After several conversations late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, a decision was made: Not only will Tri-County Academy and Canton Academy compete against each other for a state championship Thursday; the two teams will also play for Taylor Martin.
Tri-County will play Canton in the MAIS A/AA state championship game Thursday afternoon, as it was scheduled, despite the death Tuesday night of Martin, who was the Rebels’ starting center, MAIS Director of Activities Les Triplett told The Clarion-Ledger.
Martin, a senior, was killed in a one-vehicle crash Tuesday night on Highway 433 near Sadler Road, MHP officials said. Coroner Ricky Shivers said he was notified of the wreck at approximately 10:20 p.m. Martin was pronounced dead on the scene. He was 18.
The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Jackson Academy.
Tri-County head football coach David Blount and headmaster Mark Johnson met with Martin’s parents this morning, Triplett and Johnson said, before a final decision was made.
“He was a great kid and we sure wish he was still with us,” said Johnson, who is also the team’s offensive line coach. “He was someone who people will admire for years and years.”
Martin, Johnson said, was an honor student, who was guided by his faith and had scriptures in his locker in the main hallway of the school. Teammates and coaches described Martin as reserved and kind with a good sense of humor.
“He always laughed at what you said or he would just be smiling all of the time,” Tri-County quarterback Beau Johnson said.
The players on both teams — many of the players have grown up together and the schools are separated by approximately 20 miles — are tasked with handling their emotions.
“I have never taken a snap without him being my center since ninth grade,” Beau Johnson said. “To know that today was the last day that I would ever take a snap from him blows my mind. I’m just lost and confused just thinking of what to do now that the guy that has started every down with me throughout my whole high school career is gone. He was very involved in church and without a doubt in my mind he was right with the Lord.”
The decision to play in the game was made by both schools, Martin’s parents and the MAIS. The MAIS received several offers to move the game to a different location on a different date. From Mark Johnson’s perspective, playing the game Thursday may allow students and players a brief opportunity to get their minds off the accident — if only for a brief period.
“We will play for Taylor,” Mark Johnson said. “The pain is still going to be there and it isn’t going to be any easier Saturday if we postpone than tomorrow. His parents said Taylor would want us to play.”