Soccer team to play in honor of teen

 Emergency responders work the scene of Tuesday night's crash.
Staff Writer

A 16-year-old West Point High School student on his way home from soccer practice was killed Tuesday evening when his car skidded out of control and was broadsided by an oncoming SUV.

Jonathan Dean Fondren’s death dulled the excitement about his team’s first soccer game, which is scheduled for today against Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.

Because of Fondren’s excitement and anticipation of that game, his first as a Green Wave player, the team voted Wednesday to play in his honor.

“I talked to him as we were leaving practice, he was so excited,” West Point soccer coach Steve Cannon said of Fondren.

“Chris Lee, the team captain called me at 6 this morning and said, ‘Coach, we got to play, he was so looking forward to this game, it meant so much to him.’ So we are playing,” Cannon said.

Fondren transferred to West Point last year from Lowndes County, where he still lived with his family. Because of transfer rules, he had to sit out a year before he could play.

Fondren’s mother, Amanda Fondren, was a nurse practitioner at Urgent Team in West Point before opening her own center in Caledonia.

They live at 7924 Highway 50 East in Columbus.

“He was one of those kids who made you want to come to practice, he loved it so much. And he always was doing something to to make you laugh. With him around, there never was a dull moment, he just lit things up,” Cannon continued of his promising young player.

“At practice Tuesday, he took his shirt off in the cold and was running around bare-chested in the cold going, ‘Yeah, it’s time for soccer practice’.”

Fondren was going to start tonight’s game at goalie and hold down that position until Kobe Pate could return to the position when football season is over.

When that happened, Fondren was going to move to striker, Cannon said of his diverse skills.

“All the kids were so excited about having him. He just made such a difference,” the coach stated.

“He was waiting on this moment, this chance to play the sport he loved so much, especially being able to play in Columbus,” Cannon recalled.

The coaches and team met Wednesday morning with counselors and pastors and youth ministers from area churches, including Fondren’s church. They talked about grief, going forward and honoring him, the coach said.

The team still is discussing ways to pay tribute at tonight’s game and in the future, including a ceremony at the team’s first home game on Dec. 11.

The team was going to pick their jersey numbers today. It now may tie that in some how to Fondren’s memory, the coach said.

“More than anything, we are going to play and have fun like he would have, like he would want us to. It doesn’t matter the score, just enjoy the game, share his passion,” the coach said of the team’s emotions going into the season opener.
The accident happened just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the eastbound lane of Highway 50 about halfway between Pate Road and the Tenn-Tom Waterway bridge in far eastern Clay County.

Fondren was eastbound in a 2005 Nissan 350Z when he lost control for some reason, crossed the westbound lane and then corrected, coming back into the eastbound lane, apparently turning sideways. A westbound 2007 Dodge Nitro driven by 66-year-old Robert Fisher Jr. apparently tried to avoid the oncoming car but struck it in the driver’s door.

Fondren, who was wearing his seat belt, was pronounced dead at the scene by Clay County Coroner Alvin Carter. Fisher was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle for treatment.

Fondren’s car traveled about 150 yards before the collision.

The coroner said he had no indication of anything that might have caused the teen to lose control, including cell phone use or other distractions.

Lowndes Funeral Home in Columbus will be in charge of funeral arrangements.