By Daniel Brunty
The Choctaw Plaindealer
It was a historic day on the French Camp Academy campus during a special chapel held to present the 2013 French Camp Academy Panthers Football Team with their state championship rings.
Many who have followed French Camp football over the past few years know that this moment has been long in the making. The Panthers were in the Class 1A State Championship Game in 2012, their first ever appearance in the school’s history. Fate was not on the Panther’s side that day, as they suffered a tough loss to the Stringer Red Devils 20-17.
The 2013 began with the Panthers losing their first four games, a possible carry-over from the previous season’s loss in the championship game. The Panthers did not clinch a playoff berth until the last game of the season, and many people did not see the team going past the first round of the playoffs.
But that is all Head Coach Nathan Wright and his team needed….a chance for redemption. After impressive victories over Bogue Chitto, Lumberton, and Stringer, the Panthers went on to dominate Smithville in the championship game 27-6.
The Panthers received their official banner for winning the MHSAA Class 1A State Football Championship when officials from the Mississippi High School Activities Association came to the school and presented it this past January.
French Camp Academy Principal Rusty McKnight began the April 9 program in a word of prayer. Next on the agenda was the presentation of a check from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi to French Camp Academy for being a winning school in the “Text and Win” contest that was held the week of the championship game. The contest consists of the 12 schools that participated in the 2013 MHSAA state championship football games. This was the second year of the contest. The schools with the most texts receive a $1,000 check from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi designated for their physical education departments.
The award was presented to Coach Nathan Wright and PE teacher Kevin Sorensen by Blue Cross representative Meredith Virden, Manager of Corporate Communications. Following the check presentation, FCA President Stewart Edwards, Jr. asked for the football team, cheerleaders, and coaching staff to present them.
Edwards then invited Representative Joey Hood and Senator Gary Jackson to present the team and school with awards. Senator Jackson presented Coach Wright, the team, and the cheerleaders with a concurrent resolution for the State Senate honoring their first-ever championship season. After Jackson’s presentation, Rep. Hood commented on how tremendous the occasion was, as well as presenting the school a concurrent resolution for the Mississippi House of Representatives to honor and recognize the Panthers’ first championship.
Next, President Edwards then addressed the football players before the distributing of the rings. “So as they rings remind you of the great accomplishment you have achieved, we also hope that they will remind you of your time here at French Camp Academy,” Edwards said. “We also hope as you reflect on that time, that they will remind you of the relationships, the people that the Lord has brought into each one of your lives.”
As Edwards announced each player’s name, they came to receive the coveted reward for all their hard work and effort during the season and off. Following the players, the managers and cheerleaders were presented with their rings.
Next was the coaching staff, which was presented their rings by Principal McKnight. Championship rings were also awarded to Athletic Director John Cockrell, Principal McKnight, and “The Queen of Panther Nation” Tonya Barlow.
The ceremony ended with a joyous fellowship of students and parents posing for pictures with the state championship trophy, as well as the showing off of some impressive jewelry.
With the summer approaching fast, French Camp Academy and its fans will have all that time to enjoy and bask in the sunshine of this glorious triumph. As for the coaching staff and players, they know that defending the title will be as just as hard as it was claiming it.