• John Macon Gillespie

Column: Macon's Promise Kept By Wildcats

Originally published in the 2016 SES Mississippi Season Review.

On February 28, 2015, several lives in Calhoun County, Mississippi, were changed forever.

On that evening, a one car accident occurred in Big Creek, Mississippi, claiming the lives of two high school students from the county. One of those students was Thomas Leon “Tripp” Macon, III.

Tripp Macon was a sophomore football player for the Calhoun City Wildcats, a team that had recently ended its 2014 season in its tenth state championship appearance with a loss to 2A-powerhouse Bassfield in Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University.

“I hate feeling like this,” Macon remarked after the loss, “but we've got it our senior year.”

Macon would never play another football game.

The 2016 season would have been Tripp Macon's senior year at Calhoun City High School. Instead, his classmates and teammates had to carry his #68 jersey with them onto the field before every contest. Macon's #68 also adorned the side of every Calhoun City helmet this season.

Coming into 2016, Calhoun City had appeared in ten state championship games. Out of those ten appearances, they had one lone title from 1989.

Like many recent seasons, 2016 began with more wins than losses for Calhoun City. The team finished the regular season at 11-1 and as Region 4-2A Champions. The Wildcats breezed through the playoffs and defeated Baldwyn 47-20 in the North Half State Finals to secure a trip to Starkville for the state championship game.

Many fans from the area had seen this story unfold before. Calhoun City dominates the northern half of the state until meeting formidable Bassfield and ultimately falling in the title game. This time, however, the circumstances were different.

While Calhoun City was in the process of defeating Baldwyn, the mighty Yellowjackets of Bassfield were experiencing troubles of their own. The Bay Springs Bulldogs were giving the Jackets all they could handle and ultimately defeated the heavyweight 18-13. Instead of facing their usual state championship foe of Bassfield, the Wildcats had to prepare for a new opponent.

Calhoun City's lone state championship in 1989 came with a win over the Bulldogs.

On December 2, 2016, the Calhoun City Wildcats and the Bay Springs Bulldogs faced off at Davis Wade Stadium in a game steeped with a history that few remember. In a game that was close at the outset, Calhoun City eventually pulled away to win their second all-time state title 22-8.

This win was much more for the Wildcats than just a medal and a golden ball.

It was a win for a town that had not won a title in 27 years after having come so close in years past. It was a win over the same school faced for that title 27 years ago. Most importantly, however, it was a win for a fallen teammate who made a promise to bring home a title his senior year.

Congratulations, Tripp. The Wildcats kept your promise.

Follow John Macon on Twitter @JMake_2016

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