Sports Persons of the Week: Merryville Panthers overcome adversity after Tiger Island Fire

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 5:59 PM CDT
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MERRYVILLE, La. (KPLC) -The Tiger Island Fire has burnt down thousands of acres and destroyed many homes in the area, before all the destruction took place the Panthers were out at practice preparing for the upcoming jamboree at their home stadium but that changed in a matter of moments.

“They came out at 3:40 pm my principal came out to me you have to get your kids and get them on the busses or in their trucks we’re dismissing school and everybody is leaving the fire is close to campus,” Merryville Head Coach, Bart Coody said.

The fire threatened to overrun the town and the Panthers were forced to cancel their practices for the next week to make matters worse their scheduled jamboree had to be moved to East Beauregard but due to the mandatory evacuation, they were not able to play in it.

“That was really disappointing because I think the whole team really wanted to play that game,” Merryville running back and middle linebacker, Kade Royer said.

The Panthers had not practiced since August 22nd and their upcoming game against the North Central Hurricanes remained uncertain but on August 28th coach Coody was able to piece together a practice with limited players and formalize a game plan.

“Thursday happened we were able to get the game in thank god the kids played unbelievably well with all the adversity and confusion and with all the uncertainty I couldn’t have asked them to play any better than they did it was truly just so proud of the kids,” Coach Coody said.

The Panthers received support from their entire community as they packed the stands for their Thursday night game against the Hurricanes. The Panthers may have been on a short week of practice and focusing on football was no easy task when their homes and school were in danger but the players didn’t let that stop them from having the performance of a lifetime, beating the Hurricanes 38-6.

“It was the best I’ve witnessed since I’ve been here the past four years every play no matter what happened there was somebody helping you up saying a good job even if you messed up hey you’ll get them next time it was awesome,” Royer said.

It was a special night for the Panthers as they cruised to a dominant win but this game will be even more memorable for Jerimaya Robinson who scored 4 touchdowns in the first half.

“Overcoming through the fire and all that and having a game like that, I started off rough missed a couple of tackles but it was the best feeling felt really good,” running back and defensive end, Jerimaya Robinson said.

Coach Coody grew up in Merryville and is in his third year as head coach he said what his team did on Thursday night was nothing short of remarkable.

“We had some really good teams in the late 80s and early 90s. We were really, really good and went to the semifinals in 88-89. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a home game where we had that kind of atmosphere and had that kind of support,” Head Coach Bart Coody said. To go out and top it off with that kind of performance was awesome we always have great support. Our community really does support us. They’re not fair-weather people they’re there to support Maryville athletics you know, rain or shine, win or lose, they’re there it was good to be able to give back to them for all their support with a performance like that, it was truly impressive It’ll be one that I always remember, that’s for sure. I don’t think we’ll ever forget any of it. It’s it’s been a ride,” Coody said.

In the end, the Panthers defied the odds and came out on top despite the chaos that surrounded them.

“It’ll be something that we always can look back on and remember and tell our kids and grandkids about one day,” Coody said.

The Panthers hit the road to take on the Vinton Lions on Friday night at 7 p.m.