ECHS Feels Loss of Junior Cheerleader
by Chris Goltermann
For East Coweta's football program on Tuesday, it was heartbreak on top of heartbreak.
As difficult as it may be to focus on the field following a three-point loss and a nationally ranked opponent about to enter their home stadium, the school received news that junior cheerleader Madeline McTier had passed away after an extended battle with cancer.
'It made me sick hearing that,' Indians head coach Clint Wade said. 'I had a tough time coming out here today for practice. Just a real good family.'
McTier's older brother, Mitch, was a starting offensive center for the Indians before graduating in 2012, just months after his sister underwent surgery to remove the golf ball-sized tumor on the base of her brain.
Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of deadline on Tuesday. Students on social media sites were encouraging each other to wear pink throughout Coweta County schools today in support of Madeline.
In a post on Twitter, Mitch said the family had requested for attendees to 'bring your favorite photo with Madeline and write out your favorite memory.'
East Coweta High School Principal Evan Horton said Tuesday that the school plans to check with the McTier family's wishes before announcing any tributes possibly planned for Friday's game against Sandy Creek at Garland Shoemake Stadium. The school hosted its annual 'Pink Out' softball game for breast cancer awareness on Monday against Northgate.
While trying to turn their attention to this week's important showdown against defending Class AAAA state champion Sandy Creek, Indians players and coaches certainly had the McTier family on their minds heading into this week's game.
'We're definitely going to be playing for her on Friday,' said senior linebacker Jay McKnight. 'That game is going to be dedicated to her. It's just a sad story.'
Madeline, who also competed with ACE Cheer Company in Atlanta, was diagnosed in March 2012 after suffering headaches that sent her to the emergency room. She had just gone through physical therapy for an apparent neck sprain suffered the previous fall and an initial MRI had missed detection of the tumor.
'Such a good girl. It's hard,' said Indians defensive assistant and track coach Trace Overton. 'God takes the good ones for some reason.'
In the 18 months following surgery, she received several rounds of both radiation and chemotherapy, her last dose coming in mid-June. She made a beach trip shortly afterward to celebrate. But she spent much of the last two months in and out of hospitals as her health took a turn for the worse.
'You never know when your time is and you can never take anything for granted. I'm just glad she's not suffering anymore,' said Trinity Christian head coach and ECHS football alumnus Chris Hanson, a neighbor of the McTiers. 'You look back at all the lives that she's impacted and God had his purpose. Her legacy will live on and she'll continue to save others. We never really know God's plan or why. She's a special girl and they're a special family.'