ELDON — Spend a few hours in Eldon during the fall, and it’s not hard to see what the entire town cares about most.
On a football Friday night, more than half the Eldon High School student body will have a role in the sport, said Matt Davis, superintendent of the Eldon School District.
Before a home game, at least half the town is likely to flock to Mustang Memorial Park to see their team play.
For a good reason, too. The Mustangs lost just one regular season game in 2017 and averaged 50 points a game. On Saturday, they lost to Mt. Vernon in the quarterfinals of the Class 3 state championship.
Davis credits the football team’s success for bringing more pride to the Eldon schools and community.
“Our kids feel that they’re successful,” Davis said. “And I feel it’s made a difference in people wanting to raise their families here and being a part of a community.”
Eldon coach Shannon Jolley said the team’s role in the community is a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.
“Our responsibility as a football team is to provide our community a positive environment on Friday night,” Jolley said.
“If we got a couple thousand people at a high school football game, that means they’re doing something positive.”
Eldon, 33 miles southwest of the state capital, has a population of 4,895.
“It’s a small-town community where everyone knows your name,” said Terry Benjamin, an Eldon guidance secretary.
The financial crisis of 2008 hit Eldon hard: Many local jobs were lost with the closing of a factory and multiple car dealerships.
Nearly 10 years later, the newfound success of the football team has sparked the entire community.
“It is what everyone talks about on Saturday morning; it is the big deal,” Davis said.
“If we didn’t have that football experience, our town, we’d be missing something. We would miss that community.
“Because where else do you go that 2,000 people come together on a Friday night, for one purpose?”