E.A. Sports Today

Wellborn remembers

Family ties bind the eras as Panthers approach first third-round home game in 19 years

After Friday night, Dalton Epps (58) can share the experience of playing in a third-round home playoff game with his father. (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

After Friday night, Dalton Epps (58) can share the experience of playing in a third-round home playoff game with his father. (Photo by Greg McWilliams)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Austin McQueen and Dalton Epps weren’t even born the last time Wellborn made it this far in the state football playoffs, but they know all about it.

It has made for some interesting conversation around the dinner table this week.

For the current Panthers most anything that happened in 1995, the last time Wellborn played a third-round game, is like ancient history — “it’s really mind-blowing because that’s a long time ago,” McQueen said — but the freshman quarterback and Epps are not as far removed from the experience as you might think.

Both their fathers played when the Panthers beat Erwin 27-10 in the third round of the 1995 playoffs and regaled their sons with stories of that experience this week. Robert McQueen and Mark Epps were defensive tackles on that team and will share that common bond with their sons after the 2014 Panthers play Madison Academy in Round 3 Friday night.

“He’s been showing me all his films in the playoffs and he’s really getting me pumped up about it,” Epps said. “He tells me it was a lot of fun. We talk about it all the time because football means a lot to our family.”

The message was similar in the McQueen household.

“(His father) said it was a really neat experience for him, one he’ll never forget, and it’ll be a good experience for me,” McQueen said. “They were just really exciting going to the third round and going on (in the playoffs). They said … just go out there and have fun and do our best.”

The part of the conversation that really resonated with Epps, a two-way lineman, was when his father said proudly there was an Epps on that team 19 years ago and one on it now.

If there’s one thing that has been very evident this week it’s the sense of loyalty and tradition around the Wellborn program, especially in the wake of last week’s post-game fight with Oakman. McQueen, in fact, is third-generation Panther; his grandfather, Terry Thrash, played on their unbeaten 1966 team.

The community has stood by its team throughout the Oakman ordeal and the announcement of penalties that followed. Several attending Monday’s community meeting immediately offered donations to help defray the cost of the fines the school incurred.

“That means a lot,” Epps said. “I’m going to try to make (his father) and everyone around here proud. We’re going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got this game.”

And maybe make a little history of their own.

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