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Not your ordinary retriever

Chocolate lab Ella hunts down tees at Anderson County High home football games

  • Anderson County mascot Ella

  • Job completed, Ella runs back to the Anderson County High School home sideline after retrieving a kicking tee.

Anderson County football has a new mascot who is gaining notoriety quickly.

Ella is a four-year-old chocolate labrador retriever that has been running onto the field at Maverick Stadium during the past two weeks to grab the kicking tee after AC kickoffs.

Anderson County Principal Ben Downs said Ella is gaining a following far beyond Maverick football season.

“Through today there have been almost 250,000 views on Facebook,” Downs said Friday after the Mavericks won their sixth game of the year in seven tries with a 42-14 home win over East Ridge.

Ella is owned by Lance Freeman of Andersonville, who bought the puppy four years ago as a birthday gift to his daughter Ansley, who is now nine years old and a fourth grader at Andersonville Elementary School.

Ella retrieves birds Lance hunts and has quickly picked up the routine of retrieving tees after Daniel Bethel kicks off for the Mavericks.

Considering the Mavs have amassed 84 points during their past two games when Ella was on the sideline, the chocolate lab has mastered the art well and fans in the stands love it.

“It wasn’t too hard to train Ella to go get the tees when I give her the command,” said Freeman, a 2000 AC graduate and a younger brother of assistant principal Travis Freeman.

“When the fireworks go off after a touchdown or field goal, Ella senses she is about to go into action as she is used to it from hearing a gun fire when we’re out hunting. Once I give her the command to go, Ella knows what to do.”

Lance and Ansley make it a true father-daughter event while on the sidelines. Ansley said she loves Ella and is happy her dog is getting so much attention during the past few weeks.

“Ella is really Ansley’s dog,” Lance said. “Ella was a present for her fifth birthday and even though she retrieves for me, Ell and Ansley have a special bond.”

Downs said the idea of Ella becoming part of the Mavs football program occurred a few weeks ago when he was watching a Boise State game on TV.

“Boise State has used a chocolate lab to retrieve their tees for a couple of years,” Downs said. “When I saw this and I knew Lance had one, I thought this would be great for us and he agreed.”

Lance worked with Ella for two days getting her trained for the activity. The entertaining has grown since then.

Even fans of the opposition enjoy watching Ella do her thing. A large throng of Jefferson County fans a few weeks cheered Ella even though her appearances meant their team was falling further behind.

Lance said Ella is only appearing at home games and the next one is not until Nov. 1.