By Stan Beall
FRENCH CAMP —
Benjamin's eyes got really big when his dad, French Camp Academy head football coach Nathan Wright told him, "We may play in that big ol' stadium pretty soon and I'm going to coach as hard as I possibly can to hopefully make that happen."
The father and son were viewing Veterans Memorial Stadium from Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson and dreaming of playing a MHSAA Class 1A high school football championship.
A month or so earlier in January 2011, four-year-old Benjamin has been diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma and the hospital had become their second home, where he had emergency surgery to remove a tumor and later underwent eight weeks of chemotherapy treatment.
This year, things are looking a bit brighter in French Camp.
Benjamin is in remission and FCA, which didn’t make the playoffs in 2011, is getting the trip to Jackson that Wright and his son talked about it.
After finishing the regular season with an 8-2 overall record, the Panthers defeated Coldwater, Greenville St. Joseph and Shaw to claim the 1A North State title November 23. The Panthers will play Friday in the Class 1A State Championship game against the Stringer Red Devils.
But to Wright, it all started in 2011 and with his team’s perseverance against adversity.
Looking back on his father/son chat, Wright said he figured that his 2011 squad had a really good chance at a lengthy playoff run, but after a strong start to begin the season, six players were removed from the team for a disciplinary situation, and four of them were defensive starters.
“That team persevered after the adversity, the ones that were left, and were able to mesh again as the season progressed. That served to really mesh the group that we have now and brought them together after enduring through the 2011 season."
The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. and Benjamin will be watching.