The final week of the regular season begins on Thursday night under a dark cloud. Days before the biggest game of the year for the University Prep Wildcats, one of their best players, junior offensive and defensive tackle, Ne'Ondre Harbour was shot and killed in Garfield on last Sunday night. He was standing on the porch of a house on North Aiken Ave with a group of people, just minding his business when a man walked up to the house and started firing.
The emphasis of this last statement is that Mr. Harbour was just minding his business. He was not doing anything that warranted being shot. He was an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was described as a good kid who was all about school and playing football. He wasn't running the streets, or selling drugs or 'cutting up' as the term was used back in the Advocate's day. He was a victim of a shooting that savagely took away his future, and devastated a family, a community, and a football team. The Advocate prays for the soul of Mr. Harbour as well as for his family, friends, and the University Prep community.
The Advocate is not one who gets into politics very often, and while he supports the Second Amendment, giving law-abiding citizens the right to keep and bear arms, he also believes that there are just too damn many guns out on the streets and in the wrong hands. Something has to be done about the senseless gun violence that is robbing our youth of their innocence and their lives. A kid with a bright future like Mr. Harbour should be allowed to see that future without fear of it being snatched away by a coward's bullet.
But what about Mr. Harbour's teammates? They will be going into their final game of the regular season against Perry on Friday night without one of their standout players, and locker room leader. How will they respond to this tragedy? As of today, the Advocate has heard nothing about the game being postponed. This game will decide the regular season title as well as the number one seed for the playoffs.
U-Prep shut out winless Westinghouse 45-0 to keep their league record a perfect 4-0. Myles Caitlin led the Wildcats with three touchdown and Akil Young passed for 150 yds.
Their undefeated opponent on Friday night, Perry also won their week 7 game beating Brashear 24-6. Curtis Edmonds recovered a fumble return and ran 18 yds for touchdowns and Ahmad Turner and Robert Willie added scores of their own on the ground to seal the win for the Commodores.
Allderdice rode to victory over Carrick 32-14 on the back of Patrick Ferguson who rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns. They will end the regular season against Brashear on Friday afternoon. The winner of this game will clinch third place and will play the loser of the Perry vs U-Prep game in a semifinal game either next Thursday or Friday night.
Thursday October 18
Carrick vs Westinghouse
The one consolation of this game is that one of these teams will not end the season winless, of course that also means that one of these teams will end the season winless. This game could go either way. But because the Advocate lives in Homewood, he has to go with the Bulldogs. Westinghouse
Friday October 19
Allderdice vs Brashear
The 'Dice has had a disappointing 2012 season. Picked by the pundits as well as Your City League Advocate as the favorites to grab their first City League title since 1967, the Dragons had the running game, but couldn't get their passing game going in the games that counted. This is their last chance to determine their own fate for the upcoming playoffs. Last year, Allderdice played an undefeated Brashear Bulls squad in the semifinals and eked out a 6-2 win to go up against U-Prep for the hardware. As QB Bishop Gethers and RB Patrick Ferguson are part of a 21 member senior class that will graduate in June, this may be the 'Dice's last chance to be a playoff contender for at least a year. If they win, they'll seal up third place, which will provide only a slightly easier path to the championship. Brashear has only 10 seniors leaving, and a bunch of sophomores coming back, so they will be a much better team next year. The Advocate thinks that the Dragons have just enough to pull out this win.
University Prep vs Perry
If this were just another final week of the regular season, with a regular season title and top seed on the line, U-Prep wouldn't need any motivation to come out strong against Perry. U-Prep has the No.1 offense and defense in the City League outscoring their opponents by an average of 39-15. They have a golden opportunity to win a second straight City League title. But this isn't just another final week.
The events of last Sunday night will definitely weigh heavily on these young men's minds. These are high school kids, just about anything can affect their play, from breaking up with their girlfriend, to passing or flunking a crucial exam. But the tragic shooting death of a teammate, especially one who was as instrumental to the teams' success as a Ne'Ondre Harbour adds a different level of emotions to the mix. The coaches have to keep these kids focused on the task at hand, which is facing a very tough Perry squad, but they can't come across as heartless and cold to their players feelings about their loss.
The Advocate would think that Mr. Harbour would want his teammates to play as they have all season, with their eyes firmly planted on the goal. And one must remember, these are City League kids. They've seen and experienced things that their suburban cousins could never comprehend. Many of them come from broken homes, tragic family situations and have encountered violence that forces them to grow up a lot faster than they want to. They are survivors. But the question is how will they survive. Will they end up on the streets facing a dead end future, or will they go on to higher education, and work towards becoming a success for future generations to emulate? That is the job of the adults in their lives. The coaches, teachers, counselors and parents.
The Advocate believes that U-Prep, even without this tragedy befalling them is the better team. And he also believes that they will honor the wishes of their teammate, and play in his honor and prevail.