PRINCETON, KY — From the fans to the field, the Caldwell County Tigers came out roaring Friday night, even though they played with heavy hearts after the passing of their beloved head coach.
David Barnes died on the morning of Aug. 17 after battling Parkinson's disease for two years. Over the course of 13 seasons, Barnes, a graduate of Caldwell County, lead the Tigers to a 110-50 record and to the KHSAA Class 2A State Championship game in 2012.
Friday night was Caldwell County's season opener. After back-to-back touchdowns to start the game, the Tigers held on to beat the Christian County Colonels 19 to 14.
"I'm still grieving. My mom's still grieving. But tonight's about these kids and this football game, and (my father) would want us to go out there and compete," said Barnes' son, Will Barnes, who is an assistant coach for the Tigers.
Before the game began, there was a moment of silence for Coach Barnes. And both teams wore stickers on their helmets with the phrase, "BARNES STRONG." The opposing head coach also wore a T-shirt that had Barnes' name on the back.
And of course, the community also has the backs of the Barnes family.
"We've been here for 14 years. It's a special place. They treat you like family," said Will Barnes. "We've had people in the house all week bringing food. At the visitation, people waited for hours just to say a few words to my mom and I. And then people really showed up and supported us at the service to remember him. And you can't say enough good things about the community. People don't really understand what it's like unless you're here."
The support is evident all over. A gas station has a sign that reads, "PRAYERS FOR COACH BARNES, FAMILY AND FRIENDS." And a walk downtown shows how much the team means for the community. All light poles had banners with tiger stripes and the team colors. Plus, some businesses had signs that showed support too.
While downtown, Local 6 met Jim Joiner, owner of Joiner Hardware and a Princeton council member. He said he went to school with Coach Barnes.
"We were in the same class together in high school. He was a very good athlete himself — baseball, football and top athlete," recalled Joiner. "He was always a leader and nice to people, very nice. And very respectful."
While at Friday night's game, Local 6 also met Dewight Meeks, who was Barnes' high school teammate.
"He was a freshman, I was a senior. And he was good enough then, he played," said Meeks.
Meeks shared one of his favorite memories of Barnes.
"When he became a head coach here, I told him one night, I said 'Hey, listen. I got some plays drawed up for you,' like he's never heard that before. But he said 'All right, what is one of the plays?' I said 'I want you to do a quarterback sneak to start the game.' Well, it was a running joke from then on. I'd see him and I'd go 'Tonight?' He'd go 'Not tonight. Maybe next week,' or something like that," said Meeks. "But that's how Coach Barnes was. He had a lot of running jokes with everybody out there, and he was just a jokester. He was just a heck of a guy."