It didn’t matter that some of the men went to Liberty County High School, some to Bradwell and even a couple attended First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
On Saturday, it looked like one massive reunion of former friends and colleagues as the second annual Joe Watkins Memorial Flag Football Tournament got under way at James Brown Park.
Watkins, a former standout pitcher at Liberty County High School, died after a car accident last November. Watkins was attending Georgia Southern University on a baseball scholarship and had played on travel teams for several years across the state. He also enjoyed playing football and basketball, gaining many friends from across the county and the surrounding areas.
And it was evident just how much he was adored and missed as roughly 20 teams participated in the tournament to raise funds for the Joe Watkins Memorial Scholarship fund, which is for local high-school graduates who played baseball or softball and are headed to college. According to Kathy Sikes, who helped organize the event and gathered funds, the
tournament raised between $1,400-1,500 for the scholarships. Proceeds from this year’s tournament also will be donated to the Beasley Family Fund. The Ellabell family lost two children in a house fire in early November.
One team in particular, the Kalamazoo Conquistadors, stood out above the rest. Dressed from head to toe in neon green leotards and skull caps, the team was made up of Watkins former baseball teammates from LCHS. Three Conquistadors — Trey Sikes, Brandon Whitmore and Levi Deese — got the tournament started last year and organized it again this year.
“Last year, it was so much fun that we decided we would make it an annual event,” Deese said. “Plus, everyone likes it because it is a benefit for Joe. And I know it’s good for Miss Jan (Williams) and Mr. Pat (Watkins) to come out and see everybody that he knew come together and play football, something that Joe loved to do.”
Williams and Watkins are Joe Watkins’ parents.
The tournament ran the whole day as Mother Nature provided perfect football weather. In the end, the Conquistadors topped the Rainbow Warriors for the championship trophy. The players hoisted the trophy and took a picture with Williams.
The Conquistadors were happy to honor their friend, whom they say touched the lives of many.
“Joe touched the community a great deal,” Deese said. “Everybody that I ever met that spent more than five minutes with him loved him. And all these people out here, even if some of them didn’t know him personally, they knew him in some way from baseball, football or basketball.”