Green Wave wins 4A title; Deshler triumphs over tragedy

Green Wave wins 4A title; Deshler triumphs over tragedy


Green Wave wins 4A title; Deshler triumphs over tragedy


As Leeds celebrated its Class 4A championship at midfield in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Friday, Deshler’s Jake Norwood looked on displaying little emotion.

Leeds claimed its third blue trophy to accompany hardware from Class 3A titles in 2008 and 2010, posting its fourth shutout of the playoffs to capture a convincing 30-0 victory.

But for Norwood, the moment was numbing. Rather than focusing on what might have been, his thoughts drifted to the events over the last few months that have changed him and his teammates forever.

Deshler coach Jake Linville, in his first season after being promoted to replace legendary Tiger coach John Mothershed, died in October from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This came on the heels of the murder of volunteer coach and former Deshler player Brioni Rutland in November of last year.

“Nobody can understand all that we’ve been through,” said Norwood, a 6-foot, 275-pound senior lineman. “We’re family more than most teams. Coach Linville always said our goal was to win the last game. We didn’t quite do that, but we’ve learned a lot about life in the process.”

Michael Statom, who was named interim coach following Linville’s death, attempted to put the last few weeks into a broader perspective.

“It was an emotional day for us today, but it’s emotional every day we step on the field. I heard some folks say prior to this game, ‘Hey, win or lose, it’s been a great season.’ I just don’t like that. That’s concessionary,” Statom said.

“It would have been a storybook finish if we won, but we didn’t and we have to deal with losing. I told the guys we aren’t going to be defined by the outcome of one football game. I know these men, because of what they’ve gone through, have the character to take this and learn from it.”

Patrick Smith, the Tigers’ athletic director and a Deshler graduate, has witnessed the good that has risen from the unsettling events.

“I have seen the outcry of support not only come from Tuscumbia, but also from the surrounding communities and schools. Complete strangers have reached out to our kids, and it has brought a sense of unity in our area,” Smith said. “These young men have lived through dealing with something that even we as grownups have never dealt with.”

Though Deshler (13-2) dropped its sixth straight finals appearance after winning three titles in the 90s, Statom recognizes this season’s impact on him.

“I would be a sad man if I weren’t different from having been through this experience. I see every day as a blessing like never before,” Statom said.

Leeds (14-1) limited Deshler, which had been averaging 36.6 points per contest, to only 77 total yards. The Green Wave, moving up a level after falling in last year’s Class 3A final, outscored its opponents 208-14 in the playoffs.

“This defense has been fantastic all year long. We’ve got some unbelievable guys,” Leeds coach Keith Etheredge said.

Green Wave quarterback Tadarryl Marshall rushed for 120 yards and passed for 98 more, including a 33-yard scoring strike to Jermaine Johnson, to earn most valuable player honors.

Demontrez Clark returned an interception 65 yards to give Leeds a 20-0 lead in the final minute of the first half.

Morgan Colston added three field goals for the Green Wave, converting from 37, 34 and 31 yards.


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