Valdosta Daily Times

July 11, 2013

Coping with tragedy

Community mourns loss of football players

Derrick Davis
The Valdosta Daily Times

QUITMAN — Members of the Brooks County High School football team and head coach Maurice Freeman are still trying to cope a day after three members of the team were killed and one injured in a single-vehicle accident Tuesday morning.

A vigil for the boys was held Tuesday night at the Brooks County High School’s gymnasium.

Jicarre Watkins, Shawn Waters, and Johnie Parker were the players killed when the black Ford Expedition they were riding in slammed into a tree.

 De’vron Whitfield was injured in the accident and  lifeflighted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. in critical condition. Whitfield spent the night in the hospital before being released Wednesday with no serious injuries.

“Whitfield came home today and we couldn’t be happier about that,” said Freeman. “He had a tire iron stuck under his armpit and he had to be airlifted to Gainesville, but it missed the vital spots and he’s doing okay.”

According to reports, the SUV veered off of the east side of Webster Road, near Highway 133.

The driver couldn’t regain control before the crash.

Watkins and Waters were rising seniors this year for the Trojans; Parker and Whitfield, rising juniors.

All three of the deceased players played linebacker at Brooks County and had formed a special connection with head coach Freeman, who is also the linebackers coach.

“Those were the guys I worked with and got onto everyday in practice,” said Freeman.

“They were the heart of the defense.”

Freeman stated that the players met on Wednesday morning with coaches and grief counselors to talk about their feelings in the aftermath of the horrific accident that took three of their teammates.

Freeman had the players moving around a bit before taking them into the gym to shoot some basketball and try to find some semblance of normalcy. While the citizens of Brooks County have been highly supportive, they aren’t the only ones helping the Trojans through this dark time.

Coaches from all around the region have reached out to Freeman and the Trojans to offer their support and well wishes.

“I just wanted to thank all the coaches in the surrounding counties that reached out and called,” said Freeman. “Cook County called us up, all the coaches in Thomasville, all the coaches in Lowndes County, Lowndes and Valdosta. I just have to thank them, it really means a lot to me.”

The Brooks County football players and coaches have been spending time with the families of the deceased. Once funeral arrangements have been made, the entire team plans to attend.