Souhegan honors teammate
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Souhegan High School boys basketball team entered the playoffs with former teammate Anthony Barksdale on their minds, and on their backs.
The players wore warm-up shirts with Barksdale’s No. 42 on the back, and dedicated the game to their teammate.
The Division II preliminary round game with Hanover on Wednesday night was their first game since learning of Barksdale’s death.
Souhegan coach Mike Heaney said instead of a moment of silence before the game, he told a funny story about Barksdale, a student he said was “one of the sweetest, nicest players he’s every coached.”
“I talked about one of my favorite skill drills, the ironman,” Heaney said. “It starts with taking a charge, then diving for a loose ball and racing to the other end of the gym. It was a tough drill, but Tony always ate it up.”
Barksdale, a freshman at Boston University who played football and basketball last year as a senior at Souhegan, died early Saturday after being found unconscious at an apartment house in Boston that was rented by the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. It followed an unauthorized fraternity social event that involved underage drinking. The fraternity has since been suspended by BU officials.
Of the nine seniors on the Souhegan team, seven had played on the varsity team with Barksdale last year. Heaney hosted a team lunch at his house Sunday, giving the players a chance to grieve together and share memories of Barksdale.
“I think they’ve done a great job of focusing this week, getting ready for the game,” Heaney said before Wednesday’s game.
The effort proved successful for the team, as the seventh-seeded Sabers beat Hanover, 55-33, earning a quarterfinal matchup at No. 2 Portsmouth on Saturday. The week has already been an emotional roller-coaster for the team, which is bound to continue.
The team attended a wake for Barksdale on Friday and a memorial service at Souhegan on Saturday morning before their quarterfinal game at Portsmouth on Saturday night.
Souhegan football coach Mike Beliveau said Barksdale was never a starter on his team, but he was a player who always gave everything he had each day at practice and worked even harder in the classroom.
Beliveau’s son Tim, a longtime classmate and teammate of Barksdale’s, was at St. Lawrence University last weekend, preparing for the first week of spring football practice, when he got the news.
“He took it very hard,” Beliveau said. “By the middle of the week, he told the coach he was too distracted and needed to go home and be part of the Souhegan community for a few days.”