ATHENS — If you love high school football, this is a huge week. The season starts with games Thursday and Friday.
One of the big games Friday is a Limestone County rivalry between Clements and Elkmont. Clements holds a 29-28 edge in the series. It should make for an exciting night at Clements.
For one Clements player in particular, Friday night will be the end of what could be an extra exciting week. On the eve of his final high school football season, Hunter Towe is testing for his pilot’s license today. He’s been flying airplanes since he got his student’s license at 16.
“I love flying. There’s nothing quite like it,” Towe said. “It's something I’ve always wanted to do.”
When Towe goes flying, he leaves the airstrip in Ardmore and often finds his way over the area around Clements High School. When he passes over the home of the Colts, M.T. Newman Stadium, the linebacker/running back thinks about his present, which includes Friday nights under the lights and his final season as a player.
“I want to see total domination by us on our home field this season,” Towe said. “Making the playoffs last season was big for our school. We expect bigger things this season.”
Towe also passes over acres of cotton fields that turn the view into a sea of white in the fall. Cotton may be a part of his future. He wants a career in agriculture. Towe just hasn’t decided the best way to get there.
When his time is not occupied by school or football, Towe can be found at the Associated Growers Cooperative cotton gin in Tanner. It’s a totally automated gin that can produce 60,000 to 70,000 bales of cotton a year. The $7.2 million facility is the first gin built in Limestone County in 60 years.
“I value a trade and I like to work with my hands,” Towe said. “Billy Sickler (Associated Growers' assistant manager) let me work there while it was being built. I enjoy being a part of something that will help cotton growers in the area.”
The automation allows for the operation of the facility to be carried out by a person sitting at a computer screen in a control booth. The efficiency allows for a quicker process to get the cotton from the gin to market. That can also mean a quicker process in getting money back to the farmers.
“It’s really amazing to sit there and watch it all work,” Towe said.
Towe is torn between continuing to work for Associated Growers with an opportunity to move into the management side or going to Auburn to get a degree in agriculture. The degree could bring him back to Associated Growers or another adventure in agriculture somewhere else.
“I really enjoy (working with Associated Growers),” Towe said. “This is something I want to do with my future and this is where I want to work. I have a big decision to make.”
Before making that decision, Towe has a pilot’s license examination to pass. It is two hours of oral questions and answers followed by two more hours of flying and testing of actual flying skills.
The son of Shane and Lisa Towe is following a family tradition with his pursuit of a pilot’s license. His father flies. His uncle Laney Towe had been an area crop duster for 40 years.
“I can see a lot of ways that being able to fly can help me out in an agriculture career,” Hunter Towe said. “If something happens at the gin and we need a part for some machinery, I could fly there to pick it up and get it back faster than having it shipped. It could save a lot of valuable time, especially in the fall.”
Towe’s work ethic carries over to the football field and makes him one of the team leaders for head coach Michael Parker’s Colts.
“He’s always full speed ahead for him,” Parker said. “Last year he played every (meaningful) snap in every game. He’s a hard worker on the football field and away from the football field.”
Clements football suffered through an eight-year playoff drought before last year’s team advanced to postseason play as the No. 4 team out of Class 3A, Region 8 with four wins. The Colts traveled to powerhouse Piedmont in the first round and lost 41-0.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to experience being in the playoffs,” Towe said. “That’s something nobody on our team had ever experienced. We want the playoff experience to be something that happens every year around here.
“Coach Parker has done a tremendous job with our team. What we accomplished showed us that all the hard work paid off. It’s made us hungry for even more success.”