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But then everyone loved the older Richard Seymour. He was happy and bubbly, and he bragged about his son almost as often as he bragged about his own cooking. "He always said he was the best cook in South Carolina, and he said he'd have to be the best cook in Georgia, too," says Deborah Seymour. Both parents were present when Richard made the commitment to the Bulldogs in the media center of Lower Richland. Mary Kirkland was there too. "We all posed for pictures," she recalls. "It was such a happy time."
Near the end of the game, a freshman running back named Lucas Archie, a classmate of the late Darryl Cornish, is belted by several Richland Northeast Cavaliers, and he has to be helped off the field. Then, as time runs out and the Diamond Hornets gather under the goalposts for Coach Wright to chew them out, Archie falls to his knees.
They all look in his direction, and you can see them freeze--the coaches with the initials DLC on the sleeves of their golf shirts and the players in their uniforms and the kids in the DLC 77 FOREVER Tshirts. They all stand motionless in the middle of Harry Parone Stadium until the freshman rises again.
"I got a ninth-grader over there, and I hope he can get through his black-and-blue tomorrow," Wright says, and there is a deep resonance to the phrase ninth-grader on this struggling football team.
Northeast is one of the best teams in Lower Richland's area, and the Diamond Hornets have actually played the Cavaliers even since a horrific first quarter in which they fell behind 20--0. Everything that makes high school football coaches nuts has happened to Wright. Six times quarterback Travis Malloy has gone deep down the sideline, and six times the ball has slipped through his open receiver's fingers. His team has been on the wrong end of two ghastly interference calls that resulted in first downs for Northeast and then in scores. But the pivotal play comes with 7:52 left in the game, when a Northeast wideout lines up as the punter, catches the snap on the hop and runs through the entire Lower Richland team for a 61-yard touchdown. "It just seems the craziest things happen when you're struggling like we are," Wright says after the game. "That's going to happen until we learn to take advantage of our opportunities."
Robert Dinkins plays where Richard Seymour used to play for Lower Richland. He's a wide receiver and a defensive end, and three of the near-miss long passes went off his fingertips. He also made a clean open-field tackle of the Northeast quarterback. "Coach put me in a place where I can rush," he says. "I like to rush." All the while, his eyes keep cutting over to the bench, where trainers are attending to Lucas Archie. Dinkins was at practice the day that Darryl Cornish died. The tragedy, he says, has marked the team.
"That just took the heart right out of us," Dinkins says. "We're young. That kind of thing isn't supposed to happen to us yet." On the sideline Archie gets up slowly and climbs onto a small truck that will take him to a team bus, and something serious leaves the place with the Diamond Hornets as the buses disappear into the night.
SATURDAY, Oct. 9
When the bulldog dies, they put him in a crypt in the southwest corner of Sanford Stadium, just below the bridge that bustles with traffic three hours before Georgia comes out to play Tennessee. These days Georgia is on UGA VI, and UGAs I--V are entombed there in marble vaults with their epitaphs written on bronze plaques. You can say all you want about the romance of the Arch, or the Chapel Bell, or the Redcoat Band, but this is the essence of football at Georgia. Not only do they number their mascots as though they were popes, but they bury them that way too.