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Prayers soar from Eagle Field as Johnson Central football coach battles illness

Published: Sep. 5, 2021 at 7:09 PM EDT
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PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The Golden Eagles hit the field Sunday afternoon, but they did not come to play. They came to pray.

Johnson Central Head Football Coach Jim Matney was recently admitted to the ICU in serious condition. So, his team, his school, and the community he has touched during his years in the area gathered together to send up prayers for a man they said is a fighter on and off the field.

“A football team and program embodies the characteristics of their leader: tough, physical, competitive, and a team that you can never really count out when it comes to crunch time. And this right here may be one of those times,” said JCHS Principal Justin Arms.

From current and former football players to church leaders and more, the field was packed with prayer as around 200 people rallied together. According to Athletic Director Tommy McKenzie, that was just a small glimpse of the reach Matney has.

“I think it speaks to the character of coach Matney and the lives that he’s been able to touch since he’s been here. I know he didn’t graduate from Johnson Central, but he’s a Golden Eagle through and through,” said McKenzie. “He’s touched a lot of people. Not just here between the lines here on the football field or at the school, but obviously- as you can tell- here in the community. So, you know, he’s a main staple here and I think these people showed up here today to show their respect for him and try to do what they could to help him out of a very difficult situation.”

McKenzie said bringing people together from surrounding counties to show that support for Matney is something that speaks for itself. And he said the community is waiting on the sidelines for anything the family needs as the coach pushes through his illness.

Many opposing teams have also shared their prayers and well-wishes, showing the Golden Eagles and Matney that they are not in the game alone.

Arms said it was no surprise that so many people are rallying behind their coach, saying the last-second vigil Sunday afternoon was only a portion of the people in Matney’s corner.

“Everybody is here. Everybody is pulling for you and praying for you,” said Arms. “If anybody can do it, we’ve got faith in you, coach.”

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