Vancleave High sports green to remember Gautier graduate

Vancleave High sports green to remember Gautier graduate
Vancleave High players wore a small gator decal on their helmets at Friday's game to honor Gautier High graduate Johnathan Hoover, who passed away last month. (Photo source: PGSD superintendent Wayne Rodolfich)

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The Gautier High School football team took to the field Friday night to play Vancleave for the first time this year. However, looking out across the stands, many may have been surprised to see fans of the Vancleave Bulldogs decked out in green instead of their traditional school colors of blue and white.

If they had looked a little closer at the helmets of the Bulldog players, they may also have been surprised to see a small gator decal on the back of each player's helmet.

What they wouldn't have been surprised to find out is that this isn't the first time the teams have put aside their rivalry to show support for one another.

It all started when Vancleave High School and the school's cheerleading squad began spreading the word around campus to wear green to the game in honor of a former Gautier student who recently died. The school remembered a similar show of support last year when they lost one of their own and wanted to return the gesture.

Natalie Hightower, a 15-year old student at Vancleave High, died last fall from cancer. People from all over the coast showed their support for her family and classmates by wearing orange, her favorite color. Vancleave High decided to do the same thing to honor Johnathan Hoover by wearing his favorite color -- green -- to the school's first football game of the season.

Johnathan tragically died last month after being shot in Florida. The 2015 graduate and marching band standout was remembered Friday night at the football game by teams on both sides of the field.

Pascagoula-Gautier School District superintendent Wayne Rodolfich reacted to the outpour of support in a Facebook post, thanking Vancleave by saying: "It was an incredible display of class and sportsmanship. This is everything I love about the promise of our young people and our hope for the future. Thank you, Bulldogs."

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