On Saturday, many fans in the stands used umbrellas to shield the sun, and cheering was thin enough to hear the voices of the coaches, screaming at their players on the field. During halftime of the game, which Lake Taylor won 48-14, the announcers in the press box informed the crowd of the current scores at the other Norfolk high school games. Then they listed scores from around college football.
A Norfolk police officer with a hand-held metal detector was posted at each stadium entrance. While security has historically been a priority at Norfolk high school football games, the police department escalated its presence for the afternoon games across the area, which included 10 officers at the Lake Taylor game.
According to Norfolk police, White knew the 15-year-old who has been arrested and charged with his murder, but they don’t know to what extent. One of the things the department does know is that the gunman was able to disappear into the night after the shooting, and the first Saturday of games was an attempt to use the sun and more officers to prevent a similar incident.
‘Normally, you’re resting’
Everyone in the stadium noticed the subdued atmosphere to some degree. Lake Taylor’s blue-chip recruit Jalyn Holmes caught a touchdown pass in the game, but he wasn’t supposed to be there. He had a planned visit to Virginia Tech that Saturday and was left wondering when he would be able to get to Blacksburg to see a game this fall, or to any of the other 20 or so schools that are offering him scholarships.
“It was different,” Holmes said. “Normally, you’re resting on this day.”
Lake Taylor Coach Hank Sawyer was left wondering when college recruiters would come to Norfolk to see his younger players. Coaches from Virginia Tech, Richmond, North Carolina State and Hampton were in attendance at the Booker T. Washington game on Sept. 28, the last Friday night of the season. Friday night is the time for high school players to perform and fulfill their dreams; Saturdays are for college football.
Getting his team ready to play regularly on Saturdays was another issue. Sawyer said his players were losing a day of rest, and that not all of them may be able to play in the coming weeks if the schedule remained, because Saturday jobs are important for his players and their families in these hard economic times.
“I have kids on my team, they may have to choose between football and work. They work on Saturdays,” Sawyer said. “Sometimes you’re working for your family, sometimes you’re working for yourself, so that you can have some things.”
The financial impact extended to Lake Taylor’s athletic department. Athletic Director Bobby Pannenbacker said the school made around $2,000 less during the Maury game than it would have on a Friday night, and the losses are expected to rise this week, which is homecoming, an event that Pannenbacker said equals about $7,000 in revenue for the school each year.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Pannenbacker said. “But nobody wants to have another child killed on or near a football game. It’s just not worth that. It’s just not worth that price.”
Pannenbacker was one of the last people at the stadium after Lake Taylor’s game last Saturday against Maury. Around 6 o’clock, he said goodbye to the last Norfolk police officer at the front gate, and told him that he would lock the stadium up when he left.
This could be how many of Pannenbacker’s Saturday afternoons are spent in the future, although a Norfolk Public School official said this week that no discussions of moving away from Friday night football after this season have been held.
Eventually Pannenbacker locked the stadium gate and left. Everyone was gone by the time the sun went down on David White’s alma mater, and soon it was night.