unfamiliar situation. They are one win away from their first playoff appearance with one game left in the season.
Last Chance at Glory
Since the inception of Brookland football, there has been one ultimate goal: the 4A state playoffs. That monumental stepping stone has remained as nothing more than a goal in Brookland for nearly eight years. Now, it has fabricated into a tangible reality.
The Bearcats (4-5 overall) are currently in fifth place in the 4A-3 conference with a 3-3 mark in league play. A fourth win would guarantee a spot in the top-five, good enough for a spot in the postseason. Wins over Pocahontas (35-26), Cave City (35-7) and Highland (35-18) have the Bearcats in position to make the jump, but losses to Westside — on the final play of the game — and Trumann have Bearcat fans sweating.
The heartbreaking one-point loss at home to Westside still stings weeks later. Had the Bearcats won, they could have possibly already clinched a postseason spot. Instead, they have to edge out Trumann to clinch. The Wildcats won the head-to-head matchup and thus have the tiebreaker if the two teams finish with the same record.
Seasons on the Line
Trumann is one game behind the Bearcats as they take on winless Cave City Thursday night. The Wildcats are playing for their season, as a loss knocks them out of playoff contention and punches the ticket for the Bearcats. A win, though, keeps them alive.
If the Wildcats win Thursday night, Brookland will be the team with their season on the line Friday against Rivercrest. A win will spell glory for a program starved for success. A loss will simply continue the norm of spending the latter weeks of November at home.
If Trumann does, in fact, force a win-or-stay-home situation for the Bearcats, they won’t just be playing for themselves. They will represent the cumulative history of the Brookland football program.
We Are the Tradition
In 2008, former head coach Kelly Mills installed a slogan: “We Are the Tradition.” The slogan was printed everywhere and preached in practice throughout the early days of Bearcat football. Individual players could “earn” shirts that read “I AM the Tradition”, a badge of honor on campus and around the town of 3,000. The tradition of Bearcat football fell upon those young men, whether they wanted it to or not.
Fast forward over a decade and the foundation has been built. Those who started the program are long gone, but the sacrifices they made and the trials they faced have become something greater than the individual. They have become a program full of pride for that small railroad town.
Win or lose, the Brookland community will never give up on their football team. Pride runs deep in Northeast Arkansas, and the Bearcats are no exception. However, a win for the Bearcats would shake the earth. A playoff berth may be nothing more than expectations for some programs, but for the Bearcats, it would be a harbinger of hope and proof that hard work and perseverance pay off in the long run.
It would not just be for the players, but for the community and all those that laid the foundation that is Bearcat football.
Brookland Bearcats vs Rivercrest Colts
Kickoff is slated for Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 P.M. at Brookland High School.