Football coach’s heroism in Broward School shooting resonates locally

Updated Feb 15, 2018
This photo taken from the Facebook page of Aaron Feis shows him with an unidentified girl. Feis, a football coach at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was fatally shot when former student Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the school on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Facebook via AP)

Baz Alfred was not in his classroom Thursday morning. The Olympic Heights football coach was in the school parking lot, monitoring the area for anything suspicious.

A potential shooting had been reported at nearby Coconut Creek-North Broward Prep one day after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, in nearby Parkland, ended with 17 people dead and more than a dozen injured. The incident at North Broward Prep proved to be a false alarm, but people are on edge and wanted to be safe.

*Photo gallery from mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School

“(I am) looking out to see if anyone is going to hop over the fence or anything like that, and I can’t even teach classes right now, at the moment, until they give me the all clear,” Alfred said when reached by phone Thursday morning. “We’re in limited movement, and I’m standing guard of the gates.”

One of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting was assistant football coach Aaron Feis, who died protecting students from gunfire. The shooting at Douglas, as well as the numerous others that have taken place in recent years, forces coaches and other school employees to consider what they would do in the same situation.

“I think about it every day, every time I get ready to go to work,” Alfred said. “My wife works close to the elementary school where my daughter attends, Coral Sunset Elementary. So this is 10, 11 miles away from us. … Every morning when I get up and get ready to go to work, I always tell them I love them just because this is something that’s in the back of my mind.”

Among the victims were Stoneman Douglas athletic director Chris Hixon and track and field coach Scott Beigel, according to the Miami Herald. Girls basketball junior Maddy Wilford suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Feis’ story has quickly gained national attention,.

Glades Central coach Jessie Hester said he met Feis once at a 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the Miami Dolphins about a year ago. He said they talked about their players and football in the area.

“That kind of stuck with me because I know a lot of coaches are having those frustrating talks,” Hester said. “But he was real positive about his program and the way things were shaping up down that way. We were actually talking about, somewhere down the line, if we could possibly have gotten a game or two.”

Hester said he thinks Feis, who was a security guard at Stoneman Douglas, likely had a plan for what to do if there was a shooting on campus.

“I always go through different types of scenarios, the possibilities of certain things happening, whether on campus or just away with the kids, how you should respond,” Hester said. “I think you really should go through those type of scenarios in your mind because once stuff happens, you actually could freeze if you don’t know what to do.

“I’m sure that’s what happens with coach, that he had probably already went through those scenarios in his mind and he just jumped into action, not even thinking about his safety and really just thinking about the safety of those kids.”

Eric Kresser, who is going into his first spring as the head coach at Benjamin, said this shooting in particular touched him and made him think.

“It hits home, this close,” he said. “And then, as a football coach, when there’s a football coach involved as a victim, it makes you think about your situation, and it could happen to anybody.”