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Parting is such sweet sorrow

No drama here in the sports department of the DAILY LEADER. The dedicated, hard-working fellow employees who made this publication an award-winning success over the years remain close to my heart.

These people shared lots of love, food, laughs and tears in 42 years of writing sports. Being part of the newsroom staff was a joy. Demanding deadlines occasionally stressed us all out. Most importantly, we all pulled together to publish the best product possible for our readers and subscribers.

Compliments were deeply appreciated. Naturally, a journalist will rub readers the wrong way on occasion. Those are the folks who call the office and complain. Heck, they even call us at home.

Overtime was a way of life. People arrived early, worked late and often crawled home exhausted. Such is the joy of a daily newspaper.

The giant step to a Sunday newspaper 15 years ago affected everyone and their families. Satisfaction was high, even when the energy level sagged low after 10 hours in front of a computer screen. From a sports angle, we tried to cover 12 schools in the area.

Certainly, it was a difficult task, especially on Saturdays during the football season. Most of those teams played on Friday nights. That led to a great roundup every Saturday.

“Tom, you need to quit trying to cover so many schools,” warned my devoted wife, Laurie, after greeting her exhausted husband at the front door. “Just print the final scores and forget it.”

Nope. There was a story behind every game. A coach or player deserved to have their comments and accomplishments shared with the public; especially their fans, friends and relatives.

Win or lose, something positive usually happened. Even in a 66-0 blowout loss, there had to be some leading tacklers on the losing team. They didn’t score a point but Bubba made 13 tackles, 10 of them solo stops. Junior made 6 tackles and recovered a fumble.

In a parting effort, this column will attempt to name some of the most prominent stringers, aka part-time sports writers, stat keepers and photographers, who have contributed volumes of work over the years to produce an award-winning Sunday sports section. Most important, they were reliable. Good help is hard to find.

Starting with the scribes, Richard Dube spent around 30 years and Marty Albright worked 11 years covering area athletic teams. They were once full-time employees.

Other devoted writers covered schools on a part-time basis or provided statistics on ballgames. They also are known as Most Valuable Players.

Will Watson and Randy Spring faithfully reported on the Brookhaven Panthers. Brett Rutland and Beck Warren covered Brookhaven Academy. Natalie Davis, Jimmie Cain and newcomer Cliff Furr provide information on the Co-Lin Wolfpack.

Perry Brown has anchored the stat crew at Bogue Chitto for years. Kyle Hux filled a similar role at Enterprise. Steve Barrington compiled stats for West Lincoln. David Flowers, David Fields and Tyler Case kept the Loyd Star football team in print. Rod Martin and Louis Fischer helped cover Wesson.

Craig Davis has been a reliable writer and source of information at Lawrence County for many years. James O. Covington has kept everyone informed on Franklin County athletics.

Michael Gunnell started writing sports many years ago. He covered Enterprise and graduated to Southwest Mississippi Community College where he now serves as sports information director.

Most of the time, we relied on the coaches at Hazlehurst and Copiah Academy to give us information on their football teams. I apologize ahead of time for overlooking some deserving stringer.

Sports photography is a valuable asset to a newspaper. The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” has a lot of truth in it, especially if the photo is in color. Athletes love to see themselves in an action color photo.

Among the part-time photographers who have contributed over the years: Jonathon Alford, Billy Freeman, Chris King, Holly Miller, Teresa Allred, Frank Perkins, Amy Rhoads, Jimmy Crockett, Tommy Young, Sherylyn Evans, Holly Franklin, Natalie Davis, Tracy Fischer, Chris King, Johnny Smith and Carl Smith.

Once upon a time, the DAILY LEADER was blessed with talented, full-time photographers who moved on to greater things. Among them were David Purdy, Thomas Wells, Jonathon Alford, David Bundy and Tim Isbell.

For sure, we have been blessed with some great help. God has blessed me with good health.

Personally speaking, it’s been my pleasure working with many exceptional coaches and watching those dedicated athletes play the games they love so much.

Obviously, the game of life is much more important than any sport. Family and church should be given priority. Knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior puts you on the winning team, whatever happens on the field of battle.