By Brandon Speck
As Itawamba AHS chaplain Scott Nicholson’s prayer went skyward Friday night from the Indians’ postgame huddle, a lot of tears hit the ground.
The Journal’s No. 1-ranked large school team had just beaten No. 2 small school Aberdeen 43-36 in dramatic fashion, yet football had taken a backseat. Standing amid the circle of kneeling Indians, coach Clint Hoots looked at senior WR/CB Desmond Shumpert and told him he loved him.
Shumpert had played a high school football game hours after his mom Charlotte passed away that morning.
“I really just wanted to do it for her,” Shumpert said. “It was a big game and I had to be there for my brothers. They needed me.”
They needed each other in a wild win. Their brotherhood was emotionally evident after it. As Nicholson choked out the sincerest of prayers, thanking God for their kinship and asking healing for their hurt, anyone within earshot would have had a tough time not tearing up.
Battling illness, Charlotte Ross hadn’t been able to watch her son play over the last three years. In passing, that changed.
“He told me before the game his mom was going to be able to see him play,” Hoots said. “After the game, I told him, I said, ‘I know there’s a lady that’s smiling right now.’”
Shumpert played the entire game and finished with one official tackle – because Aberdeen didn’t throw his way. He had seven pass breakups.
Hoots got a call Friday morning around 10:30 that Shumpert had checked out of school. He immediately called him. The game was the least concern of the moment, but Shumpert had not hesitated about what he wanted to do, finally play so Charlotte could watch.
“It was tough. All I could do most of the time was think about her and make her proud,” he said. “And it just motivated me to play hard and play better.”