Cross Trojans kickoff defense of state championship amid tragedy - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Cross Trojans kickoff defense of state championship amid tragedy

With heavy hearts, the Cross Trojans took the practice field behind their high school Friday for the first time this summer. The program won it's first Class A Division II championship last season but it's what happened to their defensive coordinator, Antonio Simmons, that is taking top priority as they get ready to defend their title.
"To have your right hand man by you every step of the way... once you realize that he's missing... It's very painful for me," said head coach Shawn Wright.
This year, Wright is walking through drills alone.
His 34-year-old defensive coordinator died suddenly two weeks ago from an apparent heart attack.

"I didn't really believe it," said senior safety Diamonte Evans. "My brother woke me up and said coach Simmons is dead... I thought it was a dream."
Evans played three years under Simmons and also got countless rides home from the coach who he says expected a lot out of his players while also giving a lot.
"He was a great guy," said Evans. "He was somebody I really looked up to."
That's why Evans and Coach Wright want another championship.
"We're going to try and get him another one this year," said Evans. "That's what he wanted, another one."
Simmons will be missed at Cross but not forgotten. From a sticker on the back of their helmets to a patch on their jerseys and even bearing his name on renovated field house, Coach Simmons will continue to watch over his players.

Simmons had spent the last four years as an assistant under Shaun Wright for the Trojans. Before that he was an assistant at Kingstree and Ft. Dorchester. In addition to being the defensive coordinator at Cross he was also an assistant basketball coach and the head track coach. 

Simmons played his high school football at Berkeley under Dr. Jerry Brown and helped the team to two AAAA state titles in 1994 and 1996. 

From there he would go on to Charleston Southern where he would twice earn All-American honors. He would leave the Buccaneers as one of the schools all-time leaders in tackles and interceptions.

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