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When everyone agrees with taking a knee

September 28, 2009
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

I never remember a coach taking a knee on an extra point during my years playing high school football.

We whipped our share of opponents and our coach always had the PAT kicked. I'm not sure taking a knee was even discussed.

I have seen it done in the Valley a good bit.

I have no problem with it.

If a team is leading 49-0 and takes a knee, that point means a lot mentally for the team getting shut out.

Getting beat 49-0 sounds better than 50-0.

It's the same reason why things cost $49.95 and not $50.

It's why you feel better about buying gas that is $2.39.9 instead of $2.40.

A handful of people told me about this story you are about to read and thought it would be good for this column.

Fortunately, I had already read about it and knew it was perfect for this space.

Thamail Morgan took a kickoff and did what he does best - avoid tacklers. He was heading for a touchdown with his team leading 34-16 and the game almost over.

Morgan stopped at the 2-yard-line, took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5.

His team, Cave City, beat visiting Yellville-Summitt 34-16.

But, that's the final part of the story.

There are stories within the story.

Yellville-Summit is a combination of two small rural schools which allows them to field a football team. That also means there are not a lot of players in uniform each week. The schools are in the northern part of Arkansas.

On Sept. 11, the day of its game with Salem, a prep rally was held for the players at Yellville-Summitt. After the rally, four players jumped into the bed of Kymball Duffy's truck and headed to his house for a pre-game meal.

Apparently as Duffy came over a hill he came upon a pile of debris in the road, swerved to avoid it and lost control of the truck.

The quartet of players in the back were thrown from the truck and three suffered minor injuries. A fourth had a stay in the hospital, but has since been released.

Duffy was dead about a half-mile from his home.

The game with Salem was canceled.

One week later, players from both teams met at midfield before the game for a moment of silence. All players wore a No. 72 decal - Duffy's number - on their helmet.

Cave City was leading 21-0 in the first quarter.

"I did not know what to expect due to the tragedy,'' coach Jon Bradley said. "You go into the game wanting to win, but then, you feel bad doing it. When we went up 21-0 in the first quarter, I just can't explain how I felt. The atmosphere was so weird. I just can't explain it.

"They (his players) told me on the sidelines that Yellville-Summit was not into it and they did not want to pad stats or run up the score. At that time, I started substituting our kids in and out of the game.

"Everyone was glad that they were out there playing, getting some sort of return to normalcy. But everyone was going to be glad when it was over.

"I talked with coach (Calvin) Mallet earlier in the week and before the game. He let me know that if the game was to get out of hand, he simply did not have the players to substitute due to his numbers. So, I knew that when I pulled our guys, that there was a chance they would score."

Then came that kickoff.

"We didn't even think they would kick off," Bradley said. "And we had him (Morgan) all the way back. It was our top return team, but we only have one return team.

"I did not tell him to kneel down, he did it on his own. I did not expect them to kick it to him. I figured they would kick away, because he has the ability to break away. I did not know that he was going to do what he did. He broke tackles, ran sideline to sideline, and got to the 2, and just stopped. That is when he backed up and took a knee on the 5-yard line."

Morgan heard his teammates yelling at him.

"We were on the sidelines yelling for him not to score," Bradley said. "Some of the players on the field were saying it, too. But I'm not sure how much he could have heard all of it."

"Before the game, we as a team talked about being classy,'' Morgan said. "We did not want to come out in a game like this and not show any class.

"As I was running, some of my teammates told me not to score, and I knew that scoring was not the right thing to do.

"We weren't sure how gloomy they would be before the game. They had gloom, but it was not as bad as we thought. We met before the game, and they told us that they did not want us to feel sorry for them, and they did not want us to back off just because of what happened. They wanted us to play them like we would have if Duffy has still been there with them, so we did.

"After the game, they complimented us, and even thanked us for the way that we played them. They are some really cool cats, and I wish them the best of luck with their healing process and the rest of their season. I hope they make the playoffs."

This is Morgan's only year with Cave City. He played last year at another high school, Newport, when, during basketball season, he broke a school rule that banned him from sports for a year.

This is Morgan's only year with Cave City. He played last year at another high school, Newport, when, during basketball season, he broke a school rule that banned him from sports for a year.

That meant no football and he was bring recruited by many Division I schools in the south.

"Before I screwed up and got myself into trouble, I had some schools like Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss, and some other big schools looking at me,'' he said. "Now they are not looking at me, but I have no one to blame but myself for that. Hopefully I can get on someone's radar, even if it is a lower level D-1 or D-2 school."

Bradley accepted Morgan under certain conditions - he is required to attend extra weight lifting and conditioning exercises, he is required to participate in after-school activities with a local church and meet with a pastor on a regular basis for counseling.

"Everyone makes mistakes," Bradley said. "Thamail made some mistakes that did not allow him to play football anymore at Newport, and we knew what those mistakes were when he came here.

"I sat him down and talked to him, and let him know I was willing to give him a chance, but there were certain things that he would have to do in order to play for our program. So far, he has accomplished, and continues to do everything he has been asked to do, and then some."

"I just want to thank my teammates for not only being classy all night, but pushing me to be classy as well,'' he said.

Yellville-Summitt dropped a 41-6 decision on Friday to Paris High School, making it 1-2 on the season. It was its first game at home.

"The whole team wanted to play left tackle for Kymball," coach Mallett commented. "I said, 'Hey, you can do it. You may be lined up in quarterback or whatever but you're playing for Kymball.'

"God didn't put us out here to quit. Challenges make us tougher. Challenges make us successful."

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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