At the 2020 Enterprise High School Football Banquet on Jan. 7, the coaching staff honored seniors and also presented the Bill Bacon Wildcat Award for the first time.
After addressing and thanking a number of supporters, parents and support staff, the coaches recognized the entire team before honoring the senior class with special helmet plaques.
The Bill Bacon Wildcat Award was actually designed to debut after the 2019 season but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the planned banquet to be cancelled, meaning 2019 recipients Jackson Darlington and Robert Ellis had to accept their awards behind closed doors with head coach Rick Darlington.
This season the Wildcats got the chance to present the award, while Bacon also gave a speech to the team and helped present the award named in his honor. Bacon said one of the things that touched him most was hearing the love EHS coaches have for their players and used a humorous story about how not all coaches feel that way to back that up.
“The most impressive thing that I’ve seen tonight is hearing these coaches talk about these young men and the things they’ve had to say about them,” Darlington said. “Every one of them said they wish they had that guy back (when speaking about the players).
“I remember a reporter once was talking to a coach and the coach had just come off an 0-10 season and a really tough time. The reporter figured the coach had a really young team and one that would get better with time. He asked the coach, ‘Do you have a lot of those guys coming back next year’ and the coach said, ‘I sure hope not.’ All of these guys have made a place in the hearts of these coaches and you can tell when someone has a true love for their players and the players for their coaches. It’s a real amazing thing.”
Bacon gave the 2020 Wildcats possibly the biggest compliment they could receive, as well.
“This team here I’ve enjoyed watching as much as any Enterprise team since I retired,” Bacon said. “The big reason is they weren’t the biggest or the strongest or the most talented but they didn’t read the newspapers and let people tell them when they were supposed to win or lose. If they had done that they would have just told Coach they weren’t going to show up for the Auburn game.
“That didn’t happen and I think one person in the State of Alabama thought Enterprise would beat Auburn. That was a phenomenal effort by a group of young men that just would not say the other team was better than they were. They said, ‘You are going to have to prove it’ and they absolutely gave everything they had as they did every Friday night.”
Bacon’s parting words spoke of his belief in the direction the EHS football program is heading.
“I’m not around all the time but I watch all the time and I know when a program is headed in the right direction,” Bacon flatly said. “This program is absolutely headed in the right direction.”
Darlington said that he and his staff didn’t want to give a bunch of individual awards but instead wanted to give one out to the player – or players – that are the face of the Wildcat team and represent everything that the program and what the award’s namesake stands for.
“Everyone knows that Enterprise football will always be Bill Bacon. He coached here for 27 years, won 214 games and changed thousands of lives,” Darlington said. “I’m proud that we can play in a way that would honor him. Coach will come by every now and then and talk to me and I hang on his every word like I’m 15 because I want him to be proud of the team we put out there because of the legacy he left here.
“The coaching staff said we are going to give one award and said we’re going to do it in honor of Coach Bacon because he is synonymous with Enterprise football.”
The Bill Bacon Wildcat Award will be presented every year to the player – or players – that most exemplifies athletic, academic and moral excellence on and off the field.
“We don’t want the trophy to just go to the best players, we want to have an award that would recognize a young man that was not just a great player but also a great teammate, a great student and someone that was a man built for others with great morals and great faith.”
The EHS coaching staff votes on the winner and in 2020 senior linebacker Tanner Rogers and senior offensive lineman Cole Killingsworth tied for the award.
After being presented with the award, Killingsworth spoke on behalf of the senior class in honoring the coaching staff.
“Right around two years ago, on Jan. 7, 2019, we started our first workouts with Coach (Darlington) and Coach (Jed) Kennedy and everyone,” Killingsworth remembered. “We didn’t know what to expect but we knew things would soon change by our workouts, the way we did things the right way and worked hard.
“He taught us you’re never out of the fight in anything in life, whether it’s a game or school or whatever you’re doing. (Darlington) taught me and the senior class toughness. You can never stop believing, believe in this team. I want to thank him from our senior class.”