HARTFORD (KFSM) - Small towns across the country are battling the same thing and that's being forgotten. For Hartford, the residents are trying to deal with the news of losing their school and they're hoping the final home basketball game in school history can help.
"Basketball in a large part is the lifeblood of this school," Hartford English teacher Shane Sanderson said.
"It’s the heart and soul of it," girls basketball coach Robbie Ball added. "It’s the heart and soul. It’s what people go out to. This is their Friday night out. They brag about their kids. They talk basketball all over town."
Those conversations will come to an end as Hartford is being consolidated with rival Hackett at the end of the current school year in May. The Hustlers had to deal with their football program folding in 2014 due to low numbers and now they have to do it all over again as the basketball teams is being taken from them as well.
"It’s one of the things that’s held our community together," 2008 graduate and high school instructor Brittany Morrison said. "You would come here to the gym whenever we had a home game, the rest of the town would be empty. Everybody would be here."
Only two games remain. One girls contest. One boys clash. That's all that is left after more than a century of Hartford basketball. Needless to say, when the Hustlers take on Lavaca Friday night, emotions will be tough to contain.
"They’re going to be high emotions of course," Sanderson said. "I think in someways I think our teams are going to feel like they’re carrying the reputation or the legacy of our campus on their shoulders."
Hartford principal David Lee has been at the school for 33 years and had five of his own children go from kindergarten to graduation as a Hustler. He admitted he tries to play it tough but expects Friday night to be tough.
"I like to try to keep my emotions put behind me but in a basketball game like that and you see emotions on other people that makes it kind of tough and I’m sure there’s going to be a time where I’m going to have to wipe a tear out of my eye somewhere along the way.," Lee said.
Lee said he expects a capacity crowd as Hartford hosts Lavaca on Friday night. It was that way when the school held their final homecoming game last week. But for the school, and the community, this is a final farewell.
"I’m hoping I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy it but I know that I’ll be sad at the same time," Morrison said. "This is it."