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"Students come together, protest violence"

"For the second time is less than a week, students from Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson high schools gathered Saturday afternoon.But this time football, not fighting, was on their minds. When the contest on the gridiron ended, Federal Way came away with a 21-14 football victory.Saturday's game was set four days after students from the two Federal Way schools drew nationwide attention with a student shooting that some witnesses said was racially motivated. A 16-year-old Thomas Jefferson student was shot in the ankle about three blocks away from Federal Way High School on Sept. 25, prompting the closure of both Federal Way and Jefferson high schools on Sept. 26, beefed up police presence at the schools for the rest of the week and a school-district-sponsored forum on student safety that drew 300 people on Thursday. Police have said the shooting was sparked by an ongoing conflict between two groups. About 30 to 50 youth, many of them Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson students, converged on the scene of the shooting and were fighting before enough officers arrived to break up the scuffle.On Saturday, the football game between the cross-town rivals went off without a hitch.It was like church, said Federal Way Police Lt. Lee Leddy. It was quiet. It was wonderful.Leddy said the seven officers on hand at the game reported no incidents of violence or disruption.The game, in fact, served as a catalyst to bring the schools together in protest of the violence that marred their names. Posted at the game were two signs stating, Together We Stand. Students, parents and others at the game were asked to sign the two banners to show a sign of solidarity and support for the students.Students Donna Condell of Federal Way and Siovhan Pryor of Thomas Jefferson spoke at halftime, denouncing the violence and asking students and community to support the cooperation between the two schools.There's nothing going on that's a bad, evil thing that sooner or later one of our schools is going to implode because of all these bad things that are happening, Pryor said. It's not like that.Pryor and Condell said the image that Federal Way and Jefferson are schools full of hooligans and renegades is disturbing for the students. Four television stations sent cameras to the game. Only one stayed much beyond halftime. Condell was especially upset that the shooting received so much publicity when a prayer rally that drew 1,300 people, including 650 students, received very little attention.It just seems to me they're confused. They don't realize how much good there is, Condell said of the media. We had a little incident with 40 or 50 kids. They're not thinking that each school has like 1,500 people. There are a lot more people who are doing a lot of good things.Federal Way High cheer adviser Shay Short said the students from both schools have strengthened their relationships since the shooting. Several of Federal Way's cheerleaders were invited to attend Jefferson's homecoming assembly on Friday.The kids were mostly upset because a few bad things that happened are going to turn this entire school of great kids into the whole nation thinking that we're a bad school and we're not, Short said. We've got some amazing things going on and so does TJ. One of the most powerful moments for students last week was when Federal Way's senior quarterback Tui Avaava addressed the school during the Thursday morning announcements. He had previously spoken with Jefferson senior football captain Keaka Frank. The two talked about their reaction to the Sept. 25 shooting and how the two schools could overcome the incident. During his announcement, Avaava tried to make his fellow students feel safe about coming to the game and shared his pride in Federal Way High.We represent more than our schools in this rivalry. We represent our city, Federal Way, TJ and Decatur, Avaava said after the game. I take pride in being a Federal Way High School student and what happened on Monday disgusted me.Avaava and Frank said their goal was to do something to overcome the tarnished image of the local students.This was amazing. It brings tears to my eyes, Short said of Avaava's announcement. He talked from his heart and it was real emotional. It was drop-dead silent in the school, and it never is during announcements. He just stepped up to the plate and showed what a true leader is. He did a great thing.On the field Friday, flags flew for a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties, but they had more to do with overzealous tackling than any intent of malice or harm. The game was actually one of the most entertaining and meaningful matchups between Federal Way and Jefferson in several years. The Eagles came away with their second league win and improved to 4-0 overall. The Raiders continued to show great improvement over seasons past, despite suffering their second consecutive close loss.No football players were involved in the shooting incident, having been at practice at the time, says Federal Way football coach John Meagher. When school was cancelled on Sept. 26, Avaava and the other seniors organized an impromptu practice at Celebration Park.I'm not going to say it was blown out of proportion. I think these things should be blown out of proportion. They should be really kept tight for our safety, Federal Way senior captain Brady Everett said after Friday's game. We were all football today. It wasn't a talk-talk game like some football games are going to get into. It was a crisp, fun game.Jefferson quarterback Fred Wood was more disappointed with the loss than disturbed by the shooting.It didn't bother me, Wood said. I was pumped for my homecoming, but I didn't want to end like this. "

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