PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Arnold soccer is embracing the past, present and future.
The ninth annual Lady Marlins Alumni Game pits the varsity team against players from the program's past. In doing so, they're honoring the memory of one of their own and bolstering a local student's future education.
The most important part of this day is not the score, or bragging rights...it''s the tribute to Megan Pettis.
Pettis graduated from AHS in 2007 and attended Gulf Coast. She was murdered in 2013.
Megan's number 20 is retired during the season. On Saturday though, No. 20 was the only number in sight on and off the field. Fans, parents, and every player donned a t-shirt version of Megan's kit. $20 bills found their way into the donation jar as well, with proceeds going towards the Megan Pettis Scholarship awarded through the Bay Education Foundation.
"Take a tragedy and turn it into triumph," Megan's stepfather Erik Cobb said. "We knew we needed to do something to honor her when she was gone, so it seemed logical to do a scholarship fund and to help some other people go to college because she got quite a bit of scholarship money herself. We wanted to pay it forward in that way."
Although the alumni game had been played for three years prior, coaches decided to turn the event into a fundraiser after Megan's death. Since then, it has been a primary aid in raising money for area students.
"It's two or three a year," Cobb said. "They're not huge, but when you're going to college, every little bit helps."
Arnold also dedicated the Wall of Fame and held a halftime ceremony honoring Lady Marlins who have played collegiate soccer. The list of honorees included West Florida freshman Peyton Peffers and Grambling State keeper Aryss Gomez, both of whom participated in the game and expressed admiration for Pettis' dedication to the program (and all facets of her life).
"I didn't really know her well, but I've heard stories about her and she sounded like a good person," Gomez said. "It's an honor to play."
"It's a very fun thing for us all to get together and do," Peffers added. "We're happy to be a part of it and we can all do it together."
The game was tied 3-3 after 40 minutes of play. The "Diaper Dandies" (current players) defeated the "Geezers" (alumni) 4-3 on penalty kicks.
Although no one will remember the score for long, it's clear anyone associated with the Arnold soccer program will always remember Megan Pettis.
If you wish to donate to the scholarship, contact the Bay Education Foundation, located at 1311 Balboa Avenue in Panama City, 32401, or visit their website, www.bayeducationfoundation.org.