HomeSchoolsJCM celebrates homecoming with game, tailgating

JCM celebrates homecoming with game, tailgating

Jackson Central-Merry’s homecoming football game didn’t go well in favor of the good guys in green and gold, but that didn’t damper the spirits of the Cougar Nation.

JCM was reborn in a renovated building in 2021, five years after Jackson-Madison County School Board voted to close it and four other schools in the district.

With its rebirth came an athletics program that’s been built in phases over the first three school years back.

Football has been phased in with a junior varsity schedule in 2021, an independent varsity schedule in 2022 and a varsity schedule as a member of the TSSAA this year.

Next year, the planned next phase is to have a home stadium adjacent to Oman Arena and the school’s campus.

For Friday night’s game, JCM’s homecoming game was at South Side High School against North Side while the Hawks were on the road in Bolivar.

“This is an awesome evening to be a part of,” said Andre Darnell, who’s a member of the Jackson-Madison County School Board for the past three years but was one of the main people who opposed its closing when the Board voted to close it in December of 2015 and then pressed to keep the alumni base united in the wake of its closing and pushed for the school’s rebirth.

Darnell was on the JCM sideline Friday night. Looking up to see a full home side of the stands filled with green and gold-clad alumni, students and supporters there pushing the Cougar football team, looking back on the previous eight years became a surreal moment for him.

“When you see that and knowing where we’ve been not that long ago … I’m just grateful that we’re back here,” Darnell said.

The rebirth became a real possibility in the fall of 2018 when then-JMCSS Superintendent Eric Jones began the efforts to build a new school building for Madison Academic on the campus of the University of Memphis at Lambuth.

Morris Merriweather, who was a member of the Board at the time and was one of the students involved in the integration of Jackson schools in the late 1960s that led to the opening of Jackson Central-Merry in 1970, worked out a deal with Jones: Bring back JCM and let’s have new facilities for both JCM and Madison.

Jones and his leadership team put together a plan, and the Board approved it. The Madison County Commission and the Jackson City Council joined a private-public partnership with the Community Redevelopment Agency and Healthy Communities LLC to fund both schools’ construction work, and ground was broken on both schools in April of 2020 with JCM resuming classes in August of 2021. While the building wasn’t ready when classes started that semester, the students moved into the school when they returned from fall break in October of that year.

Meanwhile, the group that Darnell had helped create – The I Am JCM Coalition – had continued to be an influence even while the school was closed.

Its original intent was to be a grassroots organization of Cougar alumni with the intention of doing what it needed to do to influence the school board members in 2015 to not vote to close the school.

After the school closed in the spring of ’16 and before hope sprang in the fall of ’18 for the rebirth, the group spearheaded alumni events throughout the year – the main one being the tailgate party, usually on the last Saturday night in September.

That tradition continued this weekend.

“You see a part here now,” Darnell said looking around at the home crowd, complete with a deejay hyping the crowd up and playing music during timeouts. “We’ll have our big annual tailgate party this weekend too because this has become a big weekend for all of us who are a part of the Cougar Nation.”

The football team lost the game 42-0, but Darnell said it’s good to see a homecoming, a game against the city rivals and to have a football team and other athletic teams and a school for the Cougar Nation to rally around again.

“We’ve got a former Cougar player leading the boys, and they’re a young group, so we’re confident they’re going to get better each year,” Darnell said. “But the younger guys can look up now and see they’ve got a lot of people supporting them and pulling for them.

“We want every student in this school to succeed.”

2 shot in incident at tailgate party

The JCM alumni tailgate party hosted hundreds of JCM alumni and their families on the old track and field area adjacent to Oman Arena and the old Madison Academic/Jackson High building.

Jackson Police did respond to a report of shots fired at 9:20 p.m. Saturday at the event.

According to a statement from JPD, witnesses reported hearing six gunshots. A 17-year-old juvenile and an adult female were both shot and airlifted by Air-Vac to a hospital in Memphis.

Both are in stable condition at this time.

JPD is asking if anyone has information on any suspects involved with the incident to call 731-425-8400 or Crime Stoppers at 731-424-8477.

Brandon Shields,

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