CATEGORY: FOL High School Football

AUTHOR: WHEELE

HED:Walnut plays its first home game without Horton against Maben

By D.E. Wheeler

Daily Journal

WALNUT - Tonight marks Walnut High School's first home game since the unexpected death of coach Joe Horton on Aug. 31.

Without their popular second-year coach on the sideline, the Wildcats play host to Maben.

"I think the players have adjusted well, and are working hard to accomplish what he started," said Walnut principal Troy Shaw. "But for some (students and fans), I don't think it's sunk in."

Walnut played on the road last week, its first game without Horton, defeating Thrasher 28-8. For this first home game since Horton's death, Shaw reports that no special remembrances are planned.

"We'll probably do something at homecoming," said Shaw, with Walnut scheduled to play Biggersville Sept. 22 for homecoming. "I think the parents and boosters will come up with something."

"Missing his presence is tough to deal with," junior center John James said. "I think we've dealt with it pretty good, but we're still in an adjustment period."

Horton was rushed to the hospital Aug. 31 at halftime of the Walnut-Falkner game, dying at 8:25 p.m., at Tippah County Hospital of a heart attack. Ironically, the incident happened at Falkner where Horton was a longtime coach and principal until a desire to coach again brought him to Walnut in 1999.

"I missed him on the sidelines (vs. Thrasher), but I think we all played as hard as he would have wanted," senior nose guard Jock Smith said. "The first week without him was rough for sure, and I'm not going to say we're doing great without him, but we're doing OK."

Assistants Terry Jones and Sean Smith are sharing the head coaching duties, with Jones in charge of the defense and Smith in charge of the offense. Shaw and former Walnut assistant Timmy Bryant, now an elementary principal, are also assisting the team.

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