That compassionate Central Freshman Academy team has shown its humanity again.
Two weeks after they helped an autistic teammate score following a bullying incident, these Phenix City boys honored a deceased friend who never got the chance to play with this team.
Monday night at Garrett-Harrison Stadium, the Red Devils performed an angelic gesture when they led Smiths Station 55-0 with about 5 minutes left in the game.
No. 55 is a meaningful number for the Central football family. Coleton Brown wore No. 55 while he played with many of these Red Devils at Phenix City Intermediate School. Coleton was 14 years old when he drowned June 2015 in the Chattahoochee River. Central included his jersey in the team’s official photo, and a player producing good grades and showing good character each week was selected to wear No. 55.
That’s why some players asked coach Larry Knox if they could keep the score at 55 to honor Coleton in a different way. And that’s why Central kicker Daniel Barbosa purposely missed the ensuing extra point.
“I know at times they can seem immature and be a handful, but they truly do have good hearts and care about each other,” Knox wrote after the game in an email to the academy’s staff. “They have a bond that most teams can only dream about having. I can't say enough about how proud I am of this group of players and coaches.”
Lakiesha Richardson, mother of Central player Brent Randolph, took a photo of the scoreboard and texted it Coleton’s mother, Nona Adams, who was working the night shift as a Russell County corrections officer.
“Losing Coleton was like losing a member of our family,” Richardson said, “and I just thought it was so special that she needed to see that.”
Richardson said in the text to Adams that she didn’t want to upset her. Adams assured her that the tears were joyful.
“That they would actually carry Coleton on like that, those young men, the whole Red Devil family, they really have supported us,” Adams said. “… For them to love my son and treat him as their brother on their team, there really are no words.”
But there is a number: fabulous 55.