CALUMET TWP. — When Times No. 10 Calumet took the field Friday to face Whiting, it was hard for Curtis Walton Sr. to hold back his emotions.
His son, Curtis Walton Jr., was pronounced dead Thursday at the University of Chicago Medical Center after being found unresponsive at the the school's pool on Wednesday.
Walton Sr. said he was heartbroken that his 14-year-old son would never have the opportunity to live out his goals and dreams. However, he emphasized that he appreciates all of the community’s support during his family’s time of tragedy.
The school raised over $2,000 for the family on Friday through donations and a raffle, and the Warriors also earned a resounding 36-0 victory over the Oilers — marking their first win in the rivalry since 2009.
On the final play of the game, Calumet (3-1) put 10 freshmen on the field and left one of its linebacker spots vacant to recognize Walton Jr., while Whiting (2-2) took a knee to run out the clock. Walton Sr. said the gesture from his son’s coach and team is something he will never forget.
“He wasn’t a perfect kid, but he was a good kid,” Walton Sr. said of his son. “He still needed guidance, but he was willing to accept it. He was willing to not only be fathered but coached and mentored. He was funny and everything that a father would want. I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”
Micaiah Walton, Curtis’ older sister, wore his black No. 19 jersey to the game to remind everyone that although he wasn’t there physically, he was still there in spirit. Essence Walton, a junior and another one of Curtis’ siblings, wore his red No. 19 jersey as she and Micaiah accompanied the Warriors' captains on field for the coin toss.
They both became team managers when their younger brother joined the football program and plan to continue working with the team. Micaiah Walton believes that if Curtis still had the opportunity, there is no doubt he would've left his mark on Calumet's program.
“Wednesday, he was on the field, and he came up to me while I was filling up the water bottles for the football players, and he was telling me about how coach (Rick Good) wanted the best players on defense,” said Micaiah, who is a senior. “He told me, ‘I’m putting my all out there because I want to start on defense.'
“He said, ‘I can’t put out any more because this is all I have to give.'”
Quarterback Mark Flores scored four of the Warriors' five touchdowns and said his strong performance was to honor his late teammate. The junior understands that a victory won’t bring back Curtis Walton Jr.
But in his absence, Flores at least wanted to put on a show for his friend.
“We dedicate (this win) to our lost brother, our lost Warrior,” said Flores, who scored twice on the ground and twice through the air and added three 2-point conversions. “We did everything for him. This was a very special day and a very big game. He definitely looked over us.”
Calumet's players wore No. 19 decals on their helmets to commemorate Curtis Walton Jr. and will display them for the rest of the season, and Whiting plans to do the same with No. 19 stickers. Good said he was grateful for the class the Oilers have shown and the condolences the rest of the Region continues to send to his team and Walton's family.
“In pregame, it was a little tough because the emotions all flooded back from the week, but this was kind of our outlet for all of that grief,” Good said. “I think the kids fed off that emotion. It did take a minute to realize that it’s OK to honor Curtis with flying around and being excited to play football. But once they figured that out, I’m pretty proud of the way they stepped up.”