It’s a peculiar paradox.
How a game so violent in nature can be so therapeutic.
But believe it or not, that’s exactly what football was for Coronado and Basic on Friday night at Basic High School.
“It was really good … for our team and our town (to play Friday night),” Coronado football coach William Froman said. “In life, you’re going to get dealt a (bad) hand. You saw that this week. … Football mirrors life.”
The Cougars and the Wolves honored slain police officer and youth football coach Charleston Hartfield and Basic graduates Quinton Robbins and Cameron Robinson — all victims of Sunday’s mass shooting — with an emotional pregame ceremony that included a lengthy moment of silence and a joint prayer between the two programs.
Basic and Coronado players wore a white helmet sticker featuring Hartfield’s badge number, 9008, and stood in solidarity with the 50 or so police officers lining Coronado’s sideline to support Hartfield’s 15-year-old son, Ayzayah, a two-way sophomore starter for the Cougars who played his favorite sport in the face of a devastating tragedy.
Basic wide receiver Jordan Gallegos, who played youth football for Charleston Hartfield, scored three touchdowns to lead the Wolves to a 45-22 victory. He said playing was cathartic for players on both teams.
“To be able to get back on the field, to get our minds off that stuff,” Gallegos said. “It’s very heartbreaking. But (playing) was good for us.”
Ayzayah Hartfield, through Froman, respectfully declined an interview request. But teammate Ethan Reich, who played youth football for Ayzayah’s father, said Charleston was an amazing man and coach who inspired players in the valley.
“He would always push you, until you can’t give no more,” Reich said. “He’d help a lot of kids by helping them show sportsmanship.”
Charleston Hartfield was a fixture at Coronado football games and helped the Cougars in every capacity. He kept what Froman says were the most accurate and fair stats. He safeguarded the mothers during away games and shepherded coaches’ wives from “the nonsense of parents that wouldn’t say nice things.”
He’d work the concessions if the Cougars needed him to.
He’d fold tee shirts.
He’d hand out water.
“He did the things that nobody saw,” Froman said. “He didn’t want attention. He didn’t want anything extra for his son. He just wanted to do the right thing. That’s the thing that I remember.”
Ayzayah Hartfield started at linebacker for the Cougars and carried the ball seven times as a running back in the second half. Coaches, players and spectators cheered for him whenever he touched the ball, hoping that he would break a long run or score a touchdown.
Froman said his players and coaches have done an excellent job rallying around Hartfield and supporting him throughout the week, adding that “… they made it as normal as this situation can be. I’m really proud of our boys.”
And he was proud of somebody else, too.
“I was really proud of Ayzayah. The way he dealt with tonight,” Froman said. “Really proud of him.”
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at email@example.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.