LITTLE ROCK — In the wake of devastation that is still very apparent and very real, the Vilonia football team begins a season Tuesday playing for a community.
The Eagles will be one of the first Arkansas teams to open the football season as they play Sylvan Hills at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader in the First Security Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium.
During a news conference for the event Wednesday, Vilonia coach Jim Stanley was questioned about the ongoing effect last spring’s tornado has had on his team and the school.
"It impacted every kid and we’re still impacted; I’ve still got a couple of broken windows at my house," Stanley said. "It made it harder to work, especially during the summer. The guys couldn’t be up there (at the school) a lot because they have a lot going on — working on their houses, just a lot of things to take care of. Kids have got to have jobs; a lot of families stressed right now with money. It has been a trying year. But we’re looking forward to a good season."
Stanley thought the team could have a unifying effect.
"If you’ve been to the town of Vilonia, it’s so school-based," he said. "We don’t have a lot there; it’s just school. So when we have any school-based activity — basketball, baseball, football — the whole community comes out and enjoys it. I think this (football) is going to be a good stress relief. Our track program had a great year last year and everybody fell in love watching them because it gives us something positive to look forward to."
During his segment at the podium, Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withlow added praise.
"I’ve always liked coach Stanley; I’ve known him a long time," Withlow said. "It shows the character of these guys (Vilonia athletes). They had a lot going on before the tornado and everything else in the program. His (Stanley’s) character and the character of the team and the program have really shown up in these tough times. I applaud these guys. I have a lot of respect for them."
As the designated home team for the game, Vilonia will be one of the sites for advance ticket sales. Tickets are on sale at the school and all revenue from tickets purchased at Vilonia will be kept by the school.
Tickets are $7 each.