Though he never got the chance to take the field for Mervo High’s varsity football team in a regular season game, Jeremiah Brogden left quite an impression.
“If it’s a serious situation you need a laugh, he’s that guy,” said teammate Sterling Thomas. “When the coaches are yelling at us, you can look to your left or right and you see Jeremiah making a funny face.”
“He’s the funniest person I’ve ever known. I’ve never seen him mad a day in my life,” said Octavian Applewhite.
Brogden’s life was tragically cut short when the junior was gunned down at the end of the school day last Friday, just hours before the Mustangs’ scheduled season opener. Mervo took the field for the first time since Brogden’s passing Friday at City College.
The No. 9 Mustangs posted a 37-0 victory over the Knights in the Baltimore City Division I league opener for both.
Mervo coach Patrick Nixon said his team wanted to play for “Jerms.”
“Our captains did a good job rallying around the players and getting the pulse of the team,” Nixon said. “They wanted to get back at it right away. Football is therapy for us.”
“It’s a blessing. You can’t take anything for granted because tomorrow isn’t promised,” said Kibwa Wilkerson. “We’re doing it for 30 and keeping his name alive... he’s playing and living through us.”
A 17-year old juvenile, identified as a student of Achievement Academy at Harbor City High, has been charged with first-and second degree murder, first-and second-degree assault and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in Brogden’s death. The teen is being detained without bail.
The Baltimore Banner is not identifying the teen because he is a minor.
Nearly a year after Elijah Gorham, a wide receiver/defensive back/returner for the Mustangs, died after suffering a brain injury in a game, Mervo is confronting another loss.
Applewhite, who met Brogden through social media in 8th grade, said Brogden “dapped” him minutes before school ended Friday.
“I was on the stairs texting and a friend said Jeremiah was hit by a car,” said Applewhite. “I ran outside and saw him on the ground…I blacked out.”
Brogden’s death is among the nearly 250 murders this year in Baltimore.
Wilkerson estimated he’s lost “five to 10″ friends to violence.
“I’m 17 now,” Wilkerson said. “Growing up in Baltimore you become numb to it.”
“Coming from the city, you see and hear stuff,” said Thomas, a linebacker. “It becomes the norm, but when it’s your teammates or somebody you know, it hits you differently.”
Nixon, who was one of the first adults to tend to Brodgen after the shooting, has had to lean on his players.
“I’ve lost two athletes… I got 100 athletes who are counting on me,” said Nixon, who’s also Mervo’s athletic director. “When I see the faces and smiles, it gets easier knowing I’m doing it for them.”
Nixon felt a lot of anxiety around the Mustangs’ first game since Brodgen’s death and first after winning the program’s inaugural state championship (Class 4A/3A) last December.
Mervo (1-0 overall) won its 12th straight, dating back to last season, scoring all of its points in the first half. Junior quarterback Raymond Moore threw for two scores and ran for another, and De’sean Thornton had a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown.
With Mervo holding a 35-point plus lead, the second half was played with a running clock.
Nixon wasn’t pleased with the Mustangs’ second half effort.
“No excuses at the end of day. We carry guys we believe that can play football,” said Nixon. “There’s a certain mentality that we like to play with, and it’s unacceptable when we don’t show that on the field.”
“Everybody was ready to get that frustration out,” said Applewhite. “We had so much on our minds and wanted to do this for Jeremiah.”
City (0-2) paid homage to Brogden, putting his initials, J.B. on Mervo’s side of the scoreboard. Nixon didn’t notice until a reporter mentioned it after Friday’s game.
Brogden’s funeral will take place Saturday, Sept. 17 at Empowerment Temple at 10 a.m. Mervo will host Forest Park Friday evening.
“We know how to fight through adversity,” said Thomas. “The same thing we did for Elijah, we got to do for Jeremiah and that’s another state championship.”