While elder coach Courtney fights 2nd cancer battle, son fills FHS gap

  • A message for ailing coach Eddie Courtney on the Bill Clabo Field Jumbo screen at Farragut High School, prior to the FHS football Homecoming game versus Morristown West Friday evening, Sept. 18, reflecting community support for the Admirals varsity football skipper for the last 25 seasons during his second battle with cancer — this time prostate cancer. - Video screen and coach photos courtesy of Carlos Reveiz/crfoto.com/”Rock Pile” photo by Alan Sloan

  • Student support shown on “The Rock Pile.” - Video screen and coach photos courtesy of Carlos Reveiz/crfoto.com/”Rock Pile” photo by Alan Sloan

  • His son, offensive coordinator Geoff Courtney, as interim head coach versus MWHS. - Video screen and coach photos courtesy of Carlos Reveiz/crfoto.com/”Rock Pile” photo by Alan Sloan

Geoff Courtney had his hands full Friday night, Sept. 18. Not only did this offensive coordinator for Farragut High School football have to serve as interim head coach; not only did he have to fill in for a highly respected ailing man and coach ...

He was filling in for his father, as head coach Eddie Courtney, in his 25th season as Admirals skipper, was at home recovering from successful prostate cancer surgery Wednesday, Sept. 16.

It was an emotional time for the younger Courtney, the coaching staff and the players, but everybody knew the Admirals had to take care of business.

It was unfamiliar territory, as Eddie was missing only his second game during his tenure as either an assistant or head coach at FHS since 1981.

“Personally, coach Courtney is like a father figure to me and I feel like the whole team feels the same way,” said senior receiver Matt White, who caught three touchdown passes as FHS routed Morristown West 45-14 in a Region 1-6A game at Bill Clabo Field. “We prayed and prayed and prayed that he would have successful surgery, and it came out successful. We’re so happy.

“We just want to see him again, he’s a big deal to us.”

“I’m feeling a whole lot better,” Eddie said Monday, Sept. 21, in a phone interview.

The support “has just been overwhelming,” he said. “I feel it from the standpoint of people who are so sincere reaching out to me with numerous texts and e-mails, phone calls and cards.

“Words can’t say enough of my appreciation for all these students and players and families in the community, and people I’ve known throughout the years who have been with me again,” added the coach, who is facing his second battle with cancer, having battled Hodgkin’s disease more than a decade earlier.

Saying he talked to his team a day before his surgery last week, Eddie emphasized he “was very serious about this” when recalling his address to them. “’I don’t want this to be a distraction to them, their season, their chance to play football.’”

About his team’s decisive victory, “The staff did a great job of picking up extra duties,” Eddie said.

With his son at the reigns as an interim coach for the first time in his career, “I was proud of him. He’s been around this program since he was a ballboy,” the elder Courtney said.

About his team, Geoff said, “I was so proud of the way our kids handled it this week. They were a little down leaving practice Tuesday when coach told them. We as coaches knew several weeks ago.

‘But they came back ready to go on Wednesday,” he added. “They handled it well Wednesday, Thursday and here tonight.”

Following his father’s wishes, “I just thought we needed to do what’s best to get ready to get a victory. That’s what coach wanted,” Geoff said. “He preaches eliminating distractions, especially on Friday night.”

“Coach Courtney really means the world to me,” said senior defensive lineman Joe Maine, who had an interception, seven solo tackles, four assisted stops and two tackles for loss in the contest.

“He is like a father figure to me and I hope he coaches here for as long as he wants.

“I hope he coaches here until he can’t walk,” he added. “I hope he coaches here for the rest of his life.”

The elder Courtney said he is planning on traveling with the team to this Friday’s game, Sept. 25, against Class 6A powerhouse Maryville at MHS.

While he doesn’t anticipate being able to once again coach on the sidelines “for another five, six, seven weeks,” Eddie said he hopes to occupy the visitor’s pressbox at Maryville’s Renfro Field Friday evening.

(Read related story, and view game action photos, in Sports section)