The John Swett High School Indians (3-3) handed the Richmond Oilers (0-6) their sixth straight loss Friday night in a decisive 19-0 win.
After a scoreless first period, the Indians exploited two errors in the home defense to score two touchdowns before halftime. With 3:39 left in the fourth quarter, the Indians secured their victory with another touchdown and a one-point conversion.
“We didn’t try hard enough,” said Richmond Quarterback John Hodgen. “We have to keep our heads up and do better.”
But both Oilers players and fans alike pushed through, optimism and energy running high to the near-end.
Before kickoff, the crowd chattered as players and cheerleaders warmed up. Deshawn Clark leaned against the benches on the sideline wearing a pink NFL skull cap and gloves.
“It’s for breast cancer,” he said. “For my auntie. She survived it.”
Other Oilers had pink dye in their hair and at least one other wore gloves accented with pink stripes for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many John Swett players also wore pink socks.
The stadium fell silent as the teams readied for kickoff. A gravelly voice boomed from the home section.
“Play like you want to win!”
The crowd erupted and the game was underway. From the sidelines, coaches barked instructions and players motivated from the bench, but one voice from the stands still cut through.
“Let’s go Oilers!”
This was Clark’s mom, Mary Lewis, who offered a steady and impassioned stream of encouragement.
“Trust me, every game, everybody hears me,” she said.
Tomorrow she’ll be hoarse, but Lewis said you’ll hear her everytime.
At the half, with the score 0-12, Oilers coaches were hopeful.
“We’re right there. We need to make some minor adjustments,” Head Coach Tashaka Merriweather said. “I like what we can do in the second half.”
After halftime, the Oilers mascot looked tired. He had since stopped riding his bike back and forth and yelling to the fans, instead rallying the fans by waving his arms and calling out to them.
With five minutes left in the third, Richmond seemed poised to score.
“I smell a touchdown,” said Devonte Anderson as he jumped around the sidelines.
But as the Oilers lost ground, Mary Lewis reappeared in the stands, stomping and chanting.
“We need a touchdown! We need a touchdown! Let’s go! Come on, son!”
It wasn’t until the Indians’ third and final touchdown that Richmond showed signs of wearing down.
“I just lost the game for us,” a misty-eyed player said, helmet in hand, as he walked down the sideline.
Coach Dexter Parrish followed him.
“You gotta keep your head up,” Parrish said as the player put his helmet back on and took the field.
In the fourth quarter, several Richmond players started to go down with injuries. The last was Deshawn Clark, who fell backwards over another player. His teammates quietly took a knee as Coach Greg Morris inspected his left calf.
His mother’s voice from the stands echoed down, “Come on, Deshawn! Come on, baby!”
As he walked toward the bench, pink cap in hand, cheerleaders called in unison “All right, Deshawn!”
Clark, an unimposing figure for a football player, plays wide receiver, quarterback and free safety. He played Friday’s game for his “Aunt” Andreana James, the mother of his late best friend and Pop Warner teammate, Carl Gatlin, who died March 15 of pneumonia at the age of 15.
“Every game I play for someone else … all my loved ones,” he said. “It just motivates me to play harder.”
The Oilers’ next home game will be on Oct. 26 for their homecoming game, when they host the Kennedy High School Eagles.