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Dragons football wins, providing Collierville much-needed night of enjoyment, unity

After Thursday's mass shooting at Kroger, Collierville residents took comfort in the normalcy of a Friday night football game.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — If you did not know any better, you would have thought it was a typical Friday night football game at Collierville High School.

Fans packed into the bleachers as cheerleaders lined up outside of an inflatable dragon head that the team would soon run through. The usual pageantry was in place. 

Then, Collierville school administrators took to midfield.

"It's been a rough couple of days," said Collierville Schools superintendent Dr. Gary Lilly of Thursday's mass shooting at a Collierville Kroger. "But one thing we learned is that this community stands together."

School board chairman Wright Cox asked everyone at Landers Stadium to link arms or hands for a moment of silence before reading the two-minute long prayer he wrote.

Then it was time to play football. Players rushed through their tunnel with a slight deviation from the usual routine. As they ran out, the Dragons carried a 'Collierville Strong' banner and 15 American flags in honor of those injured in the attack.

After a day of tragedy; Friday was much-need night to reflect and enjoy in Collierville. 

"Even a town of 55,000 people, we're still a small town," Cox told ABC 24. "Tonight, is about family and being together and loving one another."

That small town is just one day removed from what Collierville police chief Dale Lane labeled the "most horrific event" in its history. Fifteen people were shot, and one woman was killed. 

As a community still grapples with this tragedy, Collierville hosted Whitehaven for a welcomed distraction, even if only for a few hours.

"Things like this don't happen here," resident Alisha Brewer said, standing behind the endzone. "This is our home and we're not going to let it stop us."

But while eyes were on the field, hearts were still with those affected.

"I had the son of a co-worker that was in the store and was shot three times in the back and is in the med tonight," Cox said. 

"Also, My brother is a firefighter," Cox added, stopping to hold back tears on the sideline.  The band blares between snaps as he collects himself. "My brother is a firefighter and he went into the store. They talk about first responders, he's one of them."

Down 6-0 to Whitehaven in the second quarter, senior wide receiver Tyler Collier ran the direct snap five yards in for Collierville's first score, setting off a series of chest bumps, fist pumps, and a much-needed reason to celebrate.

The Dragons showed they, like their city, can take a hit and keep going. Collierville came from behind to win 28-6. And for a few hours; a small town felt whole again.

"This is our community and we're going to wrap it in love and prayers," Brewer said. "We can't let the evil come into our world. We have to be able to love and pray our way through this. We can't let evil win."