Opelika youth football coaches react after gunfire erupts near players and families

College Basketball (NCAAM)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WRBL) – Terrifying moments captured on video as numerous shots were fired near a youth football game at Bellingrath Middle School in Montgomery.

One of the young teams on the field was Opelika’s Dawg Pound.

Monday morning, News 3 met with Dawg Pound’s director of football and the team’s cheer coach who say this weekend’s experience is a sad reality of the world we live in and only fuels their desire to mentor children in our community.

The video is hard to stomach.

First, you hear the sounds of rapid gunfire and screams. Then, you see people start running, and children in football pads drop to the ground and take cover. One image shows a referee putting his hand on the back of a football player and gently push him into the grass.

Alyssa Foreman is the cheer coach for the Opelika Dawg Pound Football team. Foreman is also a mother who recalls being terrified at what she experienced and heartbroken for what children witnessed.

“Saturday we were in Montgomery, at a Jamboree and all of a sudden you start hearing a lot of gunshots. This was nothing affiliated with our football program or the league, the shots came from a neighborhood blocks away. It was just heartbreaking to see those babies first scream and hit the ground,” shared Foreman.

Montgomery police reported no injuries in the shooting that remains under investigation.

“It just hurt my heart in general that it happened close to some 300 kids out there. I had a couple of players that were really shaken up, I mean really shaken up,” shared Anthony Bryant, Opelika Dawg Pound Director.

Forman and Bryant say now more than ever Dawg Pound football and other programs are needed for young people.

“People like to say our children are our future, but our children are now and we need to make sure we are getting to them now, so they don’t end up being products of their environment like we saw in Montgomery,” shared Foreman.

Bryant began the youth football team after starting The Knee High Foundation in 2017. Bryant graduated from Opelika High School. He attended Mississippi State, graduated then decided to join the army. He served several tours in Iraq. After his service, Bryant returned to Opelika and decided to give back to his community by mentoring young people through sports. The group mentors girls and boys, ages five to 18-years-old.

Foreman’s son played with the Dawg pound, and she joined the organization later so girls could participate as well as cheerleaders.

After Saturday’s shooting, Bryant canceled Sunday’s practice and hosted a cookout and water balloon fight instead for his players on Sunday.

“We wanted to make sure our kids know it’s okay to be scared about what happened and it’s okay to talk about your feelings,” said Foreman.

While the team handles the scary situation as a family, they are thankful whoever pulled the trigger didn’t steal a life. However, both coaches agree the shooting did take a piece of innocence from this young team.

“The first thing I thought was, we need to get practices together in case this ever happens again, we need to know what to do,” shared Bryant.

Foreman is heartsick players, cheerleaders and their families experienced a scary situation during what should have been a fun day of football.

“What happened Saturday wasn’t a reality for our kids until it was. That is what’s tough, knowing I can just go and do what I love and I may be shot at,” shared Foreman.

Montgomery police continue to investigate the shooting. It appears the shooting had nothing to do with the football league or any of the teams playing at the Middle School.

Meanwhile, The Knee High foundation is working to reach out to kids in the community who don’t necessarily like sports through other programs. They are looking for volunteers and a facility to expand their non-profit. For more information on how you can help or participate, you can visit them at their website: The Knee High Foundation.

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