Third time the charm for Butler County native David Lowery
Butler County native and Brantley head football coach David Lowery had led the Bulldogs to eight straight region championships. He’d compiled a 122-22 won-loss record. He’d been to the state title game before, twice, losing 13-10 to Courtland in 1999, his first year at the helm, and 21-12 to Addison in 2005.
11 years is a long time to go without a state football title, especially in a small town like Brantley, (pop. 911), where on fall Friday nights the local high school stadium comes alive with the furor of a summer tent revival. The Bulldogs had won two state championships under Roland Jones, (‘93 and ‘98), Lowery’s predecessor, and the title drought had become an albatross hanging around the Brantley football program’s collective neck. Since 2005, Lowery’s teams had bullied its way into the postseason, winning 56 straight region games, but had faded in the playoffs. That included last season’s humiliating 47-7 third-round loss at the hands of perennial 1A powerhouse and eventual state champion Sweet Water.
Perception was that Brantley couldn’t win the big one. And if the football team is an extension of the head coach that meant Lowery couldn’t win the big one.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs, (14-1), thumped Hackelburg 28-13 in the Class 1A title game at Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“Yeah, it was a relief, but there was more excitement for our kids and what they had accomplished,” said Lowery.
Still, the weight of lost opportunities in seasons past had Lowery checking the scoreboard.
“I don’t know how many times I looked at the clock,” he said. “It seemed like the game was taking forever.”
The game winner
Lowery played under the late Roland Pettie at Georgiana High School, graduating in 1983. He lined up on the offensive line at center.
“I remember playing Greenville every year in the first game and that was no fun,” chuckled Lowery. “They dressed out over a 100 and we dressed out about 30. Coach Pettie was a good coach, real business-like, but fair.”
Classmate and Greenville attorney Tim Craig, who played quarterback and wide receiver for the Panthers, said his peers nicknamed Lowery “Fireball” because of his pitching skills in youth league baseball.
“David tried hard in all sports, but I think baseball was his best,” said Craig.
Alton Abrams, then an assistant coach for Georgiana and now principal at the lower Greenville Middle School, remembers Lowery as a football player who demanded perfection in everything he attempted on the field.
“He was big and took pride in his blocking schemes,” said Abrams. “And when you said you needed him to do something you could tell he really wanted to do it.”
And he was smart, said Abrams.
“That class that David was a part of they were super intelligent…they played chess all the time…Man, they were weird!” joked Abrams. “But David was very intelligent, very quiet, and worked super hard in everything he did.”
Even kicking field goals. Abrams said Lowery was like most high school football players before practices began, joking around with teammates, and booting practice field goals. Pettie always had the team go for two-points after a touchdown so the team didn’t even practice for point-after-attempts.
Then came an actual game where the Panthers needed field goal to win.
“Hardly no time on the clock and Coach Pettie pulled David aside and sent him out there to kick the winning field goal,” said Abrams. “And he did it.”
Abrams couldn’t remember the team, the year, or the distance of the field goal.
“We were playing Goshen in 1981 and it was 25 yards,” recalled Lowery. “We beat them 3-0 with no time on the clock. It was just one of those games where we had exhausted just about everything and Coach Pettie decided to try it. I didn’t really have time to think about it.”
Lowery laughed at the memory.
“My first and only field goal,” he said.
Winning the title
How does this year’s Brantley team compare to others he’s coached? It’s not the most talented, said Lowery. He’d put the ‘99 Bulldogs and ‘04 and ‘05 teams near the top if talent was all that was asked for.
“But this year’s team is one of the greatest group of kids and they hung together and wanted to win a state title,” said Lowery. “This year we had 13 seniors and we had them in key places where you need leadership like quarterback and on the offensive line. They worked really hard to get to Tuscaloosa and it was a great experience.”
And now the albatross is off of both Lowery and the Bulldogs.
“Obviously you think about it (not winning a title),” said Lowery. “But we never talked about it. It was just about working hard to get back there.”
Craig said if anyone deserved to finally breakthrough and win a state championship it was Lowery.
“He’s just an all-around good guy, very dedicated to family and church, and it made me feel good to finally see him win it,” said Craig.