Columbine athletics helped carry the weight of a community’s healing during 1999 “redemptive” season

The October after the attack at their faculty that left 13 people dead, including teammate Matt Kechter, Columbine football lost to rival Pomona on a late area aim midway by way of the 1999 common season.

The Rebels have been undefeated as much as that point, and the loss under no circumstances derailed their goals of a primary state championship. However as participant Landon Jones explained, the setback allowed the true weight of the group’s pursuit to sink in.

This was not merely youngsters blocking and tackling and passing beneath Friday night time lights; it was a whole group behind a group, a sense of togetherness out of tragedy.

“That’s why that loss to Pomona was so crushing,” stated Jones, a junior fullback at the time. “It was the primary style any of us had gotten that season as to what it felt wish to let our group down. We felt like we let down the Kechter family; we felt like we let down the varsity.

The Rebels rebounded from the loss, rattling off eight straight wins to finally declare the Class 5A state title and launch a football dynasty  — and, underneath the leadership of head coach Andy Lowry, one thing rather more lasting.

“He was capable of instill in the program the fact that we have been going to honor those individuals, however at the similar time one of the simplest ways we might honor them is by how we reside our lives,” assistant coach Tom Tonelli stated. “Our program started to play the game for something past themselves, and although I feel that worth was there earlier than the tragedy, it was strengthened afterward and turn into the pivotal thing that all the things else rested on.”

Craig F. Walker, The Denver Submit

Columbine Excessive Faculty football participant Landon Jones wears his follow jersey that pays tribute to Matt Kechter, who was killed in the Columbine shootings. The teams follow shirts all have Kechter’s number 70 on the entrance.

Kechter, a sophomore defensive lineman, was one in every of 4 individuals related to the athletics department killed April 20, 1999. Women basketball coach Dave Sanders, volleyball captain Lauren Townsend and wrestler Isaiah Shoels have been additionally shot.

“If it’s not for Matt Kechter, I don’t consider that 1999 state title workforce occurs,” stated Ryan Barrett, Kechter’s greatest good friend and a linebacker for Columbine. “We have been capable of win soccer games the place we weren’t essentially the perfect group, or the most important, fastest or strongest. But we had so much heart, and Matt’s passing gave us a better function and an edge that no other group had at the moment.”

“That ’99 group epitomized the power the whole faculty had,” stated Tonelli, who still teaches and coaches at Columbine. “It wasn’t just forty youngsters on a football staff that went out and beat the chances. It was 2,000 youngsters in the faculty who beat the chances by coming again, by…

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