Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.
CHATSWORTH -- Murray County High School football coach Chad Brewer hopes gone are the days of a 12-game losing streak.
The Indians have been on a mission to change to culture surrounding its football program, and through three games this season things are looking up. The Indians (2-1, 0-1 in Region 6-3A) have won two games while losing in overtime last week in their region-opener to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.
The team's attitude boost has been a product of many different things, but one of the biggest, Brewer said, has been its fresh look. At the beginning of this season, Murray County moved into its new set of bleachers and changed its home side of the stadium.
The bleachers -- as well as the side's new two-tier air-conditioned press box -- is the first completed step in a project to updated the school's athletic facilities funded by a Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) that voters renewed in March 2016.
The 1% sales tax started on July 1, 2017, and is scheduled to run for five years or until $24 million is collected, whichever comes first. The funds also include building a new Spring Place Elementary School and a new roof for Gladden Middle School.
"A lot of it was outdated and it needed to be renovated," Brewer said of the field and facilities. "It's one of the many pieces to our motto 'Be the change' and having this resurgence in our program. How many times in life do you really get to do this with everything being new? It's been the perfect timing."
The home side of the stadium was switched at the beginning of this season for the first time in 30 years since the bleachers on the now visitor's side were installed for the fall of 1989. To be back on the side with the new bleachers -- which hold 1,688 seats -- is a much better scenario, Brewer said, since the team is now able to walk directly from the field house to the field.
The team has picked up a new tradition -- called the Indian Walk -- in encouraging fans to line the walkway underneath the new bleachers and greet the players as the team walks to the field.
The stadium now has a total of 3,435 seats.
"We've had great crowds. It's been a good game atmosphere and it was the idea to get people down there right before kickoff. It's gotten better every time we've done it," Brewer said. "It feels totally different. To walk out right by the visiting stands just wasn't a good setup. You couldn't have drawn it up any better now."
The bleachers and press box aren't the only new additions that were ready for use at the start of the season. The school added a new scoreboard, new lighting around the stadium and practice field, as well as a new sound system.
Murray County also added new fencing around the stadium and new windscreens that help brand the team's mascot and colors. The Murray County Touchdown Club raised money for its new sponsorship board, as well.
"I think everything is where it's supposed to be now," Murray County athletics director Greg Linder said. "It makes the place look good, and it's very exciting. This is something the kids have been looking forward to for a while, and I'm happy to see it all coming along."
Linder said while there are still a few things that need to be cleaned up to finish this initial phase of the project -- including adding signage to some places in the press box -- there are more things to come.
The next phase of the renovation is to build a new concession stand and restroom area. When that is completed, Linder said the old restrooms will be removed and new entry gates will be built for the stadium. The last step in the project, he said, is to build a new track around the school's practice field.
"The plans have already been made for (the concession stand and restrooms) in the second phase of this," Linder said. "Once all of the final touches are made to the bleachers and the press box, we will see where we are at with the budget and what feasibly is good to do next for our school system."
The Indians host another game tonight as they take on Coahulla Creek (1-2, 0-1 in Region 6-3A) and both teams are looking for their first region win this year.
The Colts defeated Murray County last season, 35-7.
Despite the loss last week, the team's 13-7 heartbreaker to LFO, Brewer said he's hoping for another spirited crowd tonight.
"There's definitely been a shift in atmosphere at our games and some of that has to do with the other changes that we've made, but we need this packed," he said. "We've got a lot of stuff going in our favor."
For updates on the game, follow Daily Citizen-News reporter Ryan Anderson on Twitter @randerson_ryan
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Christian Heritage (3-0, 0-0 in Region 6-A) at Mount Zion (1-2, 0-0 in Region 6-A), 7:30 p.m.
Christian Heritage opens its region schedule on the road tonight at Mount Zion.
The Lions are coming off a win over Class 4A LaFayette, 20-7, for the second year in a row. Quarterback Christian Thomas rushed for one touchdown and threw for another, while senior kicker Joe Dixon made two fields goals in the second half to seal the win.
Mount Zion fell to Temple last week, 22-16.
Last meeting: Christian Heritage won in 2018, 30-22.
Dalton (3-0, 1-0 in Region 6-6A) at Creekview (3-1, 1-1 in Region 6-6A), 7:30 p.m.
Dalton's first region road test of the season comes tonight in a game tonight at Creekview.
The Catamounts won their first region game of the year last week over Sequoyah, 42-14. Jahmyr Gibbs led the offense with five touchdowns -- four rushing and one on a kickoff return.
Creekview defeated Osborne on Monday, 46-21, after the game was postponed on Friday night due to weather.
Last meeting: Creekview won in 2018, 21-17.
Follow for game updates: Cherokee Tribune sports editor Patrick O'Shea on Twitter @Patrick_J_OShea
Northwest Whitfield (2-1, 0-0 in Region 6-4A) at Temple (3-0, 0-0 in Region 5-2A), 7:30 p.m.
Northwest plays a non-region game tonight at Temple.
The Bruins defeated Stone Mountain last week, 34-18. Scoring came from multiple players as Ray Morrison, Preston Nealey and Matthew Redmond all caught touchdowns, and quarterback Owen Brooker and running back Gavin Ellis each had touchdown runs.
Temple is coming off a win over Mount Zion last week, 22-16.
Last meeting: Northwest won in 2018, 42-14.
Cedartown (0-3, 0-0 in Region 5-4A) at Southeast Whitfield (0-3, 0-0 in Region 6-4A), 7:30 p.m.
Southeast hosts Cedartown tonight in a non-region game as both teams are looking for their first win this season.
The Raiders had a bye last week after falling to Coahulla Creek on Sept. 6, 34-31.
Cedartown fell to Bremen last week, 13-7.
Last meeting: Cedartown won in 2018, 55-7.
North Murray (2-1, 1-0 in Region 6-3A) at Calhoun (3-0, 1-0 in Region 6-3A), 7:30 p.m.
North Murray travels to Calhoun tonight for a crucial game in Region 6-3A.
The Mountaineers defeated Ringgold in their region-opener last week after exploding for 35 unanswered points in the second half, 45-17. D'Ante Tidwell finished with three rushing touchdowns, while Chaisen Buckner, Landon Burrell and Dylan Flood all caught one score from quarterback Ladd McConkey. Kicker Owen Hannah was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points and also added a 31-yard field goal in the win.
Calhoun won its first game of region play last week over Sonoraville, 17-7.
Last meeting: Calhoun won in 2018, 34-10.