Brooks County played for more than state championship with former Rattler as coach
By Vaughn Wilson
Special to the Outlook
ATLANTA, Ga – Head coach Maurice Freeman led his Brooks County Trojans football team to the GHSA state championship game, but they would fall to Dublin Fighting Irish 42-32 on a cold and windy day at Georgia State Stadium.
While bringing home another state championship to Quitman, Ga. was a major focus, Freeman had an added destiny to fulfill with the trip to Atlanta.
“It was a dream season,” said Freeman. “We took what most considered a bunch of nobodies and molded them into a legitimate state championship contender. They were a group of kids who started out very slow at 1-3 and bonded together to get some big wins down the stretch of the season.”
The path to the state championship would not be easy, as their lowly ranking made them have to travel through the playoffs.
“We beat people during the second half of the season that we had no business beating,” Freeman said.
Freeman, a former FAMU standout football player, has led the Trojans for most of the last two decades. He would be the coach during one of the most tumultuous events in the school’s history on July 9, 2013.
Jicarre Watkins, Johnnie Parker, and Shawn Waters were headed to football practice when the SUV they were driving veered off the quant Georgia road and struck a tree, killing two of them instantly. The other player succumbed shortly thereafter. The tragedy would destroy the close-knit community where nearly everybody knows everybody. The trio of players who lost their lives would be affectionately known as the “Brooks County 3,” simply referred to as “BC3.”
Freeman would be credited with being one of the guiding forces for the Brooks County community in the aftermath of the tragedy. On the day following the tragedy, the community gathered for grief counseling and direction from school, city and county leaders. However, there was almost a hush in the room as most only wanted to hear from Freeman.
He promised the players that he would adhere to their desires.
“If you feel so bad that you don’t want to play anymore, we can just quit the season right now,” he said to his team. “But, if you want to work and continue to play and dedicate yourselves to playing for our guys we can do that.”
The entire team, coaches and staff stepped forward, ready to play for the memory of their deceased teammates. That season, the Trojans went to the state semi-finals, playing with the energy and memory of their lost teammates.
“I have no doubt that with my guys, and I missing them every day, that we would have contended for that title,” Freeman said.
In a promise he made publicly, Freeman said that if they ever made it to state, he would take the jerseys of the “BC3” with them. The jerseys of the former players were in tow this year in Atlanta.
In 1994, as a 28-year-old first time head coach, Freeman led Brooks County to the state title. Twenty-five years later, he would take a team that virtually nobody gave a chance to get there. They gave the eventual champion everything they could handle, finally relinquishing the lead in the second half and unable to regain it.
“In college at FAMU, my coach was Rudy Hubbard,” Freeman said. “He taught me about integrity. He was a tough guy and I didn’t think he cared for us at times. Now that I am a coach, I understand the responsibility it is to mentor young men. As a coach we have the opportunity to mold young men into whatever they want to become in their future.”