September 6, 2018 12:02:26 PM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Chris Jones wanted to make Monday an easy day. Yes, it was Labor Day, and the team was practicing at 8 a.m. to give the players the rest of the holiday off, but that wasn't the reason he wanted to have an easy day.
This was a team and a coaching staff in mourning.
The Starkville High School football team's first meeting for its game against Columbus at 7 p.m. Friday took place a little more than 48 hours after team videographer Ian Reed was killed in a car accident in Columbus. This was Reed's first season with the Yellow Jackets, but his work -- and his presence -- had already made an impact.
"It was a bad deal. You've got a young guy who's not even close to living a full life," said Jones, Starkville High's coach. "He had a bright future, based on the work, the dedication, and the passion he showed from the start. Producing videos, he was really, really good at it and was doing without a whole bunch of resources. I thought he was special.
"The great thing was he had a big impact on the kids. They started gravitating toward him. I think the main thing is the kids being inspired by the work he did, how dedicated he was and kind of using that as motivation to carry on throughout the course of the year."
They will do so with the memories of Reed prominently displayed. The program ordered helmet decals it hopes will arrive in time for Friday's game. T-shirts also are in the works.
For the players, the memories of Reed are clear. Reed was best known for his work on hype videos in the preseason and leading up to each game and for his highlight videos. After his death, junior wide receiver Joshua Aka tweeted the rest of his season was dedicated to Reed. Several players tweeted similar sentiments with #LLI: Long Live Ian.
Jones said he has never has had to lead a team through tragedy as a coach. Luckily, he has help. Starting cornerback Myles Stone is the son of a preacher, Joseph Stone, and Jones has had him around the team whenever possible.
"It's been as good as it can be. They're asking questions about what happened, but everybody's taking it well," Jones said. "It's unfortunate, but you have to move on. You have to be as strong as you can be. He would've wanted us to go as far as we can go as far as competing for a state title goes. We'll give it our all."
Starkville plans to honor Reed with a win and a cause for celebration, and then honor him Saturday by attending his funeral. Jones said several buses will transport the team to the services in Columbus.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson