By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Rivalries may form boundary lines between schools on the field of play, but in times of crisis, competitors know when to cross those lines.
That’s what the area saw on Friday night when Somerset High School’s in-county rivals Southwestern High School and Pulaski County High School took special measures to honor the Somerset Briar Jumpers’ fallen comrades.
Pulaski’s players wore a purple patch with the jersey numbers of SHS’s Will Hinton and Jacobi Gilmore on back of their helmets. Southwestern’s team had on purple wristbands.
Johnny Hines, coach of the PCHS Maroons, said that it was one of his players, senior wide receiver Aaron Hall, who came up with the idea for his team. Hall is no stranger to adversity, being born with one hand that doesn’t have fully-grown fingers.
He was also friends with the injured Somerset players, who are currently at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington in serious condition. Hinton, 17, and Gilmore, 16, were in a life-threatening accident Thursday, when the car Hinton was driving collided with a tractor trailer while pulling onto East Ky. 80 from Barnett Street after football practice.
“Several kids on our team were friends with several of the Somerset players,” said Hines. “We’re praying for (Hinton and Gilmore) and hope they’re okay.”
Hines noted that some of his players had also written the jersey numbers of the SHS players on their wristbands.
“I think it shows a lot of character,” said Hines of his players’ actions. “We go out on the football field and we want to win — we want to beat each other’s brains out on the field — but when something like this happens, everyone (cares). You never want to see something terrible like that happen to any school’s players.”
PCHS beat Madison Southern in a tight 37-36 contest Friday night, and Hines acknowledged the extra inspiration might have helped his players.
“It’s just a way of realizing how fortunate you are,” he said. “Sometimes we can take things for granted.”
Southwestern coach Andy Stephens did not immediately return a phone call Saturday to comment on his own team’s statement.
Robbie Lucas, Somerset’s own football coach, wasn’t sure how many of his players knew of the tribute by their rivals, but he heard about it at about 11 p.m. Friday night after his own team’s emotional win over longtime nemesis Danville, 24-7.
“I was very grateful,” said Lucas. “I know there tends to be a lot of bad blood in sports, but it just proves there are quality people on both sides.”
Lucas said that Hines had texted him on a couple of occasions and told him to “keep (his) head up.”
As far as how Hinton and Gilmore are doing, Lucas said that the staff at the hospital was “going to try to get (Gilmore) up and walking,” and that Hinton’s surgery has been put off until Monday.
While the win over Danville “returned some normalcy” to his team’s collective life, Lucas knows how much this incident puts everything in perspective.
“What happened Thursday afternoon kind of supersedes what happened (on the field),” said Lucas. “... I don’t think it’s a complete win because we had to take the field without those two young men.”