Shock and sadness enveloped North Webster High School as word spread beginning Sunday evening that sophomore student-athletes Donald Owens and Tavious Tate had drowned Sunday afternoon in a Claiborne Parish creek.
The two close friends were football and basketball players who were well-regarded by everyone at the school, head football coach John Ware said on Monday afternoon.
“Both were good kids. They had all the world in front of them, and that’s what makes it hurt so bad. It’s just a complete tragedy,” he said.
Owens and Tate were in the middle of spring football practice, having worked out with the Knights last Thursday and Friday. More practices were slated in the next couple weeks but Ware was unsure when they would resume.
“We were planning on a couple days this week and next week, but right now that’s all on hold. I don’t know what we’ll do yet,” he said. “We have some kids, especially, who are hit pretty hard by this.”
Owens and Tate were alike, even down to their positions on the team and their jersey numbers, said Ware.
“I didn’t think of one without the other. If I was talking about either one of those two kids, the other one was on the tip of my tongue. They were so similar – same grade, same build, a lot of the same characteristics.
“One of them was Number 86, the other was 87. They were gonna be our starting cornerbacks this fall.”
As word spread, some teammates and coaches gathered at the Knights’ stadium at 8:30 Sunday night to talk about Owens and Tate. Others shared their emotions with Ware during the school day Monday.
“I told them (Sunday night) that sometimes you don’t get to choose what you deal with. Nobody wants to be in this situation, dealing with this, but it is part of life,” he said. “This group of kids, they’ll get through. They’ll always remember their friends, but it will just take a while to bounce back.”
The pain of losing classmates and teammates is sadly too familiar at North Webster High School, and for the Knights’ football program and Ware, about to begin his 10th season as their head coach.
“Four years ago, (football player) Jalen Thomas was murdered, and we’re just now getting over that,” said Ware, who has been a head coach for 16 years. “We’ve had some tragedies in our school in the last 4-5 years, regular students and student-athletes, more than our fair share, that’s for sure. It certainly doesn’t get any easier.
“You go through different situations, but there isn’t a guide for this.”
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