ATWOOD – As West Carroll High School principal Dexter Williams welcomed about 400 people gathered to remember the life of Blake Ray, the football player killed in a car wreck on July 7, he remembered to the young man’s funeral this past Wednesday in Munford.
“After the funeral was over, someone pointed out to me and I looked back and I saw the team huddled around the gravesite,” Williams said. “One of the players counted it down, and they yelled ‘family’ together.”
Blake’s teammates were seated together on the right side of the chairs assembled on the West Carroll gym floor on the other side of the aisle from Blake’s family. Williams asked the players if they could do that one more time, to which they obliged.
A couple of players were part of the line of people who spoke on Blake’s behalf. Those were Patrick Deere and Colin Simmons, both of whom will be junior War Eagles football players in the fall.
A few people who spoke did so directly to the team, including former head coach Josh Fronabarger and Blake’s step-father, Eric Davis.
Fronabarger’s message was to take care of each other, which is something he said he told the players when he was their coach before leaving for Crockett County in the spring.
Davis’ message to the team was to go play for Blake, never give up and win, which is what Blake would’ve wanted from his teammates.
Former principal Lex Suite spoke of when Blake’s mother, Tammy Davis, spoke to the players in the fieldhouse in the days immediately after Blake’s death and told them she loved them and would be there for them because Blake was one of them. Suite also urged them to be sure to not forget about the family after the grieving process is over for those outside the family, because they will continue to grieve for a while. He also said to invite her to graduation when Blake’s class graduates in 2017.
Once the service was over, the players repeated what Williams described at the funeral as the team gathered in a circle off to the side for a prayer, a moment to remember their fallen brother and to break it down in his honor one more time.
One. Two. Three. Family.
How the War Eagles do this season is the least of things to be concerned about in this situation, but the family expressed they know there’s still a job for the team to do.
The football players have already been through more this summer than any 2-a-days practice or conditioning work could do to them. Playing teams like Union City or Trenton Peabody or Dresden will be difficult and tough, but they’re nothing compared to moving on without one of your own.
The town of Atwood is obviously rooting for West Carroll this year, and I’d suspect most people around West Tennessee will be pulling for the small school in maroon as well as you lean on each other and find out what family truly means.
Brandon Shields is the high school sports columnist of The Jackson Sun. Contact him at 425-9751 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at jacksonsunsports.