The undershirts for the Tellico Plains football team sport the
word "brotherhood" on their back.
That concept may never have been put to the test more than
it was the Friday that opened the 2013 football season.
Nick Harrison, freshman lineman for
the Bears, had lost his mother, Arlene, at 8:30 that morning.
Then David Freeman, the father
of Tellico sophomore linebacker Ethan Freeman, had succumbed in his battle with pancreatic cancer at
6 p.m., right before the start of the Bears' season opener at Sequoyah.
"I've been coaching
42 years, and I've never been around one during the season, much less two during the same
day," said Tellico Plains coach John Mullinax.
Ethan did not find out about his father's
death until immediately after the Bears' 41-0 loss to the Chiefs. According to Mullinax, it was at
the request of his mother, Teri, that Ethan not be told before the game started.
his mom came," Mullinax said. "She didn't want to (tell him). She let us know not to tell him.
Ethan's dad would've wanted him to play."
Then, after the game, the entire football team
traveled with the grieving Freeman to Biereley-Hale Funeral Home to visit his father and pay its
"That loss in the game wasn't that big of a deal after that," Mullinax said.
"Reality hits you in the face. That's a real life situation that was terrible. We've got to do the
best we can to support our two young men who lost their parents. We're going to do that, because
we're a close-knit bunch, and we're going to stay that way."
In addition, Freeman had
suffered two compressed vertebrae in his back during the game against Sequoyah and is expected to be
out between four and six weeks.
The Bears will wear the initials of David Freeman and Arlene
Harrison on their helmets for the rest of the 2013 campaign.
"We can honor those two fine
parents the rest of the season," Mullinax said.
That rest of that season starts this Friday
across the Appalachian Mountains at Andrews, N.C., which is coming off its season-opening loss, and
Mullinax was pleased with the way his team resumed its focus on the game following everything that
happened on and off the field during Week 0.
"I felt like our guys came back today with a
great attitude," Mullinax said. "We didn't watch the film much. That's over with. We're
concentrating totally on trying to improve on our mistakes and get ready for
Andrews."email@example.com | 337-7101