It’s been two decades, but The Streak, as it’s called around Clay County, is still a regular part of conversation.
With Edgewood on the brink of snapping Clay County’s state-record 55-game winning streak, the old Panthers have a few words of advice: Enjoy it.
“Records are made to be broken,” said Vernon Marable, an All-State defensive lineman then who is now a sales manager at a Gadsden-area car dealership.
“I’m proud of what we did, but if somebody is going to break my record, so be it,” Marable said. “I’m happy for them.”
Edgewood, which hasn’t lost since October 2010, goes for No. 56 on Friday in the first round of the AISA Class AA playoffs. The Wildcats host Pickens Academy.
Clay County, after losing its 1994 season opener, didn’t lose again until the second round of the 1997 AHSAA Class 2A playoffs at Luverne.
Along the way, the Panthers hoisted three state championship trophies, recorded 34 shutouts and had 15 All-State players.
“To be part of that was just incredible,” said Kris Herron, a Clay County assistant coach then who is now the head coach at Central-Clay County, the progeny of the 2012 merger of the school with arch-rival Lineville.
“I don’t think we appreciated it then like we do now.”
The Panthers, Herron and then-head coach Danny Horn said, were always focused on the next game, not on where The Streak stood. (Edgewood coach Bobby Carr and the Wildcats have said the same.)
“In this profession, you can’t really enjoy the wins and accomplishments until after the season — and sometimes until after your career,” said Horn, now the head coach at Benjamin Russell.
“That’s just how the game is,” he said. “You do what you need to do to win the next game.”
It all ended Nov. 21, 1997, on a stormy night in Luverne.
The 21-14 overtime loss is seared into their memories, though soothed by what Luverne accomplished. The Tigers won a state championship, so at least the Panthers were beaten by the best team.
Marable had graduated that spring, but he was a freshman at Troy State and was at the game. Marable became an all-conference player for the Trojans, who added two Luverne players the next year.
“I had to listen to them about they broke our streak,” Marable said.
They didn’t laugh at the time, but Herron and Horn laugh now over something Horn said at the game.
The weather had forced an hour’s delay at halftime and the field conditions were awful. At least it affected the Panthers.
Herron, who coached the offensive line and defensive backs, grew nervous when the Tigers completed several passes. Horn walked up to him and “I knew he was fuming,” Herron said.
Horn, who was a secondary coach earlier in his career, didn’t look directly at Herron when he delivered a low-toned broadside.
“I’m not sure what you’re doing back there, but when I coached defensive backs, we tried to cover somebody,” Herron said, quoting Horn before lowering one hand to about shin level.
“I felt about that high. We laugh about it now.”
The Streak is still a regular subject for old Panthers.
Marable said people, “once I tell them where I’m from,” automatically ask about it.
“People know what you accomplish when you accomplish things like that,” he said.
Herron still has all the game files from The Streak — and every game from 1989 until the school closed. The old school has been demolished, but the Ashland City Library is building a display for all of the state championship trophies, Herron said.
The Streak, of course, will be at the forefront.
“It was a great, great, great time, a very special time,” Herron said. “I would tell Edgewood to try to enjoy it. Take a few minutes and enjoy what you’ve accomplished, but keep plugging.
“Don’t be satisfied.”
Clay County’s record has stood for 17 years. The previous mark, 50 straight by Verbena, had stood for 43.
How long will Edgewood’s?
“It’s something,” Horn said. “In (the AHSAA), it’s going to be a hard thing to do. Not to take anything away from Edgewood, but it’s probably a little easier to do in (the AISA).
“It’s still a great accomplishment for them.”