Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Will Carry Spirit in Playoffs; the Team Remembers Late Trainer as They Advance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators Will Carry Spirit in Playoffs; the Team Remembers Late Trainer as They Advance

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE MORRISON

The Ware County Gators will have a little extra motivation when they suit up Friday for their second-round Class AAAA playoff game with Mount Zion-Jonesboro in Waycross.

Longtime head trainer Randy Sharpe died in October, but his memory lingers in the minds of the players, coaches and others involved with the team.

"There's not a day goes by that we don't make reference to him," Athletic Director David Shields said. "Even though his physical presence is not here, the work ethic he instilled in the trainers is carrying on."

The Gators earned the third seed in Region 2 after a rocky season, struggling under first-year coach John Stephens. But the team showed it may yet live up to the No. 1 ranking it held in the pre-season. Last Friday, the Gators scored an improbable 21-3 win over Thomas County Central, the top seed from Region 1. Another near-miracle had to occur for them to play their second-round contest at home - and it did.

Mount Zion-Jonesboro, a fourth seed, pulled off a huge upset, decking Evans 36-10, previously undefeated and a No. 1 seed. Becasue Ware is seeded higher, the game will be played in Waycross in front of the home folks and Sharpe's family.

Nothing would please Sharpe more, Shields said.

"Randy would want them to finish the drill," Shields said. "One of the last things I heard him say was that he was glad the kids were finally playing well."

Sherry Beverly of the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau and the mother of the Gator mascot, said emotions are running high as the big game approaches.

"We've got that Gator spirit," she said. "We've got unfinished business to take care of and we'll start with a pep rally Thursday night, then we'll take care of business on the field Friday."

Sharpe, 54, collapsed while attending to his players following the Gators' 28-0 win over Effingham County on Oct. …

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