By the time Lake Minneola High School took the field on Monday night, the emotions of the day far exceeded any thoughts of the game that evening. All home athletic contests at Lake Minneola High School were cancelled. However all away contest were to be played as scheduled. For the Lake Minneola High Football team they would have to carry what seemed to be the weight of the entire world upon their shoulders.
(All over the stadium tributes such as these were in many cases drawn up on the way to the game. Only hours before did they release the name of Sherman Vannoy who was killed. Students wrote on anything they could to hang over the sides of the bleachers.)
Earlier that morning Sherman Vannoy had been struck and killed by a bus while riding his bike to Lake Minneola High School that morning. Vannoy was 17-years of age and was involved with the school theatre department. He was a great kid who made everyone around him smile. As news spread about the fatal accident the football team would have to go to East Ridge that evening and play a football game under the toughest of circumstances.
There were many parents lobbying to have the game cancelled in tribute to Vannoy. However the Vannoy family came out in support of the team and said that their son Sherman would want the game to go on. And so the game did go on. Monday night will go down as one of the single most difficult nights of High School football we have ever had to witness and it was not due to the play on the field.
(East Ridge Cheerleaders wearing Orange in support of Sherman Vannoy.)
As the teams, family members and students arrived they were asked to wear orange to the game, in tribute to Sherman Vannoy. As the game time drew near, the stands were packed with a sea of orange. From band members to the cheerleaders. Even East Ridge High showed solidarity and many members of their school including the cheerleaders wore orange to support Vannoy.
(At the conclusion of the game the Lake Minneola Football team turned toward the Lake Minneola High School Band and sung their alma mater. The 47-3 win against East Ridge was dedicated to Sherman Vannoy.)
As the game kicked off Lake Minneola played better than they have all season long. The team scored touchdown after touchdown and eventually made it a running clock in the second half. They would win the game 47-3. Following the game the band would play the school alma mater. There were many tears shed and almost a sort of realization of what had happened that day. For the players and coaches it was business as usual. But now at the end of the game, reality set in.
(Lake Minneola High band members look on and embrace one another with an orange bandana visible on one of the students arms. It was a very emotional night for these young boys and girls as you can imagine.)
The reality is that a young man was tragically lost. Vannoy was loved by so many and we have been praying every day for his parents and his family during these difficult times. It was so encouraging to see our community come together in support. It shows a bond that Lake County has. We may not be the largest county in Florida or have some of the things that the larger city schools have, but we have each other. We have the support of everyone in our community and right now the family needs that support more than ever.
(While the night was very emotional the Lake Minneola High Band members took one happy photo together. Just how Sherman Vannoy would have wanted it. He brought joy to so many and eveyone who met Sherman said that he made them smile and laugh. A fitting tribute to wonderful member of the Hawk family.)
Lake County is one of the most giving and caring counties you can possibly choose to live in. That is why so many call it home. For the people of Clermont this stings. But it gives us a moment to pause and realize how precious life is. After this event happened I went home and I hugged my family. I kissed my babies and I told my family how much I love them. I think if it’s one thing to come out of all of this, it’s that we need to always take a moment and appreciate the ones we love most. You never like to think about something like this happening but unfortunately it did.
We want to thank East Ridge High for being so respectful at the game. To be honest the game didn’t really matter at that point. It did from a statistics, rankings and logistics standpoint but the thing we saw most was a community coming together. Signs of support, words of encouragement. That is the Lake County we know. We will continue to pray for the family and we hope that whatever changes be made, they are positive ones to never allow this to happen at this intersection ever again.
Photos Provided By: Linda Adams Gill