During its game Oct. 18 at home against Lancaster, the Gahanna Lincoln football team observed a moment of silence in remembrance of two people who had made their mark on the program over the past few years.
The Lions also wore stickers on their helmets in honor of JaShawn Scott and Tommy Brown, and fans wore “Gahanna blue” as a show of support. Jalen Scott, the younger brother of JaShawn, wore his brother’s No. 11 jersey and led the Lions onto the field.
JaShawn Scott, a 17-year-old junior, died at Mount Carmel East from injuries sustained in an automobile accident Oct. 12 on Columbus’ northeast side. Brown, a 2013 graduate who played football at the school, was found dead Oct. 14 but was not involved in the accident.
“We’re going to go out there to play for them, of course, and their spirit will be on the field,” senior linebacker Mason Weber said. “We play for each other. That’s all we can do.”
Senior football player Kobie Stillwell was driving the vehicle in which Scott was a passenger. Stillwell and another passenger, Gahanna student Khaleb Watson, were taken to Grant Medical Center with injuries that police said were not life-threatening following the crash, which included three vehicles and in which two others also died.
Gahanna improved to 2-6 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division with a 28-25 victory over Lancaster.
The Lions play host Friday, Oct. 25, to Grove City, which is 1-7 overall and 0-3 in the league after losing to Reynoldsburg 35-0 on Oct. 17.
The night before the crash, Gahanna earned a 29-28 comeback win over Reynoldsburg as Scott and Stillwell both played major roles.
Stillwell has been the team’s punter, averaging 35.3 yards while placing six inside the 20 through seven games, but he also had his best game at safety against the Raiders, grabbing a second-quarter interception and making five tackles.
He also has been a contributor at wide receiver, where Scott was emerging as a key player.
Scott had a season-high five catches for 60 yards in a 37-6 loss to Westerville Central on Sept. 27 and followed with three catches in each of the next two games to give him 14 for 178 yards on the season.
Against Reynoldsburg, the Lions drove 81 yards on 13 plays to cut what had been a 21-point deficit to 28-21 when quarterback Will Thomas connected with Scott for an 11-yard touchdown with 6 minutes, 41 seconds remaining.
It was the only touchdown of Scott’s career with the Lions, who would score the game-winning points with 16 seconds to play.
“(Scott) was a great player, don’t get me wrong, but he did so many other things,” Weber said. “It was just the energy he would bring. He was a fun guy and had the energy and it was the type of morale that he added to the group, him and Kobie both. The majority of the team saw JaShawn (in the hospital). We were high off of our first win and then we got hit with the news Sunday morning (Oct. 13).”
Coach Bruce Ward was traveling out of state when he heard the news late on Oct. 12.
Although Gahanna did not have school Oct. 14, players were brought in and met with administrators and grief counselors to “let them understand there’s support about grieving and that it’s OK that they feel certain ways, and just try to be with one another,” Ward said.
“Most of them stayed the entire day with us,” he said. “It was a rough weekend. In my 22 years of coaching, I’ve never dealt with this. It’s nothing you want to ever deal with, but we’re just trying to be together, listen to the kids, give kids options as far as people to talk to and still allow football for some to be that outlet.”
Brown, who was in his first year as a special education teacher at Westerville South, has been a part of the Gahanna middle school football program as a coach since graduating from high school.
He was an offensive lineman for the Lions in 2012 when they went 7-3.
“He was a former player here and coached in our middle schools off and on,” Ward said. “He was a good friend of the program and some of our coaches just talked to him last week. (These are) difficult times.”