TD run highlights emotional evening for Pitcairn youth football community
Jabril Braxton wears No. 42 on his Pitcairn Jr. Mohawks football jersey, but Saturday night, his father was on his heart and mind as he took the field against South Greensburg in a home football game at Pitcairn's borough park field.
Six days had passed since his father, Qaeed Braxton, 36, of Duquesne, was shot and killed in Homestead in the early-morning hours of Sept. 22.
Investigators don't believe Qaeed Braxton was the target of the shooter.
With the support of his teammates, coaches and everyone else in the Pitcairn youth football organization, Jabril, 10, a starter for the JV Braves ages 10-11 squad, carried on the best he could.
And on the first play of the game, he made a memorable play that punctuated an evening flooded with so many emotions.
Jabril, a Pitcairn resident and a fifth-grade student in the Gateway School District, took a handoff and raced to the right. He eluded South Greensburg defenders and headed down the sidelines. No one caught him.
He scored a touchdown for his team….for his father.
“Right before the game, Jabril was standing under the goal post before we went out, and I told him to look up in the sky, and he looked up,” Braves coach Zachary Smith said.
“I told him his dad is sitting on a recliner up in heaven, he has his feet kicked up, and he had the best seat in the house to watch him play. I told him to score a touchdown for (his dad) on the first play.”
Smith watched the play unfold in front of the Pitcairn sideline. Jabril was mobbed by his teammates in the end zone.
“I couldn't believe what was in front of us, what he just did,” Smith said.
“I had tears rolling down my face with happiness and joy. I looked to the other coach, Matt Gardner, and he had tears coming out of his eyes, too. Something truly special happened. Jabril's a speedster. He's definitely one of the fastest kids on the team.”
The touchdown turned out to be the game winner, as Pitcairn took the game, 16-0.
Before the contest, coach Smith and Jabril, the team's lone captain, walked out to the center of the field for the coin toss. Jabril wore a hat that honored his father.
“Jabril was wondering where the other captains were, because there are always four captains,” Smith said.
Behind him, his teammates lined up and took a knee in a show of respect for their teammate. Each team member wrote the No. 27 on their hands. No. 27 was Qaeed Braxton's number as a football standout at Duquesne High School.
“When his teammates found out (earlier in the week), they wanted to do something special for Jabril,” Smith said.
“They wanted to wear No. 27 on their shirts or helmets. We weren't able to do that because there is a rule, but they could put No. 27 on their hands. They just wanted to find a way to support him.”
Smith said Jabril has a passion to do his best on and off the field.
“Every time you talk to him, he smiles, and it makes you want to smile,” Smith said.
“When you tell him something, he listens well and does what you tell him to do. There is a strong will he has to learn and get better. He always asks me what he can do to get better. His father, no doubt, coached him well to listen.”
Jabril, in his second year in the Pitcairn football program, got the game ball. It was his first ever touchdown.
In addition to Braxton's touchdown, Jaden Hurt also scored for the Braves in their 16-0 victory. Eathan Carr added both two-point conversions.
The Pitcairn Chiefs (ages 11-12) defeated South Greensburg, 48-14, behind three touchdowns from Trenell Scott, two from Lamonte Farrish and one each from Zach Smith, Malcolm Johnson and Hunter Richardson.
The first game saw the Little Braves (ages 7-8) development team upend South Greensburg, 30-6.
Scoring touchdowns in the game were Chris Livsey (3) and Taymir O'Neal.
Livsey, Floyd McKenna and Baron Vowler each added extra-points.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.