Bridges an icon on BHS chains

Published 8:34 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

If there’s a Brookhaven High School football game in town andyou want to find John Bridges, look no farther than King Field. Youwill find Bridges on the visitors’ sideline, working with the chaingang.

He has been moving those yardage sticks up and down the footballfield for 51 years. He turned 63 on April 9 and plans to continuehis devoted routine every Friday night.

Bridges, a frail-looking man with a feisty spirit, obviouslyenjoys his work. His blue eyes light up when he talks football. Youcan find him on the sidelines in Stone Stadium when Copiah-LincolnCommunity College has a home game, either Thursdays orSaturdays.

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Retired from Homelight Textron after 25 years, Bridges maintainsa joyful spirit. He enjoys watching the Ole Miss Rebels in his freetime. He has two sons and two daughters, plus sixgrandchildren.

“I just love sports and I enjoy helping the schools out if I cando it,” said Bridges. He said Paul Case and Ralph Boling got himstarted working with the chain gang when he was 12 years old. Heremembers serving at BHS games in the early 1960s. “I worked withPaul Case when Coach (Paul) Moyer and them were there.”

Rain or shine, sleet or snow, a football game is rarely canceledbecause of the weather. It’s true for the chain gang, too.

Presently, Bridges works the chains and down marker with a solidBHS group of Wayne Ashmore, Nolan Bowman, Steve Bowman, GregBowman, John Bridges, Jr., Kendall D. Bridges and Toby Wells.

“If it wasn’t for us, the schools would be in a mess if wedidn’t do it,” Bridges noted. “All the referees say we are the bestcrews they have worked with.”

The chain gang has an up-front and personal contact with coachesand players on the sidelines. They hear a lot, see a lot and learna lot.

Ole Brook head football coach and athletic director TuckerPeavey graduated from BHS in 1981. Bridges was on the sidelinesthen and remains an integral part of the program.

A few years ago, Peavey presented Bridges with a BHS letterman’sjacket during the team’s annual awards banquet.

“John is a committed football fan,” said Peavey. “He does hispart to help with the things that go on Friday night. He lovesPanther football.”

Bridges said he has been on the Co-Lin sidelines for around 50years. Two additions to the chain gang at Co-Lin are Wade Alexanderand Herbert Davis.

Memories of severe weather are best remembered at Co-Lin games.Bridges recalled one of the coldest games he worked and it was backin the ’60s.

He also recalled the wettest game.

“Co-Lin was playing over at Magee. “It was fair as everything.About halfway through the first quarter, the bottom fell out. Ithink we stood in water knee deep. That’s when Ray Stokes and themwere working the chains.”

A community-minded volunteer, Bridges is ready to help anyone.He volunteers at the Exchange Club’s annual fair, helping run themilk jug, baseball throw. He enjoys helping people.

With pride, Bridges talks about how he formed and promoted theNew Orleans Saints Super Bowl Parade down Brookway Boulevard lastFebruary.

A member of the local Moose Lodge, he enjoys socializing withhis friends and lodge members. “Any other time, you’ll find me atthe house,” or at the football field.

When last seen, Professor Hoopla B.S. was performing a raindance adjacent to his garden plot. The relentless sun and100-degree heat had taken its toll on the butterbeans andcucumbers. Even the tomatoes were shriveling.

Perhaps that’s why his list of predictions was sealed in awaterproof plastic baggie. The dance worked wonders. If youremember, 2009 was a rain-soaked football season. Hopefully, 2010will provide a drier schedule.

Gazing at his crystal ball, the grizzled prognosticatoracknowledges a busy weekend of high school football, starting witha Thursday night special. Hoopla will provide a preview of thewinners each week during the long campaign.

Personally speaking, Hoopla hopes every team has a winningseason and reason to celebrate after Friday night. These coachesand young men have worked hard to put a successful product on thegridiron.

Lawrence County at Callaway: Newell Field inJackson will provide the backdrop as the Chargers showcase one ofthe best teams in the Capital City. Cougars are in the rebuildingmode. Callaway 23-14.

Brookhaven Academy at Silliman Institute:Defending state champion Cougars have a tough act to follow as theystart their season on a winning note. Brookhaven Academy 31-13.

Loyd Star at Franklin County: Two new headcoaches showcase their teams in Meadville as Coach Rickey O’Quinn’sBulldogs avenge last season’s setback. Franklin County 24-12.

Bogue Chitto at Madison St. Joe: Bobcatsscratch and claw but come up short. St. Joe 27-14.

West Lincoln at Williams-Sullivan: There’s ameasure of revenge in the air as the Bulldogs avenge last year’sovertime loss at West Lincoln. Williams-Sullivan 18-6.

Copiah Academy at Riverfield, La.: Colonelsendure the long ride to Rayville and suffer a close setback.Riverfield 21-13.

North Pike at Richland: Highly-touted Jaguars are expected to beClass 4A title contenders as Coach Chris Smith builds achampionship program. North Pike 42-6.

In other area action, Jackson Academy overParklane Academy 37-10, Tylertown over McComb 14-6, Amite Countyover Crystal Springs 28-13 and Natchez over Jefferson County32-19.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail