The Bruin football squad found strength in one other as they prepared for Friday's game without star running back Reid Gates. Reid died Sept. 9 after he and two friends were overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning the previous weekend.
While there was some discussion about canceling Friday's football game, Coach Brandon Milholland said the Gates family wanted Cedaredge High School to move forward with the week's events as scheduled.
But winning just doesn't seem as important for a team that just a few weeks ago had its sights set on a second straight 1A state title.
"Football is just a game," the coach said. "There are bigger things in life. We're going to go out there and we're going to help each other out. We're going to be a family, and we're going to play the game to the best of our abilities because I know that's the way Reid would want us to do it. He did it the right way."
Coach Milholland and eight seniors from the football squad sat down with members of the news media last Wednesday to discuss the impact the tragic accident has had on the team. Reid had been a starting player since he was a freshman. Tyler Cooper, who was released from the hospital late last week, plays linebacker and running back. He subs in as a wide receiver and returns kicks. Aaron Henrie remains hospitalized in Denver. He is not on the football team but plays basketball and baseball for the Bruins. All three are talented athletes, Coach Milholland said, who have had a tremendous impact on students, staff and the community of Cedaredge.
Reid was one of the team's leaders, and that's an intangible that will be impossible to replace, Coach Milholland said.
In the second game of the season, Cedaredge was able to come back in the second half and win the game against Olathe. Team members credit Reid's positive attitude for the turnaround. "He was the one cheering us on, pumping us up," said running back/linebacker Beau Hebert. "He got us all fired up and we ended up winning the game in the second half."
Quarterback Trent Walker says Reid knocked down a pass in that game in one of the best defensive moves he's seen in his life.
But while Reid was "in the zone" when it came to game time, the rest of the week he was just a kid who enjoyed joking around and pulling crazy stunts with his friends.
Many of those friends — and their parents — drove to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver as a show of support. After they got back into town on Tuesday, they hit the football field to start preparing for Friday night's game. Being with teammates during the trip to Denver and on the football field has helped a lot, team members said, but it was apparent they're still trying to cope with the loss of a close friend, a "brother."
"What you see here is a group of young men," Coach Milholland said. "They're not boys. Unfortunately for our school at this point, these young men and women have had to grow up a little faster than maybe we did when we were going through school. But they're strong, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. I'm fortunate to be around them. We're pulling together.
"We'll be okay ... we'll be okay ... maybe not for a while, but we will be."blog comments powered by Disqus