Butler suddenly has supporters, not detractors

Morale is high after skid ends
Wayne Staats/Staff
One of the signs at Butler's student center congratulated the team, and back Jeffery Menefee, on Friday's win.

They are losers no more.

Strictly speaking, the 41-game losing streak said the Butler Bulldogs were, at least by record. Making matters worse, it seems the players had to face opposition from not only opponents but even their fellow classmates.

Junior running back Jeffery Menefee remembers such walks down the halls of his school.

"Y'all are gonna lose," Menefee recalls hearing.

This year has been different.

With last Friday's 42-0 victory against Westside -- a winning margin that came in what could have been the 42nd consecutive defeat -- also comes a sense of this being a better season.

Coach Ashley Harden said there is different morale at the school.

He said teachers were holding up signs encouraging the team and then decorated the school's student center to recognize the win.

Yellow and black streamers hung from the room's ceiling and personalized signs were put on the walls.

Messages like, "I heard y'all were going to lose. Naw, not me playa! We're gonna win!" and "We run it!" recognized the team's victory.

Butler put forth a dominating and physical performance that the team could finally celebrate.

The band cheered the team during its postgame huddle and waited along the railing to congratulate the Bulldogs, who play under the motto "We all we got" in reference to all the outside doubters.

After the victory, players ran around as fast as they did on the first play of the game, and family and friends soon embraced the players in hugs.

It wasn't, however, a celebration of being surprised by a victory but rather of simply breaking through.

The sight of the scoreboard made Menefee cry in victory. A photo of that scoreboard was then captured on a shirt Menefee remembers a few people wore Monday.

Following the euphoria, Lonzo Harris made it clear the team expects to make the playoffs. What could have been a laughable statement to outsiders is now possible.

Josey coach John Noah, who had praise for the Bulldogs before the season, cited Butler's learning to win at the junior varsity level as his reason for thinking the team would turn it around. With the varsity team, he thinks it has a chance to be one of the seeded teams this postseason.

Menefee, who had 204 rushing yards on 21 carries Friday night and was honored with the largest sign in the student center, said he had been in a similar situation while at Murphey Middle School.

He said the football team there was in the midst of a losing streak before he and others helped the squad rebound to playoff appearances in both his seventh- and eighth-grade seasons.

A postseason appearance for Butler, meanwhile, would be its first since 2003.

"That's our goal," said Harden, whose team is at Twiggs County this Friday night.

"It's about staying hungry and keep working week in and week out."

That hard work started this past December, as Harden emphasized in his postgame speech.

Less than a year later, a team that was seemingly alone in its struggles now has some outside believers.

"They opened everybody's eyes," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said.

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