Names on backs, hearts of players provided motivation

Published 12:00am Monday, September 10, 2012

By JUSTIN WHITMORE & MICHAEL KEREKES

NATCHEZ — When size, strength and speed weren’t quite enough for Cathedral High School senior Khalil Brice Friday night, he had some extra motivation to help lead him to a dominant performance.

Brice finished the first half with 239 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 10 carries, and he did it all with his great-grandmother Alma Harris on his mind, in his heart and on his back, he said.

“That was great (to represent her),” Brice said. “I never got to meet her, but I’ve heard so many great things about her.”

Harris died from breast cancer in 1991, and Brice chose to honor her Friday night when Cathedral donned pink uniforms to support cancer awareness.

“It wasn’t a fashion statement or anything,” Brice said. “We wanted to represent people who are struggling and show our support.”

The uniforms — along with the people they represented — helped push the Green Wave players to a 48-12 victory.

Cathedral head coach Ron Rushing said the idea behind wearing the uniforms had nothing to do with motivating his team, but he was glad to see his players want to represent their loved ones well.

Brice took the field before the game with his grandmother, Hattie Brice, for a presentation to honor the victims of cancer, including Harris.

“There were a lot of mixed emotions,” Hattie said. “I felt very sad that she had not lived long enough to witness such an awesome great-grandson. I was proud he wanted to represent her and stand in memory of her.”

Harris was Hattie’s mother, and she said that she always told Khalil stories about his great-grandmother, and Khalil said those stories have made Harris a part of his life, even though he never knew her.

“It made Khalil a lot more aware of breast cancer,” Hattie said.

Khalil’s mother, Tangela Broadway, said she was touched to see her son want to do something that made his grandmother so proud.

“He’s really close to his grandmother, and it pleased him to represent her mom,” Broadway said.

Broadway also caught the “Pink Wave” Friday night and had to find the right attire to fit in with the rest of the Cathedral fans.

“I love (all the pink). It’s awesome,” she said. “I had to find me something pink. I was looking all day to find some pink.”

Brice was not the only Cathedral player inspired by the cause Friday night. Starting quarterback Thomas Garrity said the uniforms gave the players a different perspective on the game of football and helped drive them when the game got tough.

“We didn’t talk about it too much, because we didn’t want to over hype it,” Garrity said. “But we wanted to play for the person on our back, because they have been through tons of suffering, and the coaches told us if we get tired, don’t think about yourself but the person on your back, because they’ve been through so much more.”

Brice said the enthusiasm for the event spread throughout Cathedral School last week, and it burst out of the fans and players Friday night.

“It was exciting all week at school,” he said. “People were pumped and ready to come out.”

Ferriday versus Block

Ferriday High School running back Jarvis Brooks gives 100 percent all the time, whether on the field or in the weight room. And his reason for doing so is simple.

“Wearing the black and gold, period,” Brooks said. “Playing for my team and trying to help my team as much as I can. Just by being a senior and knowing it’s my last year, it motivates me more than anything.”

Wide receiver Trey Hall also said there’s a certain amount of pride in wearing the Ferriday jersey that makes him want to try hard all the time.

“What motivates me is being a football player, playing for Ferriday High School, coming to school every day and being a student-athlete,” Hall said.

Hall said he’s been a football player his entire life, and his love for the game gives him a fire to play it.

“I used to come to the games and see my (relatives) play, and I wanted to be just like them,” Hall said.

There’s also an added fire when he takes on a school so close by in Block.

“They’re right across the river, and we know them, and they know us,” Hall said. “It’s just like we brothers, and we have to play them.”

Block fullback William Cummings also said he gets excited to play Ferriday, especially since his cousin, Cleothis Cummings, is the Trojans’ head coach.

“It’s a rivalry; I have to beat him,” William said.

And after his Bears won, William said he was pleased with the effort he gave.

“I gave it my all,” William said.