Papa’s Foods Funds Football Field Fees

by Mitzi Gates

Papa’s Foods Funds Football Field Fees for LHS and MA for 2012

Pictured are (l-r) MA Head Coach Robbie James, LHS Head Coach Andro
Williams, Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates, and owners of Papa’s Foods, Carter
Echols and Wynne Echols.

As they have done for several decades, the Linden High School and Marengo Academy football teams will share the use of the Linden Athletic Field for all of their home games in the upcoming 2012 season, which kicks off on August 31 for the MA Longhorns’ first home game and on September 14 for the LHS Patriots’ first home game.  Between the two varsity football teams, 10 regular season games will be played on the Linden Athletic Field, lighting up Linden every week on game night with a sight beloved by high school football coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members, and fans: those Friday night lights.

MA Head Coach Robbie James and LHS Head Coach Andro Williams have worked together to schedule their varsity teams’ games on the shared Linden Athletic Field as long as they have been in their current coaching positions – James for past 3 years at MA and Williams for the past 5 years at LHS, but this is the first year they have been required to submit their final schedules to the City of Linden.  This requirement is a result, of course, of  the fact that the City of Linden now owns and manages the Linden Athletic Field.  After talking to James and Williams to verify that their game schedules were complete, Mayor Mitzi Gates requested that the two coaches meet  with her on Monday, July 30, 2012, to review the schedules and to, perhaps, discuss the progress that is underway at the field in preparation for the quickly approaching 2012 season.  The coaches gladly agreed to the requested 1:00 p.m. meeting, having no idea that Gates’ real reason for calling the meeting had very little to do with reviewing schedules and much more to do with a surprise announcement from a local merchant.

According to Gates, “Carter Echols called me a week or so ago to let me know that Papa’s Foods desired to make a financial contribution to the City’s newly acquired Linden Athletic Field and that the contribution should be specifically earmarked to benefit the LHS and MA varsity football teams.  He then said that he had heard that the fee for the use of the field on varsity game nights would be $400, and he wanted to know if that was, in fact, accurate.  I told him it was, and the thought ran through my mind that Papa’s Foods might want to cover the cost of each team’s first home game of 2012 as a way of showing their support of the two schools’ recent signing of an agreement with the City.  As it turns out, I was close in interpreting the spirit of Carter’s phone call, but I had completely and wildly underestimated the scope of Papa’s Foods’ generosity, which was to contribute enough to cover the field fees for ALL of the varsity regular season games the two schools will play on their home field during the 2012 season.  In fact, as it turned out, Papa’s Foods was ready to write a $5,000 check to the City, which would actually be enough to cover the field fees for all varsity AND non-varsity field fees for the regular 2012 season games.  I was overwhelmed and overjoyed, and I knew the schools would be, too.”

Gates explained that while Echols said Papa’s Foods didn’t want any special recognition from the City Council or a public thank you, she insisted that he and Wynne Echols make the announcement in person to representatives from the schools.  Both Echols agreed and said that if Gates would invite Coach James and Coach Williams to a meeting, they would be on hand to wish them all the best for the 2012 football season and to let them know that their regular season field fees had already been paid.  Gates was more than happy to oblige, and that is when she called the coaches to set up the “football schedule meeting” that unbeknownst to them would have a surprise ending thanks to the presence of the father and son Echols.

Upon greeting the coaches with warm handshakes and hellos, Wynne Echols said, “Mitzi invited us to be a part of this meeting, and we’re honored to be here to wish you both and the teams you coach a great season on the Linden Athletic Field.  We have a unique situation here in Linden with a shared football field, and we appreciate the important part you play in making it work so that those boys you coach can do what they love to do and what this community loves to watch them do – play football.  Seeing those Friday night lights means more than you might imagine to our town, and Papa’s Foods wants to help you with the expenses that we know are involved in fielding a team and lighting up Linden on game night.  We thought about how we might best express to Linden City Schools and Marengo our appreciation and support for what they mean to our community, and this is what we came up with. It is with great pleasure that we present this check to the City of Linden on your behalf as our way of saying ‘Go, team! Lead us on to victory!’ It’s our hope that this contribution toward paying your field fees will be a help to both the academic and athletic success of all of our students.”

Following the surprise announcement and the presentation of the check, the two coaches could do little more than smile and shake their heads in disbelief as they offered thank yous and agreed that “this is incredible,” “this is wonderful,” “I don’t know what to say.”

According to Carter Echols, “Our reason for making this contribution to the City to benefit both the Longhorns and the Patriots is twofold.  First and foremost, it’s all about the kids.  This gift to the City allows us to support the students at both schools, which is something we do every year through buying ads and making donations just like I’m sure all Linden merchants do.  We just decided that this year was the year that we would stretch ourselves over and above our usual level of support and focus our giving on a larger one-time gift that would benefit both schools and that would hopefully have an impact on not only the football players and their coaches but also on every k-12 student, their parents, teachers, principals, board members, superintendents – everybody affiliated with the schools who will be there faithfully on Friday nights to support their team.  This gift is also Papa’s Foods’ way of partnering with the City and every stakeholder in our schools in an effort to support not only our students and their teams but also, and most importantly, our town.  Supporting Linden, our hometown, is a common goal we all share, and Papa’s is glad to be able to be a part of that.”

The LHS Patriots will play at home on Sept. 14 (vs. St. Lukes), Sept. 27 (vs. Wilcox), Oct. 5 (Homecoming vs. ALJ), Oct. 26 (vs. Fruitdale), and Nov. 2 (vs. Southern Choctaw).

The MA Longhorns will play at home on Aug. 31 (vs. Eastwood), Sept. 13 (vs. Patrician), Sept. 28 (Homecoming vs. Meadowview), and Oct. 12 (vs. Sparta), and Oct. 25 (vs. Southern).

Kick off time for these varsity games at the Linden Athletic Field is 7:00 p.m.  Tickets may be purchased at the gate on game night.  For season ticket information, call Margie Jones at Linden High School at 295-4287 or Tammy Freeman at Marengo Academy at 295-4151.  For a complete listing of LHS and MA varsity and non-varsity football games, home and away, go to