At the Sept. 2 Coffee County Schools Board of Education meeting the board received a formal request from a number of former students to name the football field at Gamecock Stadium after former coach Leavy Boutwell. The board also heard from a concerned parent over the school system’s mask policy.
Former New Brockton Gamecocks Dr. Tripp Marshall, Todd Boland and Enterprise State Community College President Matt Rodgers made the request to name the field at Gamecock Stadium after Boutwell.
Boutwell was the head football coach at New Brockton from 1979 through 1989 and was also the head coach at Florala from 1991-1992, Geneva from 1996-2002 and served as head coach at Northview in 2003. At New Brockton, Boutwell’s Gamecock teams went 94-27 with five playoff appearances, one undefeated regular season and the school’s one and only appearance in a state championship game.
Boutwell was a star offensive lineman at Elba High School and went on to play at Troy State University before taking over at New Brockton upon his graduation. Boutwell’s first New Brockton team posted a 9-1 record, the first winning season ever in the school’s history. His 1988 team, which finished as Class 2A State Runner-Up, is the only team in New Brockton history to win more than one playoff game in a season.
Boutwell was inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and previously served as principal at Dale County High School before returning to the football field in Florida, where he last served as defensive coordinator at Marianna High School. Leavy is currently the defensive coordinator at Houston County High School.
Rodgers was the starting quarterback on Boutwell’s 1988 team and spoke on behalf of the other former players in requesting that the field at Gamecock Stadium become Leavy Boutwell Field.
“Instead of mentioning his records and accomplishments I want to talk about the man that got me here today,” Rodgers said of Boutwell. “I was blessed with two wonderful parents but Coach Boutwell also made a profound impact on me.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I left high school because of the experiences I had playing at New Brockton High School. There is no doubt that playing for Coach Boutwell led me into coaching and later into administration where I now have the huge honor of serving as president at ESCC.”
After graduating from New Brockton, Rodgers received degrees from the University of Alabama and Troy University-Dothan, and then went on to serve as a teacher and coach at Zion Chapel School, Andalusia High School and Enterprise High School. Rodgers was a coach and teacher at EHS from 2001 until becoming assistant principal in 2007. He served as EHS principal for six years before becoming the president at ESCC. Rodgers gave much of the credit for his success to the lessons he learned from Boutwell.
“I learned many lessons of hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and dedication during those days playing for Coach Boutwell,” Rodgers said. “These lessons have served me well and I am appreciative of learning under someone that valued hard work and discipline.
“He was tough and hard-nosed but he cared about his players and he put a product on the field that was going to fight for New Brockton. Coach Boutwell was tough but an inspirational leader that showed us that hard work does pay off.”
Rodgers has been battling a diagnosis of cancer over the summer and said that the lessons Boutwell taught him have come into play during that battle.
“Many of you know I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer in May,” Rodgers said. “I’m currently going through chemotherapy and someone asked me the other day what it was like and the only answer I can give is that it’s tough.
“You get knocked down, you get back up. You get knocked down again, you get back up again. Those are the lessons that I learned from coach. We may have gotten knocked down but we never stayed down. I can tell you that I rely on those lessons that I learned from Coach Boutwell every single day that I battle colon cancer.”
Boutwell’s care for his players didn’t end upon graduation as Rodgers said that Boutwell has stayed in contact with him and has been one of the voices that has pushed him to beat cancer.
“There are very few days that coach hasn’t texted me or called me or done something to reach out and check on me and I am very appreciative of that,” Rodgers said. “The minute he heard that I was diagnosed he got in his truck and drove to New Brockton to where we live and I met him at the door.
“The first place we went to was Gamecock Stadium. We reminisced about the good times during those old playing and coaching days. I don’t know what my eventual outcome will be. Anyone with stage four cancer of anything doesn’t know what that outcome may be. My Lord and Savior knows but we are going to battle this thing every single day and (Boutwell) is one of the people encouraging me to battle every single day.”
Rodgers said that no coach that has ever roamed the sideline at New Brockton has been quite like Boutwell.
“Coach Boutwell took young boys and molded them into young men,” Rodgers emphasized. “I will take these life lessons and keep them close to my heart and use them as I continue to battle (cancer). There have been a lot of good coaches that have come to New Brockton but none of them on the level of Coach Boutwell. It is with great Gamecock Pride that I respectfully ask the board to consider naming the field after Coach Boutwell.”
