Hopes, prayers go out to Panthers

Published 8:11 pm Saturday, September 15, 2012

For the better part of 25 years, Friday nights in the fall have been filled with high school football in one capacity or another. The past 20 or so have been due to the requirements of covering a game or two for the newspaper I worked for at the time.

I have seen blowout wins, blowout losses. I have seen nail-biters and heartbreakers. I thought, up until Friday evening,  I had seen it all.

Sadly, I found out Friday evening at Southside, I had not.

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As the one covering the Southside home game against Straughn, it was my responsibility to talk with Southside head coach Daniel Flowers after his team had lost a hard-fought regional contest. It’s never easy talking to a coach whose team had just lost. They usually aren’t the most talkative.

In this case, though, the first-year Southside head coach had a little different look on his face after the loss and just moments after talking with his team. It was something I had not seen on a coach before. It was almost a look of confusion, uncertainty.

What I did not know is that during halftime, one of Flowers’ assistant head coaches had collapsed from an apparent heart attack and EMTs had rushed him away in an ambulance. And, during the third quarter, Flowers had to deal with a horrific family situation befalling one of his players.

Once I heard all of this, I nearly fell to my knees in absolute heartbreak for that coach, that player and the others on the team who were part of his extended family.

Not once in my career — not once — had I honestly come to a point where I didn’t have anything to say except, “God bless them.” It was the only thing that came to mind and talking about the game just seemed inappropriate.

At that point and time, I knew why Flowers had the look on his face, that he did. It all made sense. Handling such a situation, I am sure, is not included in any handbook for coaches.

I have always had the upmost respect for high school coaches. In just about every case, they are not only responsible for game planning, training and coaching their teams, but they are also teachers who have to focus on lesson plans, curriculum and teaching.

In addition, they have to deal with the personalities of their players,  and their players’ parents, as well as all the coaches who are sitting in the stands. How they are able to balance all of those obligations is still beyond me. Regardless of records, they deserve the upmost respect.

As for Flowers, this week might very well be the toughest week of coaching he has ever faced in his career. Hopefully it’ll be the toughest week he faces in his entire career.
While the prayers of Southside players, teachers, administration and supporters are rightfully being sent for their assistant coach and the affected families, it also might be nice to add Flowers, and the rest of the coaching staff, to the prayer list.

Through it all, they still have the job of getting a team ready to play Friday night.

This week, I’m throwing all objectivity out the window, and saying I am a committed Southside Panther fan. Good luck men.