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City shows support for Carver champs

The sound of victory echoed down Broadway on Sunday afternoon, and it sounded like fire engine sirens, honking horns and the deep boom of bass drums.

Crowds gathered on the streets of downtown Columbus, and later in the Columbus Civic Center, to honor and commemorate the G.W. Carver High School football team, which won the state AAA championship Dec. 15 when it beat Cairo 16-13.

Festivities began with a parade down Broadway. Families, bundled up against a sometimes chilly wind, lined the sidewalks and set up folding chairs on the grassy median to watch.

Feet tapped and torsos bobbed to marching bands as they made their way down the street.

Children swooped to snatch up goodies tossed by state and local leaders as they slowly rode by.

But the best part for Connie Bell of Columbus, who came to the parade with family, was seeing the team, which rode by in the back of honking pickup trucks.

"This is our gift to them," Bell said of showing support for the team.

After the parade, Carver supporters headed to the Columbus Civic Center by the thousands for a celebration that would put any typical high school pep rally to shame.

That afternoon, the Carver High School football players were rock stars. As each athlete's name was called, the players jogged and leaped through bursts of steam to the main floor and onto a red carpet.

Friends and family stood in front of their seats to get a better look at the players as they made their grand entrance. As each one came, girls shrieked as though they were Hollywood stars.

One after another, local leaders, including Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington, U.S. Rep. Congressman Sanford Bishop and state Rep. Calvin Smyre, took to the stage to praise Carver's achievements.

The celebration was capped with the unveiling of green street signs that will be posted at entrances to the city, announcing that Columbus is home to the 2007 AAA state football champions. Players were then awarded a trophy for the team's victory.

"It's a feeling I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," senior linebacker Alex Williams said as the confetti settled.

Senior left guard Andrew Sellers said he enjoyed the recognition and support from so many people.

"It feels real good," he said.

Among those who came to recognize the team was Lois Williams, a former Carver High School teacher who said she taught some members of the team.

"I had to come back and support them," said Williams, who came with her husband.

"Those boys had heart," she said. "They really were determined."