Marysville’s school colors are red and black, but on Friday night the players — and pretty much everyone in the packed gym — wore the dark blue of their opponents.
The Sabetha Blue Jays had defeated Marysville 7-6 in the Class 3A state championship football game just days before, dashing Marysville hopes with an interception in the end zone in the final minute.
But delight soon turned to devastation: On the drive home from the game on the last Saturday in November, three members of Sabetha players Tanner and Carson Ukele’s family were killed in a collision on U.S. 75 in Jackson County.
“You can only imagine the kind of high that the whole town was on earlier Saturday and the kind of low that hit later,” Sabetha resident Sheli Shockley said. “It was just horrible.”
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Tanner and Carson’s mother, Carmen, 42, their 11-year-old sister, Marlee, and their uncle Stephen, 62, were killed in the collision. Their father, Lee, was taken to KU Medical Center in Kansas City.
The crash occurred shortly after 8 p.m. Nov. 25, when an SUV attempted to pass another vehicle as it was driving south on U.S. 75, according to a report from the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Carmen Ukele was driving north on U.S. 75. Both vehicles swerved to the shoulder to avoid hitting each other and hit head-on. Updates on the condition of Lee Ukele and the two women who were in the SUV were not available Saturday afternoon.
To show support for the Ukele family, Marysville basketball players on Friday wore dark blue T-shirts during pregame warmups that said Faith Family Together and sported the mascots of both schools. Students and residents joined in on what was dubbed a Blue Out.
Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go to help the Ukele family. The idea was hatched at the school, said Megan Urban, who owns a T-shirt business in Marysville.
She printed 100 of the special shirts, but that turned out to be not nearly enough.
“Once it hit Facebook, it went pretty viral,” Urban said.
She estimates she had sold more than 800 T-shirts as of Saturday morning.
Other schools picked up on the idea: Nearby Holton also wore blue for Sabetha in its season-opening basketball game.
Osage City High School and the Perry Lecompton school district both collected donations last week for the Ukele family, KSNT reported.
“I’ve never seen anything like that happen before,” Shockley said of the regional response. “I’m shocked at all the support.”
It’s probably because those communities can relate to what Sabetha is going through, she said. They’re all small, closely knit towns where everyone knows everyone else.
“Everybody’s pretty somber right now” in Sabetha, Shockley said. “I think everybody was at first in shock, and now it’s just starting to sink in.”
The funeral for Stephen Ukele was held Saturday in Sabetha. The funerals for Carmen and Marlee will be Monday morning.