SEMINOLE — This past summer, the Seminole High School football program was dealt a tragic blow when one of its young players died before the start of the season.
Sophie Delott, 17, who broke ground as the only female player on the team, was killed June 28 after being struck by a vehicle while she was riding her bicycle on the Indian Rocks Beach Causeway.
“It’s been a difficult season for our players,” said Coach Charles Miller. “She was a great kid. She had so much going for her. It’s so terrible, so tragic, and to have it happen so suddenly, it’s hard to wrap your head around.”
When Northeast High School senior captain, Jacquez Welch, 18, collapsed during a Sept. 20 football game and was later pronounced brain dead, the Warhawks could relate to what the Vikings were going through, Miller said.
One Seminole player in particular has a personal connection to Northeast’s loss. Trey Trimble, 16, a junior at SHS, grew up in St. Petersburg. As a child, he played alongside Welch and other NHS players as part of the Northeast Bandits Youth Football.
“We just played (Northeast) two weeks ago,” Trimble said. “I talked to him and the other guys. It’s crazy that all of a sudden he’s gone. It hit me hard.”
In the days following the death of Welch, a well-liked, star player, Northeast struggled with the loss, Trimble said.
“I saw the way it was affecting Northeast and my friends,” he said. “I wanted to do something for my friends. I just wanted to be there for them.”
With the help of his mother, Lindsay Korts, he organized a Sept. 25 dinner for Seminole and Northeast players in the NHS cafeteria. All of the food served during the “family dinner” was donated by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Korts said.
Initially, Trimble just wanted to host an event that might “cheer up” his friends at Northeast. When he “sat down to think about it,” though, he realized Seminole had experienced a similar tragedy with the death of Delott.
“I thought, ‘I’ve been through this. I can really relate to this,’” Trimble said.
Around 150 players, coaches and booster club members from Seminole and Northeast attended the dinner, which was a meaningful way for the two teams to come together and work through their grief, said Miller.
“The main thing we wanted to do…was just show some solidarity with their team because we’re a little bit further down that road of grief,” he said. “We know what that road’s like. We just wanted to show a little fellowship and solidarity with them.”
Miller added, “At the end of the day, we’re all Pinellas County football players and football staff. It’s a lot bigger than winning and losing.”
Trimble went out of his way to introduce Northeast and Seminole players he thought might get along, his mother said.
“It was pretty perfect. He didn’t just want them to eat together. He wanted to have a family meal,” Korts said. “It was pretty cute. He was introducing different players from different teams. Before long they were all smiling and talking to each other.”
Miller said that since Delott’s death, Seminole’s opponents have honored her memory through various tributes. Dunedin High School spelled out her name and jersey number, 22, with balloons ahead of their Sept. 13 game. Palm Harbor University High School painted #22 in both end zones and held a moment of silence before their Aug. 30 game. Northeast’s captains, including Welch, presented Seminole with flowers before their Sept. 6 game. Seminole will retire her jersey at their Friday, Oct. 4 home game against Dixie Hollins High School.
It was important for the Warhawks’ players “to be there for somebody else,” Miller said.
He added, “I think it’s really good for our kids to see the beauty in humanity, that it still exists. That’s what it was (at) last (week’s dinner,) the beauty rather than the ugly.”
Korts said that Seminole and Northeast plan to come together for an annual dinner each season.
“Instead of rivals, they’re now football brothers for life,” she said.