Let me start this off by offering my deepest condolences to the families of Kymball and Korbin Duffy, along with those of Zach Dodillet, Ray Parrish and David Stein.
Those five Yellville-Summit football players were involved in a horrible accident on the afternoon of Sept. 11 on their way from a pep rally at school to the Duffy home, site of the weekly pre-game meal for the Panther football team.
During that trip from the school to the Duffy home, the truck driven by 16-year-old starting offensive and defensive lineman Kymball Duffy left the road and overturned.
In an instant, Kymball Duffy, one of the most beloved and respected members of the green-and-white wearing Yellville-Summit football team was dead.
The four other Panther players - freshman and younger brother of Kymball Duffy - Korbin Duffy, sophomore wideout Ray Parrish, and senior linebackers Zach Dodillet and David Stein, were transported to hospitals in Mountain Home and Springfield in the aftermath of the accident.
Korbin Duffy, along with Dodillet and Parrish, was treated and released in the days that followed. Stein remained in critical condition at Cox Medical Center's neuro-trauma unit in Springfield.
My heart and prayers go out to those young men and their families. I cannot imagine the grief they are going through.
Same for the entire Yellville-Summit community. Panther Nation has always been, and will always be, one big close-knit family. There are no strangers in Yellville. Just friends. Especially on Friday nights when those friends don their green and watch with joy as the bright lights shine down on their beloved Panthers.
Yellville-Summit was just hours away from hosting a non-conference football game with the visiting Salem Greyhounds when that awful tragedy occurred on that Marion County road.
Obviously, that Friday's game with Salem was canceled. But that's not the end of the Greyhounds' involvement in this story.
A celebration of Kymball Duffy's life was held Sept. 16 inside the sparkling new Panther Sports Complex on the Yellville-Summit campus.
With the scoreboard in the end zone of the football field emblazoned with "72," Duffy's number, the new gymnasium was jammed full of Kymball's family, teammates and friends - along with the Salem Greyhound football team.
Dressed in their away-game white uniforms, the Greyhounds honored their fallen opponent in a touching show of love and support. Lined up in a row, one by one, they paid their respects to the Duffy family.
But what else should be expected from such a class act like the Salem Greyhound athletic program?
Salem's coaching staff, head coach Sammy Weir, along with assistants Cody Curtis, Seth Brazeal and Luke Barker, are some of the classiest people around.
Same goes for those young men that make up the Hounds' roster.
The Greyhounds didn't have to attend Kymball Duffy's celebration.
They would have been forgiven had they not attended, as a matter of fact.
After all, Yellville-Summit has beaten the Greyhounds the last several times they've lined up on the gridiron. In today's ever-increasing world of grudges and bad sportsmanship, that alone would have been more than enough reason for a lot of teams to have stayed home on that Wednesday evening.
But that's not what make the Salem Greyhounds the special bunch that they are.
They would not have thought for one second about missing Kymball Duffy's celebration, even for all the gold in the world.
That is the true meaning of sportsmanship and friendship.
It's OK to knock your opponent down on the playing field, but when he needs a helping hand off the field of play - that's when the true sportsman steps up to lend a hand. Or a shoulder to cry on.
That lone act of companionship displayed by the Salem Greyhounds more than makes up more the ever-increasing number of bores, bullies and just plain bad guys that are threatening to ruin all our favorite past times.
And for this renewed spirit of sportsmanship, I must once again thank Sammy Weir, Cody Curtis, Seth Brazeal and Luke Barker.
Thank you too, Salem Greyhounds.
To the families of Kymball Duffy, Korbin Duffy, Zach Dodillet, Ray Parrish and David Stein, I wish you much comfort in this time of incredible sorrow.
May the Good Lord be with you all.