When fans arrive to watch tonight’s football scrimmage between Roncalli and Franklin, they’ll see the usual tan and red brick post wrapped in blue ribbon with white dash lines. It will serve as a sign of respect for a summer outing that went heartbreakingly wrong.
And before the scrimmage with Franklin Community High School, the host Roncalli Rebels plan to honor the memory of two Franklin players who died in the swimming accident in June.
Jason Moran and Michael Chadbourne, who would have been seniors this year, died trying to save their friend Sarah McLevish, who would have been a junior, during the tragedy at the Big Blue River dam in Edinburgh. McLevish remains hospitalized.
Although the Rebel players might not have known the Franklin players personally, Roncalli wants to offer support to the Franklin community.
“I am very honored that Roncalli is going to do what they are going to do, and I want to thank them for making (the scrimmage) a special thing for our kids,” Franklin athletics director John Regas said.
Roncalli head coach Bruce Scifres said, “I would describe the game of football as an enigma, because most would see it as a violent, tough game, and that the object is to overpower your opponent. But there is a strong camaraderie between the coaches and the players.”
He continued: “As soon as the ball snaps, we will be playing with our hearts and passion, just as I know Franklin will, and everything we do will be out of respect. And when the whistle blows to end a play or the game, no matter what, they will act like gentlemen.”
Franklin coach Adam Reese said, “Football is the ultimate team game. I think football has so many lessons that can all be applied to life about teamwork, accountability and confidence. ... What I try and impress upon our kids is that the things that require you to be successful in football are the same characteristics that are going to be successful in your lives.”
Going into today’s scrimmage, the Rebels have an idea of how the Franklin players feel.
“We lost a player going into his junior year 12 years ago during the 2002 season due to a car accident,” Scifres said. “We know where they are and how they feel, and our hearts go out to the friends and families affected.”
Reese said, “To know that other schools and other players have that respect for our two kids who we lost as well as the other kids that are here trying to get through, that is very meaningful. It’s a great lesson for our kids to understand that players from other schools, even though we go out there Friday night and we want to beat them, that they are human beings too, and they do care about things; and it brings more of a human element into a pretty physical aggressive game.
“What I have told our kids is that they can feel any way they want to, and that is appropriate. I try and let them know that however they are feeling is OK, and that their teammates, coaches and school community are behind them. And if they ever just need someone to talk to or vent to, that we are available.”
Being there to help those affected, even if they did not know the teens personally, brought a sense togetherness like a football huddle during the down parts of a game. There continues to be an outpouring amount of support with blue and white ribbons serving as visual reminders that everyone is there for the friends and families.
“I am new to Franklin, so for me it was really cool to see the community come together like that,” Regas said. “It was really powerful and had an impact. The best word to describe Franklin would be ‘community’ because we have become a small knit community as a result of everything.”
Franklin plays its home-opener August 29 against Shelbyville. Before the game and until halftime, a bloodmobile will be open for fans to roll up their sleeve and donate blood. According to Regas, for every person who gives blood, the Indiana Blood Center will donate back $3 to the FCHS Family Fund, which helps with expenses related to the tragedy.
There will be a moment of silence and the dedication of a bench with the names of the two teens and their jersey numbers.
Megan Powell is a Whiteland resident and a senior at Roncalli High School. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org