Saturday was supposed to be a regular season game between rivals LaGrange and Troup County. However regular is the wrong word to describe it.
“I don’t think anything can handle you for a situation like this,” said LaGrange Head Coach Matt Napier.
Saturday was the first time LaGrange took the field after the death of their teammate, 17-year old Trae Cole. Cole died in a car accident on Thursday, November 12th. Tributes to Trae were all around Callaway Stadium. His number, 14, was everywhere. The team had a black “14” sticker on their helmets, the cheerleaders wore shirts with 14 on the backs, signs honoring Trae’s life were displayed, and the team had a chant to honor their fallen teammate.
“1, 2, 3 play like Trae!”
Sadly, this isn’t the only time the Grangers have dealt with this kind of tragedy.
“This senior class has had to endure some deaths and go through some things that you wouldn’t want a person my age to go through,” said Coach Napier.
The Grangers won’t just miss Trae’s impact on the field. Coach Napier said he’ll miss the positive impact he had on everyone that knew him.
“He’s the kind of kid that you wanted to be around. A positive energy everywhere he went. He was a little ball of energy. He was always smiling and everybody around him was always laughing,” said Coach Napier.
Even though the team was mourning, they played their hearts out against Troup County. In the end LaGrange lost 14-7, but coach Napier was beaming with pride about his team’s grit.
“I’m at a loss for words for what they’ve been through and the amount of love I’ve got for them. They continue to fight even when it wasn’t perfect and we continued to have adversity through some injuries and things like that,” said Coach Napier.
This is Coach Napier’s first year as the Grangers head coach. There really is no playbook he can use in an awful situation like this. The one thing he knows is LaGrange is where need needs to be.
“I’m proud to be a Granger. I’m proud of these kids,” said Coach Napier