Senior Night for high school football is supposed to be a celebration, but on this October night in New Iberia, a shadow loomed.
“It brought back the memory. He’s not suiting up with us…turned to look at him [Garon’s father] and his mom’s faces, they wished he was there with us as much as we did,” said Teagan Bourque, a senior defensive back.
Garon Lewis was 17 years old when police found him shot dead inside his car.
“I was in my house, watching TV,” Bourque explained. “My friend called me, he told me what happened. I started crying. I couldn’t believe it… There is no way to prepare for a moment of that kind.”
Teagan was perhaps the closest teammate to Garon. The two had known each other for years. It was Garon who reached out to Teagan when he decided to return to New Iberia Senior High for his senior season.
“He texted me, ‘Hey, think I can get on the football team, come back and play with y’all?’ I told him I would talk to coach. We were really growing that bond back together.”
But the two never played a game together this season.
“He was a funny little man,” said Bourque, “Anytime you talked to Garon it was something positive, something funny…when we came back to school, that part of me was empty.”
“He’d text me, ‘You want to work out?'” remebers junior running back Tyce Fusilier. “Everyday he’d force me to workout and say ‘workout like it’s your last.’ His last workout day came up in the summer.”
New head coach Curt Ware hadn’t even opened up fall camp yet when he faced a tragedy he couldn’t prepare for.
“We stress how important Friday night is, and it’s your senior year, and this and this. At the end of the day, you realize it’s a football game and there are more important things in life than football,” said Ware.
Bourque said, “The days went by and it wasn’t right. The air around here didn’t feel right. Then one of the guys said, ‘Let’s play for him.’ And every practice we went out and said a prayer and kept him in mind and kept practice going.”
But in tragedy, the Yellow Jackets found inspiration. And there was no better example of that than that emotional senior night against Sulphur.
That night, moments after honoring their friend, the team played its most inspired game of the season.
“You get excited for your last home game, then this brought you down to earth,” explained Ware, “But that brought us motivation and we played one of our best games.”
The Yellow Jackets beat Sulphur that night 40-7. It was their most lopsided district win in seven years.
“I think he would have been really proud of me. I worked really hard this year. My numbers are different. I had a motive to drive for him,” said Teagan.
“His jersey stayed in his locker throughout the season, so we’d come back here after a win, we’d grab his jersey. As we’re dancing, he’s right there with us. We got him jumping us with us. Keeping him there with us, alive with us.”