Rivalries aside: Surrounding high schools show support for Boaz High while 2 football coaches battle medical issues

Northeast Alabama
Courtesy: Bentley Gray

Courtesy: Bentley Gray

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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- It's a story that revolves around football, but it's not about stats; it doesn't have a score, and quite possibly, everyone involved won.

Boaz High School head football Coach Eric Whaley is battling cancer and is on a leave of absence. Volunteer coach Manny Aragon is in  critical condition following a recent car accident.

Without the two coaches, it's been difficult for the school. Both men are well-known on campus, on the field, and in the community.

One by one though, rivals are putting competition aside.

"The only reason we did it is because they're our neighbor, and we wanted to try to do something," Albertville High School Principal Paul McAbee says.

"We said 'hey, we need to do something at the ball game. So let's do something,'"  Douglas High School choral director Becky Walker explains,  "You know, this is our arch rival Boaz, but still, we can still care for them and know that we're thinking about them."

"It's just an opportunity for us to hand out a blessing to someone who is very deserving," Guntersville High School assistant principal John Doyle said.

Albertville, Boaz, Douglas, and Guntersville high schools are just miles apart in Marshall County.

They're rivals, but that's been set aside.

A couple of weeks ago  Boaz traveled to Albertville to take on the Aggies.

With a packed crowd and the large Aggie band playing loudly into the stands, the Boaz Pirates took the field.

They were met with a clear show of support.  " We painted the 'We Are Boaz' Team Whaley emblem on the Boaz sideline, on the 50," Albertville High School Principal Paul McAbee says.

The display was a touching tribute to the Boaz football team.

Days later though, Boaz played Douglas. Another rival, another packed stadium.

During the game the Eagles had their turn to show their support.

"We said Friday, be prepared. We're going to chunk change for the two coaches," Walker said, "So we raised almost $800."

All of that money was raised in one day by the students, from kindergarten to graduating seniors.

Now, the Guntersville Wildcats are showing support for Boaz too.

"Raising money for Coach Whaley to help offset medical expenses," Doyle explains.

They're selling shirts with the two teams' helmets on the front. On the back '#TeamWhaley' is printed, a saying that is popular at Boaz.

"This is much bigger than high school athletics,"  Boaz City Schools superintendent Mark Isley says. "This is dealing with real lives, of real people, whose lives are hanging in the balance."

Boaz, a school whose mission revolves around the expectation of excellence, is learning through this hard time  how to stand strong.

Now, they know they're not alone.

"I think our citizens should be very, very proud," Isley says, "This is a special place."

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