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TRAGEDY Sadness surrounds the games



Published: Thu, September 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The atmosphere was somber.

By JOE SCALZO and BRIAN RICHESSON

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

Moments before the start of Wednesday's girls soccer game between Boardman High and Austintown Fitch, a moment of silence was held to remember Tuesday's tragedies in New York.

The flag flew at half-mast. The national anthem took on even greater significance. Even the celebrations seemed a little subdued.

"Everybody is sad," Boardman coach Fawzi Mujahed said. "You could see how hard it was on everyone. I told everyone on the team to be quiet, not to celebrate as much."

Reaction: The reaction was undoubtedly typical across the nation. Many schools canceled their games Tuesday and were hesitant to resume play on Wednesday. Maybe it was just a chance to ease their minds. To show that life can and will go on.

"We had mixed emotions about playing," Fitch coach Randy Pratt said. "We talked to opposing coaches and we felt the same way. We weren't as focused tonight."

At halftime of the girls soccer game between Poland and Canfield, Poland coach Jim Sutman recalled the tragedy to his team.

"Everybody's minds have been on it," Sutman said. "I said, 'Think of all of the people who are never going to get this chance [to play]. Here you are, with healthy bodies, and you've got 40 minutes to prove to everybody that you can do this."

Sutman said his team, which rallied to win 2-1, showed a lot of emotion during an emotional week for the country.

Meetings: Neither Boardman or Fitch practiced on Tuesday. Both held team meetings before the games. Pratt had a nephew traveling by subway in New York on Tuesday. He got off the train just as the second tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

"He had no idea what was happening," Pratt said. "All this debris just came at him."

Pratt and Mujahed made themselves available to talk. Boardman junior Maggie Mills admitted a few of the players were pretty upset.

Understandably so.

"I think it's going to linger with us for a long time," Pratt said. "I don't think it's something I'll ever fully recover from."

Coach's view: Canfield coach Dennis Opritza said Americans need to bounce back.

"What [terrorists] have done is take a real shot at our form of government, our democracies, our freedoms, our styles of living," Opritza said. "But, if we shut everything down, then they've gained their objective.

"What we need to do is get through this, as a society and country, and move on and get back to our normal lives."




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