HSFT Stop #31 — Houston Hilltoppers
Houston, MS — When the Houston Hilltoppers take the field this fall, it’ll be about much more than football. Head coach Baylor Dampeer’s squad experienced an indescribable amount of loss within the span of less than a year.
The Hilltoppers were cruising into the playoffs with an 8-2 record when they got the news that changed everything — their teammate Demarcus Hall had passed away. The news came just two weeks after Hall’s mother passed. The team found out the morning of their playoff game against Senatobia.
The game was postponed until Saturday, but playing without Hall still didn’t feel right.
“I just tried to pull myself together to try to pull the guys back together and try to all go out and play the game and play for him,” senior Jalen Washington — one of Hall’s best friends — said.
Houston ended up falling to Senatobia in the first round of the playoffs, but the kids didn’t care. The only loss that mattered was Hall.
Hall was only in his sophomore season but had already been offered by Mississippi State. All it took was watching Hall at a camp for Mike Leach to know he wanted him to be a bulldog.
“He was a good kid,” Dampeer said. “He had a bright future ahead.”
Only a few months had passed before the Hilltoppers were faced with another tragedy. Assistant coach Anquntio “Q” Lewis was killed in a car crash in April.
“All you think about is Jamarcus. And then you get ready to start spring practice, and Coach Lewis passed away,” Dampeer said. “It’s tough on us but to think about their family and what they’re going through. We just think about those guys everyday and try to play through them. And, we know we have to continue doing that.”
So that’s what they are going to do this season. Play for Hall and coach Lewis. Dampeer’s kids are finding a way to turn this pain into inspiration.
“We gonna take that and turn it into something,” senior Jamal Cooperwood said.