BENTON, Ky. — Minutes before Friday night’s season opener, Tyler Stevenson stepped to the front of a crowded Marshall County High School football locker room.
The senior’s booming voice reverberated off the walls and cut through the silence.
“Nobody really understands what we have gone through in the past six months,” Stevenson said. “We have three people in this locker room right now that took bullets on this campus. … They’re standing here right now. Play for them.”
Those players — juniors Devon Evans, Dalton Keeling and Gage Smock — were scattered at different ends of the locker room and didn’t flinch despite the reminder of what they went through on Jan. 23.
They were in the commons area of the high school when gunfire erupted before the morning bell. By the time it was over, they were among the 14 students who were injured.
Their friends, Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, had been killed. Another student, Gabe Parker, was arrested.
Back in the locker room, Stevenson continued.
“If you don’t play for Preston and Bailey tonight, then you ain’t playing for nothing,” he said. “We have spilled blood, sweat and tears on this freaking campus. And it is time you take it to somebody else.”
The Marshals jumped out of their seats and hurried out of the suddenly raucous locker room and under a doorway to the exit that featured the sign, “MC Pride.”