August 27, 2010

Coach needs to beat son for 300th win

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Waldon Tucker wants his 300th career victory.

Lance Tucker wants his first.

Sue Tucker - Waldon's wife and Lance's mother - wants the impossible: A tie.

It's the setup to the most improbable of high school football openers this fall.

Waldon Tucker, a legendary coach in Alabama, will have a chance to become just the second coach in state history to reach 300 victories when his Fayette (Ala.) County team takes on Buhl (Ala.) Sipsey Valley Friday night. But he's got to beat his son - in his son's first game as a head coach - to do it.

"It's not going to be any fun for me," Waldon Tucker said. "I'm sure it's not going to be any fun for him either."

Lance agreed: "I sure will be glad when it's Saturday," he said.

At least Waldon and Lance know where they stand - on opposite sidelines, going against each other.

Sue? Well, that's a question she's been getting since her son took the job this summer and everyone in the area realized the dilemma.

"Where are you going to stand? Who are you going to holler for? That's all I hear, every day," she said. "This morning, we had a county-wide teachers conference and that's all anyone wanted to ask me about. And everyone wanted to ask me.

"It's very stressful."

Lance agrees - he just can't decide what is stressing him the most. After all, it's not just his first game, it's the first game in the history of the school, which opened earlier this month.

"I've got so much going on trying to get ready for this school's first game, not even to speak of my first game or going up against my dad," he said.

But that's when he thinks about the actual game.

"From my P.E. classes, to trying to get middle school kids helmets to getting the varsity ready to play ... everything is new here," he said. "At Fayette, they've got everything set. They just have to show up and play."

Doing so will bring mixed emotions for Waldon.

He's thrilled to see his son, who was an assistant on his staff last year, follow in his footsteps. And he knows Lance has a lot of work to do - his team has only two players with varsity experience.

"I'm excited for him," Waldon said. "But it's going to take him a few years to get the program to where he wants it to be."

Waldon has long established Fayette County as a consistent power, recording 222 of his 299 victories since taking over in 1984. (See Northport Gazette story.)

He credits his assistants and his players for his success - his sons have been both. Lance, who graduated in 1992, played quarterback, as did younger brother Luke - who led the school to its only undefeated season and the Class 4A title when it went 15-0 in 1996.

A part of him wishes Lance was still on his sideline.

"I hated to lose him as a coach," Waldon said.

Waldon, however, admits, he'd hate losing to him as a coach even more.

"We've got to go out there and perform," he said. "If we beat them, I'm sure it will bother him. But it's going to bother me more if they beat us."

Sue honestly can't decide what to do.

She knows she'll be flipping the coin at the start of the game - Waldon and Lance have both insisted on it - but where she goes from there she isn't sure.

"I honestly haven't decided where I'm going to sit," she said. "It's very stressful. I don't want either one of them to lose, but I know that's impossible."

There will be other big moments this season for both coaches. In addition to getting his 300th, Waldon has a chance to become the state's all-time winningest coach - the record is just 302.

For Lance, of course, his first victory also will be the school's first.

Both, however, will be happy when things return to normal. For the Tucker family, that's football. Since Lance took the new job, father and son can still talk - but not about any of the specifics of their teams.

Mom wants to go back to only worrying about who wins the game, not who loses.

The only one who hasn't been impacted is her youngest son, Luke.

"He thinks everything is funny because it doesn't have anything to do with him," Sue said with a chuckle. "The stress that Waldon and Lance are going through, that I'm going through. He just laughs it off."

Editor's note: Waldon Tucker earned his 300th victory as Fayatte County topped Sipsey Valley and his son, Lance, 28-7. Read more in this Tuscaloosa News story.

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