Rival football game in Girard brings unity as teams honor fallen officer

Girard versus Liberty always brings a good crowd but Friday was an emotional night capping on an emotional week

Officers from Liberty and Girard were honored at the rival football game

GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – In the wake of Girard Officer Justin Leo’s passing, the community has come together to show support, compassion, and solidarity to the city, its police force, and the slain officer’s family.

Friday night as the Girard Indians took on their archrival, the Liberty Leopards, for Senior Night, they honored the fallen hero both on and off the field.

Girard versus Liberty always brings a good crowd. But Friday was an emotional night capping on an emotional week for Girard.

“There’s a lot of respect between the schools and they called us and they wanted to wear the stickers that we have here and on our helmets to show their respect to our fallen officer,” Superintendent David Cappuzzello said.

Then schools officials expanded on that idea by inviting officers from both Girard and Liberty onto the field to be honored in a special pre-game ceremony. The officers were also named honorary captains of Friday’s game.

“Girard is strong to begin with and when there’s a tragedy, we rise even greater heights. Just keep us in your prayers,” Cappuzzello said.

Girard Mayor Jim Melfi joined the officers of the sidelines.

“It’s hard to lose a lifelong resident of that stature who was just an incredible kid,” he said.

Following a brief moment of silence in honor of Officer Leo, a Girard alum William Marr sung to the crowd.

Before kickoff, blue balloons were released — some sent with messages of love for the fallen hero.

“I’m just so proud of our community and I really want to thank the surrounding communities and their police departments for supporting us and helping us out,” Melfi said. “Their help has made it a little bit easier and it’s something this community will never forget.”

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