‘Battle of Old 87’ holds special significance for ZC’s Bowers

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bradley Bowers loves Elba.

He starred for the Tigers on the gridiron and the baseball diamond in the late 1990s. He got his start in coaching there while still in college. His family still resides in and goes to church in the town.

But Friday night, Bowers, the head coach of the Zion Chapel Rebels, will stare across the field at his Alma mater. He has done it numerous times in his career, and Friday night will be another chapter in his personal coaching book.

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“Elba is a very special place to me, and it always will be,” Bowers said. “It is where I learned about football and how to play and coach it. I wish the very best for those kids down there. I want them to go 9-1 every season, with the only loss coming to my guys. It is always a big week for everyone here, and this year is no different.”

Just 11 miles of the two-lane beach route known as Alabama State Route 87, or “Old 87” to locals separate the communities of Elba and Jack.

The athletes from each team have played with and against one another for their entire lives.

Bowers did as well.

“I remember playing baseball against teams from Zion Chapel when I was a kid,” Bowers said. “It is a natural rivalry, and everyone gets excited.”

While the close proximity between the two schools makes the game a rivalry, Bowers feels on the field the two programs are far apart.

Elba has won three state championships, 16 region titles and 518 games.

Zion Chapel has no state titles, just two region crowns and on;7 176 all-time wins.

The Tigers hold a perfect 6-0 record against their neighbors to the north, and have outscored Zion Chapel 289-28.

Elba has cruised to an average margin of victory of 44 points per game.

“It is a rivalry because we are so close, but for it really to be a rivalry, I feel both sides have to win every now and then,” Bowers said. “We haven’t been able to do that yet, but we are working to get to that level. Elba is good year in and year out, and we will see just how much work we still have to do on Friday night.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.