The Lakewood administration said the community is moving forward after the arrest of the eighth-grade football coach.
Business was as usual Tuesday as the eighth-grade football team hosted Licking Heights in its scheduled game. Absent from the sidelines was Gary Stratford, 36, of Thornville, who was arrested over the weekend and charged Monday with rape, a first-degree felony.
According to court records, Stratford is accused of providing a minor with alcohol and then engaging in sexual conduct with them.
Stratford reportedly admitted to some of the allegations when interviewed by detectives, court records said. He remained in jail as of Wednesday afternoon.
The news quickly spread across the community and on social media Monday. Lakewood middle school principal Jess Fry declined to say what specific concerns or comments that parents of students had shared with her.
"Our parents have a lot of faith and confidence in us, and they trust us to cooperate fully with law enforcement to protect our students," Fry said. "I appreciate that from our parents and our community."
Fry and Athletic Director Bo Hanson, however, would not let The Advocate into Calhoun Memorial Field on Tuesday to speak to community members about the incident.
"I think our parents came to watch this football game in peace tonight to begin the healing process and get some form of normalcy back," Hanson said. "Normalcy starts with the middle school football game."