Members of the Mascoutah High School football team took the field Friday night for their homecoming game against Triad with members of local law enforcement, firefighters and veterans.
The event was conceived during the first week of the school year by Scott Battas, the school’s athletic director. Given the recent tensions between President Donald Trump and NFL players who have demonstrated against social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, Battas consulted seniors members of the team to be sure they wanted to go forward with Friday’s plans.
The four — Nick Thurston, Darius Cooley, Dylan Ross and Treshaun Buckingham — polled other players in the Indians locker room. Cooley said the team decided to go forward as planned with no hesitation.
He insisted, however, that it was unrelated to the NFL player protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of the Jason Stockley verdict.
“That other stuff doesn’t matter. We came together collectively as a team, put whatever differences of opinion there may be aside, and decided we wanted to come together and do this for our homecoming game,” Cooley said.
If any message was to be derived by their decision, Thurston added, it was that a diverse group of individuals can unite under a common objective.
“In high school we play for each other. It’s not about the individuals or whose opinion is bigger,” he said. “We all respect each other and recognize that everyone comes from a different perspective and have different opinions. That’s all OK.
“At the end of the day, we have each others’ back, and we play for each other.”
The point is underscored by the diversity that exists at Mascoutah High School and its football team due to the influence of nearby Scott Air Foce Base. Roughly a third of the high school’s students falls into a racial category other than Caucasian.
“We have such a military base here and stuff like service and doing things for the greater good is engrained,” said Mascoutah football coach Josh Lee. “For these families, it's their livelihood. It's all they've done.
“That’s not some huge political stand and we’re not getting into people's point of view. We make a point here with the kids about being a part of something bigger than themselves and this is a a good platform. They just want to shed a positive light on people who do positive things in our community.”
Triad won the game, 24-7.