Quitman, GA - Each morning at 6:45, Maurice Freeman grieves at the same site. It's his way of moving on. He stands across from the tree where three of his Brooks County players died one month before the high school football season.
"I really try to take them in as my sons," said Freeman, who is now in his 6th year as Head Coach. "We try to teach them life lessons. And we lost them. So I don't know how I'm gonna get over it. I don't think I'll ever get over it."
A single-car accident took the lives of seniors Jicarre Watkins and Shawn Waters and junior Johnie Parker.
Watkins's SUV slammed into a tree. Police cite driver error and speed as the cause.
"I can remember talking to Shawn," said Malkom Parrish, a senior quarterback and defensive back for the Trojans. "We're just having a few laughs, dancing a little bit in the weight room. And I remember breaking it down out of the huddle and we went our separate ways. And before I came down the street I can just remember the car being wrapped around the tree and I can remember calling his name. And there was no answer."
"We seen the truck stuck up in the tree and we're just like, 'Everybody, hop out of the car' to try to go get them," said Bobby Christian, a senior lineman for the Trojans. "It was just a bad day."
Waters brother De'Vron Whitfield was also involved in the crash. He survived.
Freeman kept their jerseys to remind the team they have more to play for.
"When we first started it was hard," said Parrish. "We couldn't get ourselves motivated. We couldn't get ourselves going. But, right now, we're dedicating every day, every rep to them."
The mood at practice has changed. Tears now tackled by sweat and ambition. The Trojans are searching for three starting linebackers.
"Right now we just gotta get past the football game because that's where it all started. It started at football practice," said Freeman.
Whitfield has returned to the Trojans. He declined to comment for this story. But Freeman said Whitfield will wear his brothers number 32 this season. One of three numbers the boys see often when they pass the site.
"Sometimes I throw up my three-two or I throw my four just to represent them, let them know that we're still here and we're gonna do our thing for them."
The Trojans know they'll be watching.