Captains On The Field, Best Friends Off the Field

Senior Captains Gladney and Short endure rest of season after Williams’ injury


Reid Bayliss

Senior captains Chris Short, Jaylin Williams and Jordan Gladney greet the captains of Orchard Farm on Sept. 30.

by Reid Bayliss, Staff Writer

Head football coach Joe Leibner announced at the beginning of the season that seniors Jordan Gladney, Chris Short and Jaylin Williams would lead their team as senior captains. These three began their football journey eighth grade year with aspirations of playing at the varsity level in high school.

Gladney was inspired to play football growing up by his uncles. Those same uncles take him to Kansas City every summer to help develop his game.

Short had aspirations for the game when he grew up watching NFL Sundays and his older cousin play football in high school.

Williams didn’t start playing football until his eighth grade year when he knew it would be his calling, but he didn’t know it would help him land Division-1 offers such as Illinois State University.

But like most students in their first year in high school, these three played primarily on the freshman team. That year, they became the first team at that level to go undefeated for the season in a long time. Williams remembers how they dominated nearly every game and how he, his fellow captains and other senior teammates have developed since then.

“We’ve all gotten a thousand times better skill-wise since freshman year,” Williams said. “If I played like I did my freshman year on the varsity level, I’d be trash.”

Then comes sophomore year, Gladney and Williams were finding their roles on the varsity level but Short was still only getting quality time on the junior varsity team. But after a summer of hard work, he started receiver his junior year and was honored as a captain in his last year for the team.

“I was a sophomore who didn’t play who became a captain my senior year,” Short said.

Their junior year, hoping to help a talented senior class on one last hoorah, they began the season 2-0. But a series of minor injuries to Gladney and Williams during their game against St. Charles West would prevent them from their offensive capabilities last year. Hoping to make a comeback from last season’s first round knockout by St. Dominic, the captains wanted to go out their senior year with a bang.

“Ever since we were in eighth grade, we talked all about senior year,” Williams said.

Winning the home opener against Duchesne on Aug. 19 and their first away game against Windsor on Aug. 26, the toughest game of the season was upon them against Poplar Bluff. During the first half, sophomore Cody Thorne threw a pass to Williams cutting across the middle and a linebacker tackled him below his knees. Silence filled the stadium as he was on the ground unable to move; he had broken his leg. His family rushed to the field in distress, as his teammates huddled together to try and collect themselves as one of their senior leader’s seasons was on the line. Gladney and Short were in complete shock at the sight of their best friend, who had worked so hard for four years to end on such a heartbreaking incident.

“You’ve watched him work so hard all of his life for one sport, and to see his season end like that,” Short said.

Williams was announced for homecoming court the week of his injury, but on the day of the homecoming assembly, Williams was rushed from the hospital for an event he could not miss. As he was rolled into the gymnasium by wheelchair, the whole place began to light up with joy and excitement. It was an uplifting moment for Pirate nation, and it meant even more when he was crowned homecoming king at halftime during their game against Warrenton on Sept. 9. The Pirates lost that game, and they’ve only been able to shine during Friday night lights once in their past seven games.

“We’ve all got to do our jobs, stay focused and bring the same energy Jaylin brought,” Short said.

Next up on the Pirates’ schedule is their first round game on Oct. 21 against Parkway Central. Gladney, Short and Williams were honored before their last home game against Trinity last Friday, marking a fantastic four years these three and the fellow seniors behind them have had.

“It’s been great,” Gladney said. “We’ve gotten closer and I’m enjoying it while it lasts.”