WEIR, Miss. (WCBI) – A staple in Mississippi High School Athletics could see its final chapter written this Friday.
The Weir High School football team has been a source of pride for the small town in Choctaw County for many years, holding a proud tradition winning six state titles in the last three decades. But with the possible consolidation with Ackerman and French Camp schools, the history of Weir football may cease to exist after the 2012 season.
“It’s kind of like losing a family member,” said former Weir head coach Junior Graham, who now coaches a short drive up highway 9 in Eupora. “The 14 years I spent at Weir are indescribable. The quality of people I dealt with on a daily basis, the student athletes, the student body; those are special times for me.
The sense of community has always been evident in the small town. Championships are as well. Yet State Titles aren’t the only thing the school has produced over the course of its existence in
Mississippi. Weir High School has also produced countless professional athletes and even the 1980 Miss America (Cheryl Prewitt).
Possibly the school’s most famous alum may be current Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Oswalt, who was also quite the football player himself. He helped lead the Lions football team to the 1994 State Title in Jackson.
“Weir has a lot of tradition and it’s known for its football,” said Oswalt. “We’ve had a lot of great athletes come out of there. Lot of players come and play at Mississippi State too. There’s been tremendous support from the community and I’m going to miss it.”
The litany of success the Lions have enjoyed over the course of its stay in Mississippi can be contributed to multiple people. That includes long-time head coach Marion Kelley, who the school’s football field is now named after.
But the man at the forefront of its success in the past three decades is former Lions head coach Joe Lynn Gant, who was accountable for five of the school’s six state titles.
“People don’t understand the community like this,” Coach Gant said. “It has always been tight. They stick together, and the biggest reason for this team’s success is that the community cares.
“They’ve stuck by me through good times, bad times, and hard times. I have a strong feeling for this community.”
“The amount of time and effort Coach Gant has put into this place is really amazing,” current Weir head coach Paul Courtney said. “He was emotional, I got a little emotional. I know it meant a lot to him but not nearly as much as he’s meant to this place.”
What Coach Courtney is referring to is the special ceremony prior to the Lions’ home game last Friday night, where Coach Gant received a special helmet signed by the current Weir Lions team.
Twenty-two players currently make up the 2012 Weir Lions football team. A far cry from the 40-50 kids the school would list on the football roster back in the day.
Those twenty-two kids could very well have been the final Weir Lions football team to walk down the hill to Marion Kelley Field last Friday night. The town’s Friday night sanctuary has seen just twelve losses in the last twenty-two years on that field. Yet last Friday, they saw what may have been the final game to be played at the historic stadium.
The players of the current Lions team know what it means to be a part of a history and a legacy that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
“I feel pride, respect, and I love it,” said senior Willis Cork. “I feel it because it’s my last year and I don’t want it to be my last year playing this sport, but I feel I can play it every day.”
“My Dad, my brothers; they all played here,” said senior Bailey Callahan. “Being on that last team means the world to me. I want to win for it. I know all the people and supporters and the tradition behind it. That makes me want to win.”
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. There’s only an eternally new now that builds and creates itself out of the best as the past withdraws. That eternal newness will be without the proud football team.
Yet the roar of the crowd, and the roar of the Lions, will most certainly live on forever.