By Malik Vincent
New Pittsburgh Courier
Like any form of competition, football can have its ups and downs.
The City League’s newest team, U.S.O. (University Prep, Sci-Tech, and Obama), has been defined by its elevated success in their first two seasons as a program. Before their game against Perry on Oct. 19 they’d been undefeated in conference play for more than a year.
The defending league champs went down that night, but the loss was unlike any other they’d ever experienced.
“We just wanted to win it for Ne’Ondre,” U.S.O. senior quarterback Akil Young said. “We knew that first place was at stake for us, but we were playing with a different motivation. We just wanted to win for him.”
Less than a week prior, they’d lost their best lineman, junior Ne’Ondre Harbour, who was the victim of a Garfield shooting in which he was an innocent bystander.
They fell to the Commodores after they couldn’t cross the goal line after four attempts in the team’s final drive.
Tears were flowing from the faces of the Wildcats’ players after their 12-6 loss against Perry, which has leapfrogged them into first place in the City League standings.
“His spirit has always been one that has been uplifting and full of life,” U.S.O. athletic director Andre McGee said. “We’re obviously tremendously affected by his loss and will be for quite some time. I think our kids have done a tremendous job of standing together through this.”
On what was a chilly evening, the atmosphere was high. Seats that were normally empty were filled.
A large banner with Harbour’s picture hung from a fence at the stadium. Many placed their autographs and memories of their fallen friend.
Also, in remembrance, U.S.O. head coach Louis Berry wore Harbour’s number 50 jersey on the sidelines and perhaps will for the remainder of the season.
He has elected to not, officially, go on the record at this time.
“We know what is going to be on our minds whenever we play from here on out,” Young said. “It still doesn’t seem real. I look over at practice and think that since he isn’t out there he’s just injured or something. But really he’s not coming back. We have a lot of to play for on this team. But what we can agree on is that we’ll be playing for Ne’Ondre for the rest of this season. We have to win for him.”
On the night of that game, 21 year old Brandon Sewall of Homewood was arrested in connection to Harbour’s murder. He is charged with homicide, discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, illegal possession of a firearm, and nine counts of reckless endangerment.
“We have been pleased to be able to honor his memory,” McGee stated. “He has been a the ultimate team player and friend to all that he’s encountered. He’s always represented brotherhood and love to all people that he dealt with and that’s the way that he’ll always be remembered.”
His arrangements have been entrusted to Spriggs and Watson Funeral Home in Homewood. Harbour will be laid to rest today at Valleyview Presbyterian Church in Garfield and will be buried at Homewood Cemetery. He’s survived by both his parents and his five siblings, in which he was the youngest.
50 balloons were let into the sky in the 16-year-old’s memory during U.S.O.’s first game without him. Their next game will be on Oct. 25 against Brashear for the semi-final round of the City league playoffs at Cupples Stadium.
(Malik Vincent can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @malikvincent.)