The school board told Rodgers and his former teammates that they would take the request under advisement but no decision was made at the Sept. 2 meeting. The board also heard from a concerned parent of the school’s recent mask policy.
Coffee County parent Michael Matherly spoke before the board and accused the board of making its decision based solely on money.
“I came here last week and your buddy and you were sitting face to face, no mask and no this or that,” Matherly said as he pointed to a member of the board. “You don’t have one on now and I saw a few other walk out of here without a mask and then come back in and put one on for show.
“To me that is junk. We are suffocating our kids with these masks and only doing it for funding. If y’all are scared and stuff like that then so be it but for our kids to hardly have no percentage of being harmed – unless they have some underlying issue – we’re coming here and just doing it for the funding. The only reason we are trying to keep these kids in school is for the funding. We’re not doing it for health benefits, we’re doing it for the money.”
Matherly claimed he would rather his child get COVID-19 than be forced to wear a mask.
“I have a five-year-old little girl that I would rather catch COVID than be suffocated by this ‘dang ole mask eight hours a day,” he emphatically said. “People have health issues and if they want it to be in school and mask up then that’s their choice. That should be our choice, this is our kids. We’re taxpayers, we pay y’alls salary.”
Matherly went on to call COVID-19 “fictitious” and made claims about the efficiency of masks.
“We’re suffocating our kids with this fictitious COVID crap that I believe myself is like the flu or cold and yes it steps up here or there,” Matherly said. “OSHA came out with these masks saying that in only three minutes your carbon dioxide levels go up and oxygen levels go down. We’re getting kids sicker because we’re wearing this junk and y’all are mandating our kids.”
The claim about OSHA has been debunked by numerous outlets – including USA Today, Reuters and others – and OSHA itself makes no mention of facial coverings “decreasing oxygen and raising carbon dioxide levels” on its COVID-19 FAQ page.
Matherly went on to make accusations about U.S. Chief Medical Advisor to the President Anthony Fauci, as well.
“Y’alls doctors and health officials above y’alls heads bow down to ole’ Faucci but he and his peers said in a paper they wrote in 2008 about the Spanish Flu in 1918 or 1919 that most of the deaths came from wearing masks because of the different bacteria and pneumonia that came from the masks,” Matherly said.
This claim has also been debunked by numerous outlets and the paper in question can be read in its entirety online. The paper, co-authored by Faucci, found that bacterial pneumonia was the cause of the majority of the deaths during the Spanish Flu but no mention was made about masks whatsoever. The paper in question can be read at https://tinyurl.com/k6e6dprk.
Matherly questioned why football players are not forced to wear masks despite sweating on one another and went on to close his remarks by speaking about communism.
“We’re doing this and we need to stop it before it spreads,” Matherly said. “You see how this government is turning. We are going so far left that we will never be out of it.
“We’re going communist if y’all don’t step up as a people and don’t just do it for the money. Do your research and guide it that way. We’re doing it for bad reasons just to keep them in school.”
School board president Brian McLeod said that he believes the school system’s administration is making the right decisions.
“Your thoughts are welcome but we have confidence that our school administration is going to make the right decisions to keep our kids safe and keep them in school, that is our goal,” he said. “We can sit here and debate it all day long but the bottom line is we have people that we trust to make decisions that is best for our students and keep our schools operating and our kids learning.
“I had checked the numbers and at the end of school last year I think we had kids that missed over 10,000 days of school due to quarantines. That is a tragedy in itself that we don’t have kids in the classroom when we have an opportunity to do that and that is the basis of this decision. We aren’t scientists and we aren’t doctors but we’re not here to make a decision on whether masks work or not. We are here to trust the people we put in charge, our healthcare workers and our administration to make the right decisions and I think they are doing that.”
Coffee County Schools Superintendent Kelly Cobb also published the school’s most recent quarantine and COVID-19 positivity numbers following the mask policy, which has seen a decrease in both numbers. In total Coffee County Schools had 47 positive COVID-19 cases, down from 155 on Aug. 19, and the number of total students quarantined since then has decreased from 451 to just 47.
“The district’s goal is to continue to provide high-quality face-to-face instruction and extracurricular activities for all students who attend Coffee County Schools,” Cobb said in a statement. “Additionally, we are working together to avoid going virtual or having a school closure.
“I want to express my appreciation to everyone for working together to accomplish the goal. Remember, ‘We Are Better Together’ in good times, but it is even more important to work together in these challenging times.”