Oscar Smith football pays tribute to Claude Stafford Jr., Tiger alum and booster

Oscar Smith football pays tribute to Claude Stafford Jr., Tiger alum and booster
Posted at 1:41 AM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 01:41:40-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Football is family at Oscar Smith High School, where that family is mourning the passing of one of their own.

After calling Beard Delong Easley Field home for decades as a former Tigers student and booster, it's also the site where Claude Stafford Jr. passed away before last Thursday's game.

"Was blue and gold all the way through," Tigers head football coach Chris Scott said. "He’s been around, been able to help us get uniforms, make sure that the guys have great cleats on, that the coaches are all out there in their Smith Blue shoes, just the little things he did. Making sure the grass was cut a certain way.”

The grass he once helped remain well-manicured will now bear his initials when the Tigers host Thomas Dale in region finals this weekend.

"It’s something I thought about last Friday. Our game was on Thursday. I should have been maybe thinking about flowers, but I immediately thought about the stencil and what we could do to honor Claude out here on the field," said Terry Batten, who had the stencil with Stafford's initials made to pay tribute through spray painting the field.

Just steps away from the field, you'll find his initials near the victory bell as well, which the Tigers plan to ring all the way through the state title game in Stafford's honor.

"The jerseys that we wear, it’s because of him," Oscar Smith middle linebacker Taeron Richardson said. "We have to do this for him, this is specifically for him, this state championship is gonna be for him."

"Gotta do it for Mr. Claude," Tigers wide receiver Kole Jones added. "He was a big supporter of Smith and we gotta do this for him. He did a lot for us so we gotta get the state ring for him."

"Claude has always been a huge part of this program and I couldn’t think of any better way to honor him than to win a state championship," Batten, head of the Oscar Smith booster club, said.

"He's doing what Claude has always done by bringing us closer together, to make us realize what things are truly important, and that's family, faith and football," Scott said. Those guys are doing that and have another great opportunity to do that on Saturday."

On Saturday, Oscar Smith hosts Thomas Dale in region finals at 2 p.m.

The Tigers have been dominant all season long, allowing just one touchdown and beating opponents by 40-plus points.

They won't need any extra motivation, because "These guys, they’re already at 1,000 percent," Scott said.

Although, they certainly have the extra motivation of winning a state title in Stafford's honor.