GENE PHELPS: Bowling braces for return to Smithville

Who says you can’t go home? Dwight Bowling’s doing it twice today. Once to play a football game. Once to go to sleep.
Bowling will bring his Sulligent (Ala.) High School football team to Smithville tonight for a season opener against a Seminoles program he coached for 28 years and directed to two state championships.
It marks the first time he has coached on Smithville’s field – which by the way is named Dwight Bowling Field – since his retirement five years ago.
When the game is over, win or lose, he’ll return to Sulligent with his team, then drive the “23 miles through the woods” back to Smithville to his home.
“This game is really special to me,” he said. “It will be bitter sweet. I’m coming there to beat a place I’d been so long.”
Bowling’s career record is an impressive 225-78, with a 188-64 mark coming during his seasons at the Monroe County school.
Smithville’s current coach, Bubba Tacker, is a former Bowling assistant coach and Seminoles player. He knows all too well about Bowling’s legacy.
“There’s pressure,” Tacker said. “He built a tradition here and they expect to win. I knew that coming in.”
The matchup came about when Bowling called Tacker about scheduling a jamboree game.
“We were looking for somebody to play,” Bowling said. “As it turned out, this was their Classic week. It’s a one-year deal right now, but I hope we continue to work something out.”
Tacker expects the largest crowd in the program’s storied history – in the neighborhood of 3,000 – to file through the gates. The Seminoles usually attract “a little over 1,000” per game, according to the coach.
“If you want a seat, you better get here early,” he said.
Bowling’s Blue Devils finished 7-4 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Two years ago, they went 12-3 and lost in the state finals.
Smithville rang up a 10-1 record last year, but lost in the first round of the postseason.
“Smithville’s got a good team,” Bowling said. “We’ll have our hands full.”
Bowling’s not sure what emotions he’ll feel when he walks onto the turf for the first time as a Seminoles’ opponent.
“It’s going to be quite different,” he said. “I’ve never been on the other sideline.
“I know this, when the game starts, I’ll be trying to win.”

Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal