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BlueCross Bowl honorary coin toss

Posted on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 at 2:47 pm

SHANE SHOEMAKER – Writer

On the way over to Finley Stadium on Friday afternoon, leading the 1A top ranked South Pittsburg Pirates to the BlueCross Bowl, something fell from Brandon Price’s mirror in his vehicle while he was driving. Little did he know that it was a gentle reminder from a friend.

It was a coin. But it wasn’t just any coin, it was a coin that the Marion County Sheriff’s Department had made to commemorate the life of former detective Matt Blansett, who died back in August of last year in a helicopter crash.

“On the way over here, something fell,” Price said. “Didn’t know what it was, I said, ‘What was that?’ I later realized this coin I had on my mirror had fallen down to my console like, remember, ‘Hey, don’t forget about me.’”

That coin was later used in the coin toss just before Friday’s game when South Pittsburg faced McKenzie for the TSSAA 1A state championship, thanks to Price.

Price, a South Pittsburg alum and now the SRO for the high school, has many fond memories of Pirates football, including the 1994 state championship team he was on, which he shares with head coach Wes Stone. But as Friday’s game against McKenzie approached, he started to reflect on the Pirates 2021 championship.

He started looking at old TikTok videos he made from that season, where he and Blansett were two of the officers who led the team out to the stadium and likewise back home after their thrilling 24-21 victory over McKenzie that year in the state finals – and it was hitting Price that wouldn’t be possible this year.

There was also another connection. Tennessee Highway Patrol pilot, Sgt. Lee Russell, who was with Blansett on the day of the crash, was friends and fellow duck hunter with McKenzie’s head coach, Wade Comer. Price, therefore, thought it was fitting to honor both men as best as he could for the game.

“He [Blansett] loved South Pittsburg, he loved Marion County,” Price said. “And I just thought it was fitting the pilot being Sgt. Russell, being from McKenzie… it was just fitting that, you know, if I would have had one of Lee Russell’s coins, we would have done it for him.”

It did take some convincing and proper approvals to get TSSAA officials to approve the coin for the coin toss. That’s where Pirates’ coach and team statistician Carl Mount came in, who walked up to the officials and asked if they could use the coin.

“He’s not shy to ask anybody about anything,” Price said. “He walked out there and spoke to the officials and I was just out there like a little kid wandering behind him. It got done and it was just emotional.”

During the coin toss, Pirates quarterback and captain for the evening, Kamden Wellington, called heads, and sure enough, it landed on heads, the side of the coin with Blansett’s picture on it.

On the sideline, someone then ran over and told Price, “It landed on heads,” and immediately his eyes welled up with tears.

When asked Price if he believed that was an omen for how the game would turn out, he said, “I wanted to think that, but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched. It made it a little bit easier. I didn’t worry as much.”

Blansett was not only a South Pittsburg alum but also a member of the 1999 Pirates state championship team.

“He would have been making 100 phone calls right now, organizing the events that’s about to take place, like escorting the team home,” Price said, when asked how Blansett would have reacted to Pirates beating McKenzie 14-7 for their seventh state championship.

The Marion Tribune – December 14, 2023