By Grant Stevens - Sports Editor
Nov. 21, 2012 — Football is a sport about building brotherhood and camaraderie; the kind that makes you stronger; makes you rely on one another to make it through the fight that lies between the lines.
Last week, East Carter Raiders Jacob Gray and Zack Cathey were honored at the annual EKC Banquet with the Wes Hopkins Courage Award for what is no doubt an example of perseverance that everyone can respect.
An unfortunate occurrence of fate brought the two friends together on New Year’s Day 2010, when a tragedy involving the death of Gray’s stepfather, Heath Toney, and Cathey’s father, Clifford Cathey, resulted in manslaughter charges being brought against Clifford Cathey. Litigation in the case is pending.
Through the pain and struggles of misfortune, Zack and Jacob found solace in two things: in one another and on the football field.
“We've only been friends for about a year and a half, but we've known each other for about three years,” said Gray, regarding he and Cathey’s friendship, “We were not really good friends before the incident, but now we are really close. Football helped us a lot, because of all the games we've played in, the workouts and the practices we’ve been through.”
Cathey agreed, saying the pain of loss brought the boys together.
“When this happened, we needed each other to get through it,” Cathey said. “Raider football brought us together even more. Seeing each other every day and having to watch each other perform at the level we did just made us so much closer as friends.”
While the scenario facing the two Raider juniors hasn’t been a public topic of discussion for the East Carter team, the boys are well respected for their bravery.
East Carter Head Coach Zack Moore, who has coached Gray and Cathey for two years, says the willingness to fight through this is a true testament to the boys’ will to succeed.
“Zack and Jacob’s perseverance hasn’t been ‘on the bulletin board’ for everyone to see,” Moore said. “It’s the fact that they haven’t allowed the tragedy to alter their course or keep them from being successful.”
“That says a ton about what type of people they are and about the strength of their character.”
Having made it through such tough times into stronger young men, Gray and Cathey are grateful for the recognition they garnered last week at the EKC Banquet at Carter Caves.
“Football is everything to me. I eat, breathe and sleep football,” Gray said. “I'm extremely honored to get this award.”
“This award means a lot to us,” Cathey said. “It helps people understand that as hard as football already is, that when you go through something like what he had to, it makes it that much harder.”
Solid support from those who care about you can make all the difference when dealing with tragedy.
Cathey and Gray closed by thanking those who helped provide a shoulder to lean on during the past few years.
“I would just like to say that I love Jacob like he's my brother,” Cathey said. “He's a great friend and I couldn't have gotten through this without him. I would also like to thank Coach Moore and all of my coaches for the support.”
“I would just like to say thank you to coach Moore and the coaching staff for everything they have done for Zack and I,” Gray said.
Grant Stevens can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.