COLLIER COUNTY — The tackles came as hard as normal during Friday night’s football game between Lely High School and Golden Gate High School.
The cheers from the crowd were just as loud.
But while it was hard for those in attendance to put into words, there was something undeniably different about this football game, played less than a week after students at each school lost a friend and classmate in a fatal car wreck on Alligator Alley.
“I think there’s a sense of unity and solidarity,” Golden Gate Principal Jose Hernandez said while standing on the visitors sideline during the game’s first quarter. “It kind of reminds us that while there’s the competitive nature of the game, there’s this common humanity, compassion for the families, the friends and each other.”
Dehvohn Payne, 17, a sophomore at Lely, and Janelle Sansion, 16, a junior at Golden Gate, were killed Sunday afternoon when the sport utility vehicle they were riding in blew a tire, crashed into a guardrail and overturned. Neither Payne nor Sansion was wearing a seat belt, and both were ejected during the wreck.
Two adults in the vehicle, Luvisca Payne, 47, and Pamela Sansion, 41, were seriously injured in the crash, but survived. They were both wearing seat belts.
There was a short moment of silence for Dehvohn Payne and Janelle Sansion after the National Anthem. The game was played in their honor.
But in addition to the official honors, some students took it upon themselves to remember their friends in their own way.
Before the game, Lely cheerleaders hung signs on the stands that read “Buckle up for Dehvohn Payne” and “Tonight’s for you Dehvohn.” On the Golden Gate sidelines, the school’s cheerleaders wore ribbons on their uniforms with Sansion’s initials painted on them.
Reid Loaicano, 16, a sophmore at Lely who played on the junior varsity football team with Payne, attended Friday’s game with his cousin, Kalyn Komorny, 16, who is a junior at the school. Komorny wore a T-shirt that read “Always in my heart Dehvohn Payne.”
Loaicano is in his first year at Lely, and he said Payne made an effort to befriend him when he knew no one. Their lockers were back to back.
“It’s weird because we all went out on the field on Monday, we all looked back at the gate like we were expecting him to walk out,” Loaicano said. “It never happened.”
Payne was the kind of guy who would cheer you up both on and off the football field — a “cheerleader in pads,” said Jashy Paul, 15, a sophomore at Lely who also plays JV football. Both teams were still grieving on Friday night, Paul said.
“It’s two emotional teams going at it,” he said. “They’re going to express their feelings on the field.”
Alexis Pantoja, 17, a junior at Golden Gate and the captain of the cheerleading squad, agreed that the deaths of Payne and Sansion changed the mood at Friday’s game. She described Sansion as “the sweetest girl I ever met.”
“I think our team is playing for her,” Pantoja said. “The majority of the team knew her. Everyone knew her at school.”
For Caroline Louis, 16, a Golden Gate cheerleader, Friday’s game was more about remembering a friend than it was about competition. Louis described Sansion as her best friend.
Like many Golden Gate and Lely students, Louis learned that Sansion and Payne had died via Facebook.
“My sister started crying,” Louis said. “I was like ‘Oh my God, this is real,’ and then I started crying.”
2010 PREPZONE FOOTBALL: WEEK 4
WEEK FOUR COVERAGE:
- Video: Lely sneaks by with a win 26-25
- Video: Ray Lewis III scores big for Lake Mary
- Video: Barron outslugs Lightning
- Video: Bands & Fans: Palmetto vs. Estero
- Video: Palmetto Ridge Marching Band
- Photos: Golden Gate vs. Lely
- Photos: Barron Collier vs. Lehigh
- Photos: East Lee County vs. Naples
- Photos: Lake Mary vs. Community School
- Photos: South Fort Myers vs. Bishop Verot
- Your Photos: Naples Fan Photos
- Your Photos: Naples Band Photos
- Your Photos: Lely High School Tailgates
- Your Photos: Golden Gate Band Photos
- Your Photos: Lely Fan Photos
- Your Photos: Lely Band Photos
- Your Photos: Golden Gate Fan Photos
- Your Photos: Barron Collier Fan Photos
- Your Photos: Barron Collier Band Photos
- Your Photos: Gulf Coast Band Photos
- Your Photos: Gulf Coast Fan Photos
- Tough loss: Teens killed in crash remembered at Lely, Golden Gate football
- Prep football: First Baptist erupts to beat Southwest Florida Christian
- Prep football: Immokalee scores late to beat Gulf Coast
- Prep football: Out of Door rallies past Neumann in second half
- Prep football: Ray Lewis III leads Lake Mary Prep comeback over Community School
- Prep football: All systems go as South Fort Myers roughs up Verot
- Prep football: Naples pulls it together for easy win over East Lee
- Prep football: Lely holds off Golden Gate rally in final minutes
- Prep football: Barron Collier roars back to top Lehigh in overtime
- Prep football: Estero beats Palmetto Ridge for third win in a row
- Prep football: Friday's scores from around the state of Florida
- PREP FOOTBALL WEEK 4: Results from Friday night's games
- PREP FOOTBALL WEEK 4: Everything you need to know about Friday night's games