Eddie White Academy principal Angel McCrary cheers on her school during the first half of the middle school title. McCrary had the No. 8 painted on the side of her face in tribute to former standout athlete Terrell Coleman, who died on Sunday. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
Earlier this week, Clayton County crowned another middle school football champion.
In a battle of the unbeatens of the M.D. Roberts Rams and the Eddie White Academy Wolves, it was Roberts that came out on top.
As the old saying goes, “someone had to win, and someone had to lose,” but in the grand scheme of it, there were no losers on the field at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
What we witnessed on this fall evening was some courageous young men giving it their all to be called county champion. They were doing what they loved while representing their respective schools.
Roberts won the title, and they showed why they coasted through the season with a 9-0 record with the 20-8 win. But let’s not forget about the White players who were playing with presumably heavy hearts.
Two days before they played in the biggest game of their young lives, Roberts players learned that former teammate Terrell Coleman had passed. The former White standout, who was now a freshman at basketball powerhouse Miller Grove in DeKalb County, died while playing in a basketball tournament over the weekend.
Coleman was nicknamed “Too Tall” for his 6-foot-5 frame. He was being touted as a future hoops star in by online recruiting services. He played both football and basketball at White, where he led the basketball team to the county championship.
Before Tuesday’s championship, the school and county payed tribute to the fallen star with a moment of silence and the family releasing balloons in his memory.
“I’m sure that had some effect on my guys,” White coach Mareno Philyaw said after the game.
Philyaw, a former standout at North Clayton High, wasn’t making any excuses, but just stating a fact. It is tough to imagine how a group of 12- and 13-year-olds could deal with such grief.
White players had the No. 8 on the back of their helmets, and others did their own personal tribute.
“My hat’s off to them because I knew it was tough,” Roberts coach Rosby Johnson said. “It was also hard for my players because they knew him.”
On Monday, another group of talented county football players will take the stage in the annual all-star middle school game. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Tara Stadium.
All season, these young men entertained their family and classmates with their talents. After witnessing several middle school games this past season, it is evident that the talent pool in the county is still deep.
Some of the players who will play in Monday’s game have a chance to earn scholarships if they continue to work hard and listen to the instruction of their coaches. It would not be a stretch to see some of them playing on the varsity level next season as freshmen.
Hats off to these young men as they continue their athletic, but more importantly, academic success.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily newspaper. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter? Follow him @DerrickMahone_