On a picture perfect, cool Friday evening, I was standing in the end zone of The Big Orange Jungle at Parkview High School daydreaming and thinking back to six months ago when this journey began.
I stood on the cool damp grass, motionless with my camera equipment packed away in my backpack looking as though I had never taken a photograph before.
As the final seconds ticked away to the end of the 2012 football season, I began to reflect back on how wonderful it was to be on the sideline to take pictures of the Parkview football team, as well as have front row seats to see my son play every Friday night. Watching these kids grow up has been so exhilarating and exciting to witness.
This year’s team was not just any Parkview Panther football team, this was the class of 2013; one of the most talented and talked about group of kids since the Jeff Francour era. They were almost guaranteed to put at least two or three more placards along the base of the stadium.
Through some sudden unplanned departures of some key players moving to other schools and injuries, the class of 2013 made their first and only appearance this year and made it all the way to the 2012 quarterfinals.
At every turn, these kids were forced to rely on each other and allow the next player to step up to meet their next challenge or obstacle. When one player went down, another player stepped up. After beating the No. 1 nationally ranked Grayson Rams, quarterback Rob Youngblood hurt his shoulder and was out for six weeks. Junior wide receiver Mac Marshal stepped in and Parkview never missed a beat.
Running back Chris Carson hurt his knee and was out for the remainder of the season. Junior running back and linebacker, Justis Rosser stepped up and carried the team, leading the panthers to a dramatic fifteen yard run in double overtime against the Walton Raiders sealing the first playoff victory for Parkview in nine years. Rosser repeated the same overtime feat in their following game at West Forsyth.
These kids know each other well and have been playing together since they were 7 years old. All of them genuinely care for each other. They literally are around each other 12 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. After all of the Xbox matches, Bible studies, dinner gatherings, homecomings, pool parties and sleepovers, these kids would have spent more time with each other than at their own home.
They say “it takes a village to raise a child,” in this case, it has taken a community to raise a team. The parents, coaches and families of these kids have been amazing. The Parkview extended family takes such great care of all of the kids as if they were their own. When a player gets hurt, the entire block is filled with cars from all of the parents, cheerleaders, coaches and friends to check on the welfare of an injured teammate.
When I think about what these kids have gone through, it feels up my entire body with tears of joy and pain from all of the physical, emotional and social obstacles that these players had to go through. These kids have overcome enough hurdles to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
There is no place I would rather have been than on the sideline watching the Parkview Panthers win another thrilling game on Friday night. I will miss the team, but most of all I will miss the parents, coaches and community that built this team and built the tradition of Parkview and the Mountain Park community.
Thanks to the tenacity, perseverance and patience of these kids, there will be a new placard on the base of the visiting bleachers that will read “CLASS OF 2013, QUARTERFINALISTS;" quite an accomplishment for a team that was picked to finish last by almost every newspaper and online football publication in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Julius Eric Turner is the father of senior Jay Turner (No. 25), who's played the position of running back and wide receiver for the Parkview Panthers. Julius Turner is also a contributor to Lilburn-Mountain Park Patch.