PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two local high school football teams put their rivalry aside and took the field for a special practice. The reason they came together Thursday night extends far beyond the game.
“It changed kinda how I take my job at coach. It drove home for me the importance of what it is that we are doing,” Frankord High coach Bill Sytsma said.
Football practice nearly always ends on a knee, where coaches voice their praise or concern with their team. But this practice consisted of teams — plural.
It’s the second annual Practice 4 Peace, with Boys’ Latin and Frankford High School players.
“We had both lost players to gun violence, murder, and it just came in the conversation on we were talking ‘what is something we can do?'” Sytsma said.
The two teams have traditionally operated as fierce rivals, but here, they play as one and took post-practice knees together because a different kind of coach had something to say.
“No one wants their mother or someone else’s mother to go through the pain that I have to go through every single day,” Maxayn Gooden said.
Gooden lost her 18-year-old son, Jahsun Patton, to gun violence in 2017. He had a 3.5 GPA at Boys’ Latin, had been accepted to college, starred in school plays and excelled on the football field that he once shared with several current players.
“It just takes a second to walk away. It just takes a second to think and not react,” Gooden said.
It’s a mother’s lesson to teens, facilitated by both schools and the Philadelphia Police Department.
“Then you see them go to college, have the ability to play football somewhere in college and just grow and see that there is a whole different world out there for them,” Boys’ Latin coach Pat Montgomery said.
At the core, the idea is to redefine what rival means — on and off the field.
“It became a passion of mine to try to help young men gain conflict-resolution skills and just stay out of trouble because the pain is real,” Gooden said.
In September, Gooden is starting up a mentoring program at Boys’ Latin and she already has a memorial scholarship fund eligible for kids who play football and get good grades.
They both have the same title: Jah’s World.