JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Things got rowdy Wednesday morning at City Hall in downtown Jacksonville, but for a good reason.
Mayor Lenny Curry and other community leaders hosted a pep rally for Jacksonville's two high school football teams that both won state titles this year.
Inside the atrium of City Hall, Curry made his rounds, congratulating the Raines Vikings and Mandarin Mustangs football players for their state championships. Raines defeated Cocoa 27-13 to win the 4A title, earning back-to-back titles and the school's third state football championship. Mandarin beat Columbus 37-35 to win the 8A title -- the Mustangs' first-ever state football championship.
The mayor also recognized the coaches, giving each a key to the city.
"What these coaches are instilling in these young men is much bigger than the sport itself and will pay dividends for when these young men go on and pursue their careers and their families," Curry said. "That's why giving these keys away was so special."
Both coaches said receiving the new hardware was a high honor.
"If it's something that people take a lot of pride in and makes them happy, then that's just really humbling," said Mandarin head coach Bobby Ramsay. "It's a great honor to know we can bring happiness to people's lives."
"It (getting the key to the city) is about as big as getting a state championship. It feels good. I'm glad to be honored with coach Ramsay," said Raines head coach Deran Wiley. "The hard work has paid off and I feel good about this accomplishment."
For both teams, celebrating their state championship wins was a happy moment amid difficult times. Tragedy struck both teams this year.
Most recently, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office bailiff Cathy Adams and her husband, JSO officer William “Jack” Adams, were headed back from Orlando with their teenage children after watching the Mustangs football team win the state championship earlier this month when authorities said their SUV was hit by a suspected drunk driver on I-95.
The couple's children suffered minor injuries, but Cathy Adams' injuries were so severe that she died after coming off life support. Jack Adams was hospitalized but has since been released from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility.
In August, according to police, a 19-year-old man was gunned down outside the Raines High School stadium after a football game.
Players from both teams said there has been an outpouring of support and the community is coming together.
"It's a lot of negativity that's going on in the city, so I'm happy we were able to be a positive figure for the youth," said Raines running back Brandon Marshall. "It's just a good feeling to have."
"We're a brotherhood," said Mandarin wide receiver Kris Mitchel. "We came together as one and kept our focus on football."
It was all smiles Wednesday as the young men celebrated their success through hard work, resilience and support. Many of the senior players are now looking forward to playing ball in college.