38 2019 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE ‘WE’RE RESILIENT. WE’RE STRONG. WE’RE
GOING TO COME BACK FROM THIS’
TWO LOCAL COMMUNITIES RALLY TO OVERCOME TRAGIC SITUATION
BY VAUGHN JOHNSON
Pleasantville High School senior Ernest
Howard woke up on November 20, a
Wednesday morning, around 7:15 a.m.,
which meant he was running late for school.
After hurrying to school, he was going about
his day as he normally would. That was
until there was a message over the school’s
public address system around 10:45 a.m.,
calling for all members of the football team
to meet in the auditorium.
Having the entire football team meet
in the auditorium on a Wednesday was
outside of the norm, but unfortunately for
Pleasantville, not much has been normal
since November 15.
Top-seeded Pleasantville was looking to cap
off one of its best seasons in school history
with a trip to the Central Jersey Group 2 title
game. All it had to do was defeat Camden,
the fourth-seeded team in the group.
However, the game on that Friday night
was abruptly halted with 4:58 left in the
third quarter after gunfire rang out in
the stands at Pleasantville High School’s
football stadium. The pop, pop, pop from
the gunshots sent hundreds of people,
including the players, running for their lives.
Three people were wounded, including
10-year-old Micah Tennant.
When Howard and his teammates settled
into the auditorium Wednesday morning,
they received the worst possible news.
Tennant was going to be removed from life
support, meaning that he had merely hours
left in his life.
Sounds of crying and yelling rang
throughout the auditorium. Howard took
it especially hard, as he had changed his
jersey number from 2 to 10 in honor of the
Howard began walking around, trying to
clear his mind of the tragedy, but to no
avail. He eventually went out to the school’s
football stadium and sat in the same spot
Tennant did before he was shot.
Howard sat there for about 10 minutes,
asking himself one question: Why?
Why did this happen during a high school
football game? Why did this happen to an
Howard could have sat in the stadium for
hours searching for the answers to those
questions, but he didn’t have much time.
He still had a game to get ready for that
Yes, the same game where tragedy struck
still had to be finished. The New Jersey
State Interscholastic Athletic Association
initially decided that the game would be
resumed at a neutral site, but the Eagles
stepped up and offered a formal invitation
to both programs to complete the game at
Lincoln Financial Field.
For Camden High School athletic director
Mark Phillips, the opportunity was
bittersweet. On one hand, it was the
opportunity of a lifetime for Camden’s
students – to have a chance to dress in the
same locker room, play on the same grass,
and run across the same goal line as some
of their NFL heroes meant the world.
But on the other hand, the circumstances
surrounding Camden’s trek to Lincoln
Financial Field were heartbreaking.
“It’s been crazy,” Camden head coach
Dwayne Savage says. “The kids have been
Savage was the first person the Eagles
reached out to in an effort to gather
more information about the halted game.
While Savage was happy to see it all come
together in the end, the catalyst for the
changes left him angry.
“I really can’t speak about it because
negative words might come out of
my mouth,” Savage says. “It’s very
disappointing for that to happen because
we always preach to our guys (the football
field is) our safe haven. We forget about
all of our problems on the football field or
in between the white lines.”
The Eagles did all they could to make the
best of a terrible situation. Each team
got to use a locker room in the stadium.
Pleasantville was set up in Temple’s locker