Thursday, December 6, 2007
By Barry Burleson
This state championship football game had an interesting twist.
It was written about in this newspaper and others across the state, including Mississippi’s largest, The Clarion-Ledger.
A big sign on Centreville Academy’s sideline read -- “We Love You Coach Wicker.”
Yet Wicker was the head coach of the other team.
Marshall Academy’s head coach, in his first year, had been an assistant for 16 years under Bill Hurst at Centreville. The two are best friends.
As the case in any championship game, one team celebrates, another weeps. Yet, when the Patriots and Tigers gathered at midfield for prayer after Centreville’s 36-21 win, Hurst started with these words.
“Marshall, you fought to the end,” he said. “You exemplify your coach. He’s a fighter. He’s tough.
“Y’all are not losers.”
It seemed almost every Tiger made it a point to shout, “Coach Wicker,” and then share a hug with him.
“I’d coached these guys since the seventh grade,” said Wicker, who was last at CA in the 2005 season. “It’s a good group of young men, and I’ve got a good group of young men here, too. My team is upset. It’s hard to lose.”
Later I made it to Marshall Academy’s locker room. Wicker encouraged his disappointed team - “This was a great season and I’m so proud of you.”
But the team and the coach were hurting. They led 14-0, 21-7, 21-14 at the half and 21-20 in the fourth quarter, but it slipped away.
According to the so-called experts, a Patriot victory would have been almost like David beating Goliath.
None of The Clarion-Ledger’s high school football prognosticators picked MA in a preview story.
Todd Kelly said, “Few teams are better at grinding out a win than blue-collar Tigers. CA 31-13.
Bill Spencer said, “Hurst claims seventh ring. CA 28-14.”
Rod Waker said, “This could be first of back-to-back titles for the Tigers. CA 27-10.”
Marshall Academy made its presence known.
“We gave them what they didn’t think we had,” Wicker said.
The Class A title game earlier in the day was a rout, 38-7, Glenbrook, La., over Bayou Academy.
This one, the Class AA championship contest, was far from it. The 15-point final margin was no indication of just how close it was.
Marshall Academy, appearing in just its second state football final in school history, loses eight seniors. They are Josh Sharp, Jake Paylor, Brent Adams, Justin Gray, Tyler Sanders, Jon Cooper, Wesley Harris and Jake Howell.
“Those guys provided great leadership for this team,” Coach Wicker said. “They will be missed. That’s a special group.”
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