New Jersey high school football teams play with shooting death of 10-year-old on mind

PHILADELPHIA — A traumatic week for the Pleasantville, New Jersey, community turned tragic on Wednesday when it was revealed that the 10-year-old boy, Micah Tennant, who had been shot in the neck during Friday night’s playoff game against Camden had died.

“We found out about it this morning,” Pleasantville linebacker and running back Ernest Howard, who wore No. 10 in Tennant’s honor as the game resumed at Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday afternoon, told ESPN. “Our coach told us. He gathered us in the auditorium. Just sad, mad, angry, a lot of stuff going through our minds. We have a game to win on the same day. It was a lot to take in on this day.”

It was with this dark backdrop that the teams finished their game at the Philadelphia Eagles‘ stadium. Following the shooting, the Eagles stepped in and offered their home facility when they found out Pleasantville and Camden were searching for a neutral site.

The Eagles gave them the red-carpet treatment. They sent coach buses to pick the teams up and drive them to the stadium. When the players arrived, they walked into the locker rooms to find personalized nameplates on the locker stalls.

About a dozen members of the Eagles, including Carson Wentz, Malcolm Jenkins, Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox, greeted the players pregame. That was followed by an NFL-style entrance, complete with smoke machines lining the tunnel entrance as players ran out to AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock.”

“It really was an honor for us to host both schools today,” said Eagles president Don Smolenski. “Hopefully, this can be something they remember in a positive way moving forward in their lives.”

As Pleasantville coach Chris Sacco added, “These kids needed something uplifting to them.”

The teams gathered at midfield before the resumption of the game in a moment of silence for Tennant, with the public address announcer saying, “We join with Micah’s family to demonstrate that acts of violence do not win.”

Tennant’s mother, Angela Tennant, eulogized him in a Facebook post, using his nickname, “Dew.”

“This kid was so different Big Personality…Big Smile & Big Dreams!” she wrote. “Never in a million years would I think this would be my life. I’m happy my gmom raised me the way she did. It’s only by Gods Grace & Mercy that I’m standing tall for my boy! Dew I will never let anyone forget you just as I always sweat you I will continue. My Jody I love you forever.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy mourned the boy’s death on Wednesday in a Twitter post.

“No child deserves to have their promising life cut short, especially by indiscriminate and senseless gun violence,” the governor said. “No parent deserves to bury their child. We will hold Dew’s memory close, and we will remember his name, as we continue our work to make New Jersey safer for all of our families.”

Wentz discussed the shooting during a news conference a few hours before Wednesday’s game.

“Very tough situation. It’s a tragedy in itself,” Wentz said, according to WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. “It’s really unfortunate that happened in a public setting, the way it did at a football game. It’s Friday night lights. It’s something kids just dream about playing in. It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, playing Friday night lights.

Charges against the suspected gunman have been upgraded to murder. He also faces two counts of attempted murder and weapons charges. Two others were injured as a result of the shooting; a 27-year-old man was shot, and a 15-year-old boy was grazed. Six men have been charged, including the man who was shot.

There was about 17 minutes remaining on Friday when gunshots rang out and the game was stopped at the stadium in Pleasantville, near Atlantic City.

Wednesday’s game, won by Camden 22-0, was not open to the public. A section of the lower bowl on each side of the stadium was filled with select family and friends. On Camden’s side, the school band played throughout as cheerleaders chanted and the mascot ran along the sideline. The Pleasantville side, in mourning, was much more subdued.

“It’s definitely hard to take in that we took this loss today, but it’s a bigger meaning because we came out here and still fought and gave our heart out for Micah on this great stage that the Eagles offered us,” Howard said.

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