Kokomo and Hamilton Heights call off football game, help with tornado clean up instead

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KOKOMO, Ind. – The football teams from Kokomo and Hamilton Heights were scheduled to play a game a Lucas Oil Stadium Friday night. Instead, the players spent the evening, working as one team,  helping those who are trying to clean up the mess left behind after Wednesday’s tornadoes.

The teams met up outside the Cedar Crest subdivision Friday afternoon. While each teen wore their school’s colors, their rivalry was not at the forefront. The bus ride into the area gave the players a glimpse at the damage.

“It’s crazy to see my city like this,” said Kokomo cornerback Antonio Jones. “Devastating.”

Coaches and police provided instructions before the players got to work. Debris is littered throughout the neighborhood, some homes no longer have walls. Kokomo coach Brett Colby said it has been a very tough week for his players.

“Kids are texting me Wednesday night saying ‘my parent’s house is gone’ or ‘my grandpa’s house is obliterated,'” Colby said.

On Thursday, the football game was called off and both teams hashed out a plan to help those in need.

“To organize this, to have their community and  their players come help us is an amazing feat,” Colby said about the Hamilton Heights team. “It’s awesome for our kids to see it.”

The teenagers showed determination to get things done. Players from opposing teams carried debris off lots, threw tree limbs out of the way and assisted residents in finding their valuables.

“Right now, it’d be about game time to play each other but instead we’re working together,” said Kokomo quarterback Kyle Wade.

The decision to make this Friday night about the community is bringing assistance to tornado victims like George Pena, whose home was nearly leveled.

“This means everything,” said Gavin Herrera from Kokomo High School. “It’s our community. Just trying to give a hand.”

Many of the kids looked forward to Friday night for months for the chance to play at Lucas Oil Stadium. Since the game did not happen, the Colts are stepping in to assist the team. The Kokomo players and staff were given tickets to the Colt’s Saturday preseason game. The team will also be recognized during pre-game ceremonies.

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