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Bittersweet Win

W.S. Neal players carried Taylor’s jersey onto the field before the start of Friday’s game.

W.S. Neal players carried Taylor’s jersey onto the field before the start of Friday’s game.

WSN victory marked by former player’s death

As the W.S. Neal Eagles walked the No. 5 jersey across the field Friday, every thought was on Devontaye Trevon “Trey” Taylor.

Taylor, a 2015 WSN graduate and former football player, died earlier that morning in a single vehicle crash just seven miles north of Brewton.

Even though it was homecoming, there was no celebration as players made their way onto the field.

Arm-in-arm they walked, the jersey in front and Taylor’s number on their faces. And even though the Eagles would go on to win the night’s game against Calhoun, 54-6, the victory was a bittersweet one.

Head Coach Doug Hoehn coached Taylor beginning his freshman year.

“I coached him my first year here,” Hoehn said. “So I had him for four years and his brother for three. Those two were two football players you could always count on. They were always ready to play, every Friday night.

“My heart goes out to the family and so do my prayers,” he said. “(Friday) was a tough day for all of us. It really was. I think the kids handled it extremely well. I know I was struggling all day long.”

As was everyone on the WSN campus, Principal Patty Frazier said.
“It’s been tough,” she said. “Trey was such a great guy. He always had a smile on his face. His death cast a shadow over the whole day.”

But that shadow was lifted somewhat as the Eagles dominated on the field in Taylor’s memory Friday, Hoehn said.

“His death on homecoming of all days, it was just devastating for all of us, and that’s another reason I was so proud of the kids and their effort on the field,” Hoehn said.

Grief counselors were available to students throughout the day. Additional support is available if requested, school officials said.

“When you’re dealing with teenagers, for lots of these kids, that was their first experience with a loss of life, and I think sometimes we forget how fragile young minds are,” Hoehn said. “As coaches, we just push them and push them and push them, but I tell my kids all the time, ‘Everyone wants to win, but it’s more important to me what they’re going to be in life after high school.’ So we do push them, but the instance (Friday) shows us, football is still just a game, and there are a lot bigger issues out there that we have to deal with.”

– Sports writer Heather Stone contributed to this story.