By Alvin Richardson sports editor
You are in our thoughts and prayers. This is one of the things we often hear from friends and acquaintances when troubles have come to our midst. They are words of comfort and surely help us understand that there are many people both inside and outside the community who feel at least some of our pain. There are also the many acts of kindness that are in some ways even more poignant and many of those actions have been forthcoming to the Stapleton family over the past week. One of the things that comes to mind for me is how much love and loyalty is shown within a little community that I’ll simply call the fraternity of coaches and players. The men and women who make up the coaching staffs and rosters of high school athletic teams are a pretty amazing bunch.
On game day they do everything in their power to beat your head in but on the next day, if their opponent has suffered a misfortune or catastrophe they will stand right beside them and do everything in their power to try and make things more bearable. I call them “foxhole guys.” To me these are the kind of folks you want with you in a battle when things are looking bleak and our little fraternity is replete with these people. I’m not completely certain but for some reason I don’t think those who stand outside that fraternity really understand the bonds that interscholastic sports builds. I’m not sure they fully comprehend how important it really is.
The friends one makes through the rigors of practice, and forged in the fires of competition are made of steel. The same goes for those against whom you compete and the same thing is true of those whom we have coached against. It’s built on respect for work ethic, the idea of not giving up and of the pride in a goal accomplished no matter the odds we face. My friends these are important lessons to learn no matter what we do or where we go. I believe unequivocally that my former teammates, coaches and opponents in sports are some of the best and most loyal of my friends in all the world and I’m pretty sure the others in the fraternity will tell you the same thing.
As for our latest trial by fire we would be remiss if some of the actions of our “fraternity brothers and sisters” went without mention. 1) Elberton’s Granite Bowl was littered with signs in support of Seth Stapleton and his family. 2) Greene County’s Jonathan Evans wore Seth’s actual #71 jersey in their game this past Friday night. 3) There was a beautiful pre-game ceremony and moment of silence at the Elbert County game and a prayer including both teams and coaching staffs after the contest. 4)
There were several teams represented at Seth’s candlelight vigil including Oconee County, Jones County, Greene County, Putnam County, GMC and perhaps others I was not aware of. 5) Elbert County is making and contributing a bench made of black and red granite with Seth’s name on it to be placed at Bill Corry Stadium or wherever it seems suitable. I could go on and on. Remarkably during pre-game warm-ups last Friday night I witnessed a moment between Coach Bill Malone and Elbert County’s Mecole Hardeman. Hardeman, who is one of the most highly sought after high school football players in America, made it a point to reach out to Coach Malone prior to the beginning of the contest and offer his sympathies. This coming from a guy who has the world by the tail – who’s future is big time collegiate football and who could have easily let the moment slip past – but he did not. That young man is a member of the “fraternity” that I have suggested exists. The Stapleton’s still have miles to go but they can rest somewhat easier in the knowledge that the “fraternity” and many others stand beside them.