LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - R.A. Hubbard in Lawrence County found itself on the state's list of failing schools based on standardized test scores and is now fighting for its survival. The school could lose students to other county schools through transfer, but community members urge parents to keep their children at the school because they don't consider it failing.
Other than providing quality educations, Lawrence County's District 1 has a long-standing reputation for producing exceptional athletes. All other schools in District 1 have been closed over the years and R.A. Hubbard is the last standing to continue that legacy.
Athletes produced by Lawrence County's District 1 say there is a lot of pride that comes from playing sports in their community.
"Where we from, it's the smallest schools around and you gotta grind. You gotta grind hard to let them know we come to play," says Hazelwood graduate, KeeKee Porter.
Four players from last year's R.A. Hubbard football team signed college scholarships.
"I don't know how many other schools in Lawrence County sent four football players to college. And again you only had 23 in a graduating class," said Courtland graduate, Deano Orr.
Deano Orr played at Courtland High School, which has since been shut down. He went on to play football at Ole Miss.
"Football and sports definitely serve as a way out of Lawrence County," said Orr.
Because R.A. Hubbard is listed as a failing school students have the option to transfer out. When it comes to sports, if they transfer to another county school they will retain eligibility to play.
"If athletics was your game plan and you had your last year to prove everything you got," said Porter.
But if a player doesn't get playing time at their new school and wants to go back to R.A. Hubbard, they must sit out a year. KeeKee Porter says those stakes are too high to take the risk.
"It's real high, especially if you're a senior because if you go to a school you don't like. You can't come back," said Porter.
Orr says while sports provide opportunities to many in District 1, most individuals who play college sports return and give back to the community.
"I volunteer here as the running back and linebackers coach with the varsity and serve as the interim president for the HEAL which is short for the Hubbard Education Athletic League youth league football program," said Orr.
And football isn't the only sport R.A. Hubbard is known for. Just last year, both their girls and boys varsity team won the Lawrence County Basketball Championships.
The varsity girls basketball team won the 1A State Championship in 2017. The next year in 2018, the varsity boys basketball team made it to the 1A State Final Four.