D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Almost three years ago to the day, the D'Iberville Warriors football team made a tremendous comeback to defeat the Gautier Gators 17-14 in a regular season game.
But the big win on Fri., Sept. 9, 2011, was an afterthought.
With the Warriors trailing 7-3, Latrell "Fred" Dunbar collapsed with 3:53 remaining in the game's third quarter and died later that night due to sudden cardiac arrest.
"He was running by himself and he just fell," said D'Iberville defensive coordinator Jason Hockaday, who has been a coach in the Warriors program since 2008. "I thought he cramped, passed out or something. I didn't think it was as serious of a situation."
Dunbar was transported to a nearby hospital via ambulance with the entire stadium quieted. D'Iberville head coach Buddy Singleton was unsure about Dunbar's condition when the decision needed to be made whether to continue playing the game or not, but he was told by his players that they wanted to 'win it for Fred.'
The Warriors then scored two touchdowns -- one in the third quarter and another in the fourth -- to pick up win number three in the third game of the season.
On the drive back from Gautier High School after the inspired victory, Singleton received the call he didn't want to receive from then-athletic director Mike Gavin that Dunbar had passed away.
"For something like this to happen, it was unreal," Singleton said. "It was something that you don't plan on. You hear about it and you read about it from other schools, but for this to happen against us is just something where it's hard for me to believe it happened."
"It was something that none of us expected to happen to anybody in our program or anyone around us," Hockaday said. "You hear about it on the news, you hear about it on Facebook and stuff like that, and then it happens to you and hits you at home. It's just kind of surprising to happen at home."
Singleton got to know the junior fullback prior to the 2011 season since he helped Dunbar travel to and from summer workouts. While it would be devastating for a life of any player he coached to be shortened, he admits that Dunbar was important to him because he got to know him more on a personal basis while preparing for the upcoming season.
"He was a little bit closer than some of the others because we talked every day on the way home," Singleton said. "It was by far the worst thing that has happened to me in my coaching career. No doubt about that."
Since Dunbar's death, the No. 18 has been given to a player on the Warriors football team that exemplifies the characteristics of the young man who has exceptional talent and work ethic. Senior defensive lineman and tight end Aaron Anspach was chosen to wear it this season, Kaylon Evans wore it in 2013 and Elisha Wilson was selected to wear it in 2012.
D'Iberville has a 1-2 record after three games in 2014 and will face the Pascagoula Panthers at home this Friday. The only win was a 16-8 victory over Gautier in the season opener despite having six turnovers.
While the wins appear tougher to come by this season, district play is all that matters when it comes to making the playoffs. The first region 4-6A game for D'Iberville is Fri., Sept. 26, at home against the Biloxi Indians.
"I'm sure that he would be proud of our Warrior football team," Singleton said. "We sure miss him. I think about him all the time. It's just one of those situations in my lifetime where, hopefully I'll be coaching a while, but I hope I never see anything like this again."
"If I had Fred in front of me today, I would be talking about how proud of him I was for what he did for our football team," Hockaday said. "I know how much he loved the game of football.