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franklin county times

Red Bay dealt tough hand

By Staff
Kim West
Franklin County Times
Last week was spring break for Franklin County schools, and it should have been a time of rest and relaxation before local student-athletes gear up for state tournaments and meets and the final six weeks of classes.
For one school and its community, the week was instead filled with tragedy as the Red Bay football team lost 18-year-old junior Terry Wilemon, who was killed in a one-car accident in Itawamba County, Miss. near the state line last Wednesday.
The tragedy spurred an impromptu gathering late Wednesday night in Red Bay's Big Star parking lot as students, teammates and other members of the community gathered to console each other and remember Wilemon, a 5-11, 190-pound starting offensive and defensive lineman who also starred on special teams for the Tigers.
I covered several games last fall during Red Bay's 13-1 run to the Class 2A state semifinals, and Wilemon was one of those players that couldn't be missed on a team full of talent because he always hustled and had a knack for making plays, especially in an opposing team's backfield.
In Red Bay's 31-23 quarterfinal victory over Piedmont, Wilemon played a key role in helping the defensive line hold the Bulldogs' rushing game to negative-32 yards, and he also had a sack and recovered an onside kick late in the game to help seal the win.
When I heard the news from a co-worker, I thought about something another colleague had pointed out last fall when he mentioned the closeness of the Red Bay players. It's not uncommon for high school football players to share a special bond but I think the Tigers are linked by something more than wins and losses because they have experienced more than their share of adversity in the past few years.
Two years ago Red Bay defensive lineman Matthew Hester – who wore the same No. 54 jersey as Wilemon – passed away after an 11-month fight with cancer, while senior quarterback Anthony Horton has endured season-ending ACL injuries twice.
I heard something on TV the other day that reminded me of Red Bay's misfortunes. A character had been called an underdog because of everything he had been through but he rejected that label. He preferred to describe himself as a fighter because he had learned to fight harder than most people because he had been dealt so many tough cards in his life.
Red Bay's fallen teammates will be missed but hopefully their examples will continue to inspire the Tigers on and off the football field.
Kim West is sports editor for The Franklin County Times. She can be reached at kim.west@fct.wpengine.com or (256) 332-1881, ext. 30.