If new to STLSportsPage, follow us on Twitter at @STLSportsPage and @RobRains

Affton High School assistant principal Jonathan Langhans, posted an intriguing picture on Twitter, and Jennings athletic director Ryan Wallace posted a similar one. It was of a line of football players standing arm in arm across a football field. On further look one could see it was the Affton and Jennings High School varsity teams standing together in solidarity before their game on Monday. 

The picture began circulating on social media. These two football teams agreed to join sides in what was to become a picture that could say more than words. In the midst of a volatile time in St. Louis, these young people displayed the type of behavior that can bring hope to a community that in so many ways is hurting.

Wallace said the two schools have had a long-time relationship as friends.

"Jennings and Affton have played each other in all of their offered sports for years,” he said. “A school in North County and a school from South City. We consistently hold good competitive games with sportsmanship often at the forefront. We appreciate that about each other.”

So it was nothing for the two teams to be playing each other in a regular football game, but it is what happened before the kick-off that has people noticing.

Friday Sept. 15th’s game scheduled between the two teams at Jennings, now called Jennings Senior High and College Prep Academy got postponed until Monday night.

Friday was the day the judge delivered the decision in the Jason Stockley case.

Security is always a priority at any high school event so the schools had to adjust the game schedule due to the St. Louis County officers being on extended duty.

Wallace said that when both schools learned of the verdict, the athletic directors got together. Dan Oliver is both the Affton athletic director and head football coach.

“We thought it would be a good idea to see if our student athletes would join each other at mid-field during our national anthem,” said Wallace.

“The game was changed (to Monday) out of concern for our students who may have had to travel to areas that may not have been safe after the game,” said Oliver.

"Both administrations felt due to potential unrest it would be safer to postpone it," said Jennings coach Mark Harris.

Even when they decided to play the game on Monday there were other events around the city that were being postponed or cancelled. Harris gave a lot of credit to those who decided the game should take place.

"Our Superintendent Art McCoy, Principal Rhonda Key and  Wallace should be commended for allowing the contest to take place despite the protests. Coach Oliver and the Affton staff  should also be recognized for participating in this show of Unity and playing a game we all love. "

Once the game was on, Oliver said he talked with Wallace.

“We wanted to show how the students always exhibit sportsmanship and positive behaviors,” Oliver said. “That was what we came up with.”

Getting two entire football teams to form a straight line together in an orderly fashion took a little planning.

"Coach Oliver and I met prior to the game and decided to alternative players and line up facing the crowd with the American flag in the center," said Harris.

“We were thinking they could stand side by side-- Affton Jennings, Affton, Jennings, etc-- while they honored America,” said Wallace.

But the players wanted to take it a step further--both the Affton and Jennings players decided to lock arms for the anthem.

Michele and Matt Herndon were in the stands as their son Max is a defensive player for the Affton Cougers.

“The announcer from Jennings had the teams come on the field for the National Anthem and they stood arm in arm ‘in a display of sportsmanship, unity, and peace’—is what the announcer said,” said Michele Herndon. “It was beautiful."

Playing the football game was a way to get some normalcy for the students after the unrest in the St. Louis are over the weekend.

“As our schedules were altered due to the Stockley verdict, I believe the student athletes and their respective school districts were excited to attend school and play a football game that day,” said Wallace. “We felt that it was a perfect time to display our patriotism, unity, peace and sportsmanship in this particular way, and our student athletes and coaching staffs were on board with it.”

"I hope that our kids and people from both schools and others in our nation come to understand we are the same," said Harris. "Our only difference is our skin tone. Any sport is not dependent on who we are. We are all Americans and play is what should help bring us together." 

This was not the first time that Jennings has done something like this.

"Two seasons ago on the anniversary of 911, we did something similar, " said Harris. "This year our athletic director, (Wallace) felt we should do it again as a sign of solidarity amongst the schools and players despite race or cultural differences. 

Oliver was proud of the players from both teams.

“Both teams represented their schools and their families excellently," he said.

Michele Herndon echoed his thoughts.

"It was a very touching moment and I was proud of all the players and coaches."

Steve Brotherton, the Affton superintendent said he  was not at the game but when he saw the photos, it was a proud moment for him.

"Leave it to students to show adults how they can come together and unite during difficult times."

And by the way, Affton won the game 28-12.