To the Poplarville Hornets: never quit

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

As a Poplarville High School graduate, where I was a multi sport athlete and football trainer many moons ago, I want to share a personal message.

I hope each Hornet football player will read, take in, and feel good about the things I am writing. Reflecting on the State Championship appearance by the Hornets on Dec. 3, 2016, you had a community who backed you, cheered for you, took in the highs and lows with you; and our love and respect for you never wavered. You did amazing things this season and shattered records of history that previous athletes like myself, could only dream and wish for.

You are one of the select few athletic teams in Poplarville’s history to even make it to the State Championship, and the only football team to get there to date. That’s one thing no one can take away and it’s something for decades to come you will relish in, regret plays in, feel inspired in, have bittersweet memories in, and it will also be something you will be known in. I promise.

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It’s been said you all feel you let this town down. You did not. Hang that up and leave it on Davis Wade field in Starkville, washed away in the rain that poured. You brought yourselves there and gave us something to be proud of and support you for.

Do you really think that many people traveled hours to Starkville (surpassing any of Lafayette’s fan base) to pack out the guest side of a SEC stadium in 44 degree temperatures and rain, just to hang our heads? No sir. We have your backs.

The thing about being an athlete is you are permanently connected with heart and soul. It never dies. It runs through your blood for years to come. The love of a true fan does as well. These people love you as a team and want to lift you up and take away the hurt seen on your faces after giving it your everything. Unfortunately, that’s one of life’s toughest lessons. We want the best for you in more places than just the football field.

That leads me to my final analysis and the key points I want you to always remember. Never quit. Some might say they would have been disappointed if you guys had thrown in the towel, stopped showing heart, given up the will or courage to rage on in the pouring rain in the 4th quarter rally you showed. That’s the heart of a champion.

This is an example you set for all those younger boys looking up to you. You impacted someone that day and you placed an imprint on some child lying in bed dreaming of wearing your jersey or wishing to be comparable to your talents and accolades.

You also gave so many Hornet football players that came before you excitement and pride. You seniors blazed a path that set the tone for the underclassmen to live up to. They have some big shoes to fill. You should be proud. You set the tone for these young Hornets. They’ll play on for you.

More importantly, as you young men prepared to take the field in post warm ups, you demonstrated a simple act that showed great character. You turned to your fans so humbly and held your helmets up; giving us all a nod of respect, gratitude, and integrity.

This was such a special moment of pure class and mutual love. Our hearts were full. The character in you that fueled this act is worth more and will take you further than any statistic or trophy. I know it does not feel this way now, but trust me, it will. You’ll apply so many lessons you learned on the field to those hard hits you take in life. You’ll stand up and you’ll survive.

Let your hearts ache for a few days, then pick yourselves up, soak it all in (the good and the bad) and enjoy the accomplishments you will carry through life.

Thank you to the coaches, managers, water boys, athletic trainers, band, dance team, cheerleaders, and all who made this season one to cherish.  We applaud you.

“We are the Hornets, couldn’t be prouder, if you can’t hear us, we’ll shout a little louder.”

Marie (Rie Rie) Willoughby

Class of 1998