QUITMAN — A prayer vigil was held Tuesday evening for three Brooks County High School football players killed in a Tuesday morning car crash that left another Trojans player in critical condition.
The students were identified as rising seniors Jicarre Watkins and Shawn Waters and rising junior Johnnie Parker. Devron Whitfield, a rising junior, was thrown from the vehicle and was still in critical condition at Shands Hospital in Florida as of late Tuesday night.
There were also prayers across Southwest Georgia by those local football coaches and players who knew the four young men, including Monroe head coach Charles Truitt, who described Brooks County head coach Maurice Freeman as “one of my best friends.”
“It’s just awful, just awful,” Truitt said Tuesday evening when reached by The Herald. “I’ve called him, but it went straight to voicemail. Lord only knows how much he has going on right now with this tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of the players, coach Freeman and that team. You coach these young men to go on to bigger and better things — you never imagine losing one this early.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the crash occurred on Webster Road around 9:30 a.m. not far from Brooks County High, which was poised to have yet another stellar football season after winning GHSA’s Region 2-AA by going 10-0 in the regular season — the first in school history — and finishing 12-1 after a Class AA quarterfinal playoff defeat to eventual state runner-up Calhoun.
WCTV-CBS in Tallahassee, Fla., reported that the four young men were on their way home from summer football practice. It was not immediately clear who was driving.
“The vehicle for whatever reason ran partially off the right shoulder of the roadway,” Sgt. First Class Carl Taylor with the Georgia State Patrol told the television station. “The driver over-reacted, brought the vehicle back on the roadway. It rotated into the ditch on the opposite side of the road. The vehicle started to overturn and struck the tree.”
Added Owen Clemmons, the superintendent for Brooks County Schools: “The community is just devastated. Both the school community and our general community are just really in shock. It is such a tragedy here in Brooks County. We just solicit the prayers and thoughts from our community, and it’s going to take a community effort to really pull us through this. We’re looking for answers, but we need help now.”
Truitt said the Brooks County community can count on the Trojans’ friends in Southwest Georgia for support.
“The next time we meet with our team, the first thing we’ll do is pray for the families, the coaching staff and that community,” Truitt said. “And then we’ll remind (our players) how precious life is and how we must be cautious at all times. It really puts things in perspective because this could’ve just as easily been one of our kids.”
Monroe and Brooks will face off for the fourth straight season Aug. 30 in Quitman.
Brooks won last year’s game, 21-18.