Thanksgiving Day 2017 was the last time Boys’ Latin Charter School and Frankford shared a football field.
That same night, Boys’ Latin senior defensive back Jahsun Patton — who was injured late in the 2017 season and missed the Frankford game — was shot and killed in Harrisburg while spending the holiday with his sister.
The story was familiar for Frankford. One of its players, Messiah Chiverton, had been murdered just a month earlier.
So the teams gathered Wednesday afternoon for “Practice 4 Peace,” a joint practice in West Philadelphia, not just in memory of their teammates, but also to show how football can bring even rivals together. Patton’s mother, Maxayn Gooden, spoke to the players before the teams participated in a series of stations and drills. So did Boys’ Latin lead student support officer Kenyon Meeks and local radio personality Ali Hackett.
“That split-second that you pull a trigger is that split-second you affect a whole family and a whole community,” Gooden said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about [Jahsun] and I wish he was here.”
The event was the brainchild of Warriors coach Anthony Pastore, who called Patton “a hard worker,” and decided to take the opportunity to team up with his old friend, Bill Sytsma. Sytsma, formerly an assistant coach at Frankford, took over the Pioneers’ program in March.
“I called him and said, ‘Coach, we’ve got to do something. I don’t know what, but we’ve got to do something,’ ” Pastore said. “We thought we could bring the two rivals together and show some unity.”
The teams walked together from the locker room out to the field, each player wearing the same white T-shirt with the Practice 4 Peace logo. Except for a few players, it was hard to tell which school each represented.
But on a day to honor teammates who had tragically lost their lives, it wasn’t about individuals.
“We’re in the City of Brotherly Love, but we don’t show it all the time,” Meeks said to the young players. “When you guys are practicing, pick the fellow man up. Tell him you love him. Ultimately, what that does is build a bridge of men bonded on one field.”