D'Iberville students coping with devastating loss of football player

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - D'Iberville High students returned to school Monday, mourning the loss of a popular student, friend, and football player.

Latrell Fred Dunbar, 16, collapsed on the field during the Warrior's game last Friday night.    Counselors throughout the district and several pastors were on campus Monday to help the students.

The principal said he was very proud of how his students handled this devastating loss.  He credited Fred's teammates and Fred's family for pulling together to help each other cope and heal.

Outside, the flags flew at half-staff.  Inside, a black-and-gold wreath hung on the school counselor's door.  D'Iberville High School expressed its grief over the loss of a beloved family member.

"It's somber, but business," said Principal Roy Gill. "The kids are doing exceptionally well."

Gill said most students returned to school Monday, still overwhelmed by the sudden death of the D'Iberville High junior. But Fred's teammates showed their true Warrior Spirit. They helped fellow students cope, after getting a pep talk from Fred's dad Frederick Dunbar, Sr.

"In the words of Mr. Dunbar: 'We have to move on'.  And he told the boys: 'When you walk in that school tomorrow, you hold your head up high and you be strong for everyone because the family here, as a family, we are strong for each other.'  They took those words and they have lived it," said Gill.

"That was one of the best healing moments is to be able to communicate with someone and the strength that he had and he gave to them is unreal," he added.

The students and staff wore memorial ribbons close to their hearts. One young lady expressed her pain on her hand.  She wrote: Rest in Peace #18. ILY, which stands for "I Love You".

"He was one of those students that was always smiling and a good kid," said Gill. "Everybody liked him."

The school still plans to hold a pep rally Friday and the team promises to practice hard and play against Long Beach that night. They want to do it for Fred.

"It'll be bittersweet," said Gill. "It's been difficult, but I'm very pleased at how the kids are handling it, knowing that they have to pick up and carry on."

The school is also showing its support for the Dunbar family. This Thursday, the school will hold a memorial for Fred.  It's at 5:00 PM in the school gym.

The funeral is Saturday at 11:00 AM in Woodville, Mississippi. A caravan, that includes the football team, will be leaving the school around 7:00 AM Saturday.

And the D'Iberville Football Booster Club has set up an account at Community Bank on Sangani Boulevard to help the family with expenses.

Other schools, churches, and businesses have also expressed an interest in helping out.  For instance, Sonic restaurants in D'Iberville and Gautier plan to hold a fundraiser in two weeks.

Football players and cheerleaders from D'Iberville and Gautier High Schools will work alongside the carhops at both locations. All the tips collected, along with 20-percent of the sales made during the fundraiser, will go to help the Dunbar family.

"Just kind of hits home," said Sonic Area Supervisor Jeremy Robinson. "I was an area football player here on the coast about 15 years ago, and a lot of my old teachers and coaches are over these schools now. That's why I contacted them right away to see if we can set up something to raise as much as we can to help the family."

The fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, September 24, from 4:00-8:00 PM. The plans must first be approved by the school.

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