CINCINNATI -- There was purple everywhere Friday afternoon as Elder High School students held a pep rally ahead of the big GCL showdown with St. Xavier.
At the helm of the event was teacher and assistant athletic director Kevin Espelage, who was wounded Tuesday night when bullets hit three people celebrating an Elder soccer victory.
Espelage vowed to make the case a teachable moment for the students. He was in full Elder pride mode Friday.
"There is something about Elder that people don't understand and that makes them jealous," he said. "They're a little bit jealous. They want to be like us."
Cincinnati police Capt. Aaron Jones, the District 3 commander, said he believed the incident was random and the victims were not necessarily targeted.
Still, more officers will be at the game and on the streets as a precaution for the St. X game Friday night.
"We have officers on bikes, we have officers that are in vehicles, we have officers that are on foot as well," Jones said.
Over at St. X, the talk has been about the rivalry with Elder -- not the shooting.
"We feel very comfortable with the safety for tonight's game," principal Terry Tyrell said. "Safety is always our first priority, but I would encourage all of our students and fans to go to Elder tonight for what should be a great football game."
Back at Elder, Espelage challenged students to pray for one another and show their Catholic faith.
"It's fine that we're a target and we're going to go ahead and define ourselves again as the best in the city, the best in the state, the best in the country and the best all over the world," he said.