Homer and Phoenix were opponents on the football field last week. It was the game when 16 year-old Phoenix football player Ridge Barden died after a collision on the field.
Just 8 days after the tragedy, Homer and Phoenix are there for each other.
After paying respects to Barden three days ago at his calling hours, the Homer football team had a sectional quarterfinal game Saturday night. This time, it was the Phoenix team showing up, supporting the Trojans.
While the Phoenix team watched from the stands for Homer's game against Camden, the Firebirds were well represented on the field. Homer players wore orange socks and special shirts underneath their uniforms in a tribute to Barden. Cheerleaders wore shirts with Barden's name and number on them and the Phoenix team was recognized on the field at halftime.
Phoenix football head coach Jeff Charles says the tragedy has taught him a lot about his team.
"I learned a great deal about my players, what wonderful young men they are," Charles says. "They're a lot stronger than I ever thought and I think they're stronger than I am. They just stayed together. They are starting to talk a lot about Ridge Barden and I think with all the attention that this has drawn, I hope no one ever forgets that number 70, Ridge Barden, he's number one in our hearts."
Homer head coach Gary Posiedelik says it's good to get back to playing football, especially because he believes it's what Barden would have wanted.
"Opening kickoff, it's going to be high school football all over again, and that doesn't mean we're ever going to forget. But we're going to play our best, because that's absolutely what Ridge Barden would have wanted us to do, is to play our best," Posiedelik says. "And I'm sure he'd want every school, Camden alike, to get out there and have fun and realize how lucky we are to be a part of this great game."
Camden did not charge admission to the game, instead asking for fans to make a donation to the Phoenix Football Booster Club in exchange for an orange wristband.
Camden won the game over Homer, 7-0.