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FHS seniors, team still best in West

Chris Stokes, area sales manager for U.S. Cellular, said his company’s sponsorship of the annual Farragut-Bearden high school football rivalry is “probably the biggest thing we do in high schools in terms of sponsorship ... a specific game.”

And it’s no wonder why following the fourth annual U.S. Cellular How the West Was Won showdown in Bearden Stadium Friday, Sept. 9, before.

There was love pouring out for a coach who’s been battling serious health issues since April. There was appreciation dolled out for the entire football experience beyond the players.

And that four-fingered thing on Farragut’s U.S. Cellular How the West Was Won poster was an accurate prediction of the game’s outcome.

Amid near-deafening roars in a giant post-game mass of blue and gray humanity near midfield, Stokes presented Admiral skipper Eddie Courtney with Farragut’s fourth straight U.S. Cellular HWWW trophy following a 27-17 victory.

“First of all, student body, thank ya,’ thank ya,’” Courtney said in a loud shout to the hundreds of highly-charged FHS students crowded around the coach’s tired but overjoyed football team. A minute more of student roaring followed. “Do it for us every week, these guys are special.”

Well, coach, the feeling seems to be mutual.

If shouting “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie ...” and lifting Courtney on their shoulders with the U.S. Cellular HWWW trophy hoisted high wasn’t proof enough, the FHS football players have the wristbands to prove it. It’s an honor extended to a coach battling Hodgkin’s Disease since being diagnosed April.

“Our coach Courtney wrist bands ... like the Lance Armstrong wrist bands ... that’s us just dedicating our season to coach Courtney,” senior linebacker Tony Manilla said of the blue plastic band with “Coach Courtney” engraved. “That wristband reminds us every day, when we wake up, how much he’s busted his butt for us, and how much we need to bust our butt for him.

“Coach Courtney stuck with us through thick and thin,” Manilla added. “We think we’re making sacrifices. I mean, it’s just football. Coach Courtney’s is a matter of life and death. He’s put everything on the line. He’s gotten out of bed and come to practice right after a chemo treatment, all the way through two-a-days. It’s just unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for a better coach.”

Such emotions prompted Stokes to say U.S. Cellular is “definitely excited about our partnership with How the West Was Won.”

Before praising his team for a 20-0 second-half run, which made the victory possible (see related story, page 15), Courtney acknowledged the FHS Marching Admirals band playing as he began his post-game speech near midfield.

“That’s O-K, it’s a good band,” the coach said.

With both student sections embroiled in a pre-game “cheer-off” of non-vulgar insults at the top of their lungs typical of this rivalry, Stokes said, “The competitive spirit is alive and well, represented by these two teams. U.S. Cellular has a large presence in West Knoxville, West Knox County. Our employees make up a large part of the community.”


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