October 17, 2007 Edition

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These members of the WRHS Marching PRIDE band are also football players as well as a cheerleader, who do double duty on Friday nights. They are (front, from left): Eric Wise, Kaleb Dodd, Rachael Jackson and C.J. Tate; (standing) Shane Duckworth, Jeb Bridges, Zach Mullen, Brian Archibald and (not pictured) Jake Smith.

At half-time, Bobcat ball players
trade shoulder pads for instruments

John Bland

School activities sometimes overlap, and at no time is this more evident than at Walnut Ridge High School football games. It has been a common sight this fall to see several Bobcat football players toss off their shoulder pads and pick up their band instruments to perform at halftime with the band.

This school year, WRHS band director John Long has five senior high band members on the high school football team as well as one senior high cheerleader who are doing double duty on Friday nights.

Three junior high football players also march in the band, but their games are held on Thursday nights.

Senior high band member-football players are Zach Mullen and C.J. Tate, juniors; and Brian Archibald, Kaleb Dobb and Eric Wise, sophomores. Junior Rachael Jackson, a senior high cheerleader and flute player, also joins the band at the half.

Junior high band member-football players are Shane Duckworth, a ninth grader; and Jeb Bridges and Jake Smith, both eighth graders.

"This is the largest number of students I have ever had who play both football and band," Long said. Over the years, he has had two or three at a time, but never this many.

"Cooperation from the coach is key," Long said. "This wouldn't be a possibility if the coaches weren't willing to let it happen."

Zach Mullen, an 11th grade baritone saxophone player and starting offensive lineman of the Bobcats, agreed. "They get along well together," Mullen said, referring to head football coach and athletic director Larry Treadway and Mr. Long.

"Coach Treadway and his staff are fantastic to work with," Long said. "Larry Treadway has done an exemplary job with our students, and he is a fine example for all of us to follow. He definitely has the students' best interest at heart, and he shows this by both words and deeds."

Coach Treadway said, "First of all, I'm here for the kids ... We try to accommodate them." He said he has never told his football players that they couldn't march or play in the band.

Treadway said he and the other WRHS coaches not only work with Long, but with all the teachers. "We want these students to be academically responsible," he said.

If one of his players needs to spend the athletic period in a remediation class, then academics come first, said Treadway. "I'm going to back the teachers ... I really take pride that we do that," he added.

Treadway also had praise for Long. "John's great to work with. John and I are both old Newport boys."

Before Treadway came to the Walnut Ridge School, former Bobcat head football coach John Taylor told him, "you're gonna love John Long," Treadway said.

"He makes everything a win-win," Treadway added.

Long said that he is fortunate that during the school day he sees all of his marching band students at one time. However, he doesn't usually see the band member-athletes at the after school rehearsals. "This is something that I've always been willing to compromise on. I would lose too many wonderful and exceptional young people if they were forced to choose," he said.

"I'm very proud to say that the band consists of students representing nearly every other activity and club at our school. Some of my best players are very active in other activities."

Long also gave credit to the students themselves. "I think that it takes a lot of effort on the students' part to take on this much extra responsibility. I also feel that it shows a great deal of dedication, commitment and even sacrifice for these guys to do what they do."

Brian Archibald is a defensive tackle and offensive fullback and plays tenor saxophone in the band. Archibald said he does miss being in the locker room at halftime with the team and hearing what the coaches have to say.

Mullen said the coaches are good about briefing him and the other bandsmen when the team returns to the field for the second half.

Long said the level of participation in band has been high recently, and the increase in the band-athletes is likely a by-product of that increase. "I try to involve as many students as possible even though I know most will not actively pursue music beyond high school.

"I see this as an opportunity to expose these kids to an activity that could influence how they view band and music in the future," Long said. "These young people are our future school administrators, school board members and consumers of music. This fact is too important to ignore."

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