Shrinking the gap; East Lawrence Eagles climbing higher and higher

East Lawrence has earned their first winning season in region championship since 1997 this year. Quarterback Levi Barnes (pictured above) has led the Eagles this year with 61 passes for 868 yards and 12 touchdowns and has also rushed 91 times for 571 yards and nine touchdowns. 

The East Lawrence Eagles are riding high as they are achieving success that hasn’t been seen in decades. 

It seems almost needless to say at this point, but prior to this season the Eagles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997. 

They can’t say that anymore though, as one of the longest droughts in the state of Alabama was officially broken when East Lawrence defeated Clements for their sixth win of the season. 

“It’s special. I’m not going to try, and coach speak or sweep it under the rug, what these kids have done is special,” said first year head coach Bo Culver. “We’re not satisfied, and we want to do more than just have a winning season. But at the same time, we’re not going to overlook the fact that we’ve done something here that hasn’t been done in a long time.” 

1997 was also the last time East Lawrence won a region championship, but that’s now another mark that can be scratched off the list. 

With Lauderdale County’s win over Colbert Heights last Friday, the Eagles officially clinched the Class 3A Region 8 title, its first since 97 and only third overall in school history. 

“We didn’t start this season with the goal of just having a winning season. We wanted to win championships,” Culver said. “There’s three championships, a Region championship, a North championship and a state championship and we crossed the first one off the board Friday.” 

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Shrinking the gap

The Eagles were flying high early in the season. Their 4-0 mark was the program’s best start to a season since 1986. 

However, they quickly fell down to earth during a week 5 trip to Hatton, which they lost 38-12. 

“When we play our best, we can be good, but that night showed us just how bad we could be when we’re not playing our best,” Culver said. “That night we played as bad as we possibly could, and Hatton made us pay.” 

Even though the loss ended chance of a perfect season for the Eagles, Culver called it a “blessing” they played their worst game in a non-region outing. He also decided to use the loss and as a learning lesson for his team. 

“Shrinking the gap, that’s what I’ve been telling our team,” he said. “There is always going to be a night when high school kids play bad, it doesn’t matter if you’re 7A Thompson or 1A Vina. Our good is good, but what great teams do is shrink the gap between your bad and your good.”

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Chasing more than satisfaction

The Eagles have their winning season. They also have a region championship and will also host a home playoff game, all for the first time since 1997. 

But this team wants more than that and that starts with finishing out the season strong. 

“We could lose the next two games and we would still be region champions and still host a playoff game,” Culver said. “But that’s not what great teams do. Great teams aren’t satisfied.” 

They still have plenty of goals to obtain. Winning out the regular season would give them a school record nine wins. A win in the first round of the playoffs would give them their first postseason victory in school history. 

“We’ve been successful this season because these kids were never satisfied,” said Culver. “We’re the team that’s made history, but we want to be the team that makes history even more.”

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