Friends, teammates mourn the loss of a CHS football player known for his smile, kindness and faith | Local News

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Goofy and kind, contagious laughter, contagious smile.

He would do whatever he could to be your friend, to make you laugh, to include you.

At a candlelight vigil on Friday night, these were the common comments from friends and teammates of Antonio Hicks, the 16-year-old Citrus High School soccer player who collapsed during soccer practice on Tuesday and is later died at Citrus Memorial Hospital.

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Several hundred people, many wearing T-shirts with Antonio’s photo on the front and 56 with his jersey number on the back, gathered on the basketball courts at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Inverness to mourn the loss of this exceptional young man.

“I had known him from college,” Chase Means said. “He was kind and courteous, and every time he saw me in the halls of the school he would shake my hand.”

Ethan Skull, who played youth football with him on the Citrus Cowboys team, said he was “exciting to watch” during a game.

“You never knew what he would do, something silly like falling on the ground,” he said. “And he loved his snacks, always two honey buns and a Monster drink.”

Cowboys mom Candace Long said Antonio kept everyone in line, “but he was a big ball of cheese too,” she said.

George Schmalstig, Founder and CEO of Filter Family Solutions, told the crowd: “You knew him as number 56, but at Filter we knew him as number 118. Not all Filter kids are easy to love, but Antonio was. He was constant and always happy. Even after graduating from our program, he returned to mentor younger children.

CHS head football coach McKinley Franklin said Antonio was like a son to him.

“Everyone loved him, and he loved everyone,” Franklin said. “He was a worker. When he was in college he would say, “Coach, I can’t wait to play for you someday”, and he did. It was just for a short time, but he did. I will really miss him.

Antonio’s mother, Lakesha Harrison, expressed her gratitude to everyone who came to honor her son, despite a mic that was not working.

“It’s here, all of you, it’s the most heartwarming thing,” she said. “It fills my heart with joy that God gave me 16 years with this young man who touched so many people. I am truly grateful.

Henry Hicks, Antonio’s father, speaking directly to the young people in the crowd, said: “It’s beautiful, but I have a message for you: God don’t make mistakes. I love my son, but it was God’s time for him.

“Antonio left here doing exactly what he loved to do, and my son’s message to everyone is ‘Be great … and follow Christ.’ And to the coach (CHS), we know that you have done all you can and we love you, ”he said.“ To all the football staff, thank you for the time and the love that you gave to my son. “

As the sun went down and the candles were lit, Zeb Bishop, CHS defensive line football coach, ended the evening by explaining how he could chew Antonio from side to side and the next day, Antonio would have a big smile. his face, without ever holding a grudge.

“He was a quality young man,” said Bishop. “Life will go on, but it will never be the same without Antonio Hicks.”

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