Teams set aside rivalry to remember Fleming Island High sophomore

Ben Johnson, 16, died after collapsing in school's weight room

By Corley Peel - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Two high school football teams set aside their rivalry at Friday's night game to remember a Fleming High School sophomore who died this week.

Ben Johnson, 16, collapsed Tuesday while working out in his high school's weight room. A Wolfson Children’s Hospital spokesperson said Johnson died Thursday morning from cardiac arrest and irreversible brain damage.

The crowd at the Fleming Island High vs. Ridgeview High varsity football game released blue balloons in honor of Johnson, who played football and baseball at Fleming Island High.

Administrators at Ridgeview High School said there was no question that they wanted to do something special to honor the teen on their turf.

Before kickoff, Ridgeview High painted No. 78 -- the number Johnson wore on the Golden Eagles football team -- 78 yards from each end zone of the field. 

Students also released balloons, and ran through a banner that said, “This one is for you, Ben.”

Ridgeview High had plans for Friday's game to have a different theme, but out of respect for Johnson, the school chose to make it a "blue-out" game with everyone wearing blue -- Johnson’s favorite color. 

Johnson's friend said it's been tough since his death but they said it's a great feeling knowing that both teams can come together to honor Johnson and support his family.

“It’s so heartwarming to see our school and another school completely change their themes in support of Ben, because it’s very hard to lose someone in your class," said Ashton Kelly, a senior at Fleming Island High School.

The Flemind Island Golden Eagles defeated the Ridgeview Panthers 28-20.

The community has also stepped up to help Johnson's family with expenses. A GoFundMe page had already raised nearly $32,000 as of 10 p.m. Friday.

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