KELSO, WA (KPTV) – For the past 99 years, there has been an annual rivalry football game between Kelso and Longview at the start of each school year.
But on Friday, the night of the big yearly game, the crowd put that rivalry aside and came together to honor late Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier, who was killed in the line of duty in April.
Just over 10 years ago - before DeRosier wore black and blue - he wore blue and gold for Kelso High School, where he played on the football field as an offensive and defensive lineman.
On Friday evening, DeRosier’s spirit returned to the home field as #73, his jersey number, was retired.
School officials said a commemorative shadowbox containing a jersey bearing the number will now hang inside Kelso High permanently. Another jersey was also given to DeRosier’s family, who attended the game.
In April, DeRosier was shot and killed by a suspect while responding to a call about a disabled motor home. Though months have passed, there remains a hole in the heart of the tight-knit community.
NOW: Fallen @SheriffCowlitz Deputy Justin DeRosier being honored with a touching tribute in his hometown of #Kelso. Tonight, DeRosier’s football jersey #73 is officially being retired at their first home game of the season vs. Longview. @fox12oregon pic.twitter.com/H0qNH2SSvU— Tyler Dumont (@TylerDumontNews) September 14, 2019
“The kids in the school wanted to do something for the family and show, I think, giving back,” said Pat Hymes, DeRosier’s high school football coach.
And so, they did.
At Friday’s faceoff, their first home game of the season against R.A. Long, it was a show of support for Deputy DeRosier and dozens of his colleagues. DeRosier’s wife, parents and sister were invited to serve as honorary captains. Kelso fans were asked to wear blue; Longview supporters wore black.
Even the game’s five referees all had law enforcement backgrounds.
“It’s really great for the whole community to come together like they did at the time of his passing, for you know, a common cause to support law enforcement,” Sheriff Brad Thurman with the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office said. “Because at the end of the day, law enforcement, we’re all on one team.”
DeRosier graduated from Kelso High in 2008.
Former Coach Hymes said the values DeRosier showed as a player on the field were the same values he had for his job as a deputy.
“Always was positive, always had that outlook of we can do it. You know? We can do it. We can do anything together. So, that’s probably something I always will carry on,” Hymes said.
In addition to his jersey, a portrait of DeRosier, drawn by an Auburn, Washington-based artist, will soon be hung inside the Kelso school as well.
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