As Stoughton High football senior captains Mike Connelly, Adam Leonard, Andrew Kelly and Aaron Mack made their way to midfield for the coin toss prior to the start of Friday's home game against Foxborough, Leonard and Kelly held a black #56 jersey, belonging to classmate David Wade, a lineman on the team who tragically died last Saturday.
Coach Greg Burke carried Wade's helmet on his way out from the locker room.
Wade's jersey and helmet were then placed on the Stoughton bench.
A teary-eyed Burke held this same jersey and helmet during his postgame interview following Stoughton's 20-0 win, a victory the team dedicated to Wade and his family.
"You can't get any tougher than this week when you lose a family member, a senior, a leader, a super kid," Burke said.
Wade, 17, a senior at Stoughton High School, died on Sept. 29 after he suffered a gunshot wound to the chest at his Turnpike St. home, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said. Wade was shot by his 21-year-old brother in what was reported as an accidental shooting.
Less than a week later, his teammates took the field against Hockomock League Davenport Division foe Foxborough, a mere eight hours after attending his funeral Friday morning.
Stoughton ran out onto the field under a sign held by cheerleaders which read "Do it for Dave" and then delivered its most inspiring effort of the season, shutting out Foxborough.
"This week was probably the hardest week all year, focusing on school work, our friend passing and the game - one of the most important games of the year," Mack said.
"Tonight was just a tough night. We said goodbye to our friend just this morning. We came out here and we wanted to do it for Dave, that was the ultimate goal," Connelly said. "Coach Burke put '56' on the board [before the game] and said now [Wade's] one of our departed brothers. We have a saying 'this is for our departed brothers' at the beginning of the game. Now we added one more and we wanted to do it for him."
"The game was for Dave and especially for his family," Leonard said. "We were trying to be there and help them out as much as we could. Then we just came together as a team and we got it done."
Kelly added: "We tried to be as supportive [to the family] as possible. We really had to make it more bearable for them even though it's the most unbearable thing that could happen. We just really had to play our hearts out today and get the "W" just for Dave."
Stoughton scored just four plays into the game, a 40-yard touchdown run by Marcus Middleton. Imani Pina recovered a Foxborough fumble in the endzone just before the half to put Stoughton up 14-0 and quarterback Dan Eckler found Middleton for a 67-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth. Stoughton's defense bent at times, but never broke, coming up with a number of key plays to keep Foxborough off the scoreboard.
Stoughton is now 5-0 on the season and starts division play with a win.
Friday night was homecoming, and a large crowd turned out at Sarno Field for the game, including many former players wearing their game jerseys. Many fans wore black t-shirts with the number "56" on the front and "Once a Knight, Always a Knight" written on the back. Senior class advisor Tim Norton designed the shirt, which was produced by Piesco Sporting Goods in Easton in time for the game.
A moment of silence was observed before the game in Wade's memory.
The win capped an emotionally trying week for a group of teenagers on the football team.
"I honestly couldn't tell you the emotions we were going through," Middleton said. "Losing a teammate - this is probably the closest team we've ever had. Losing a brother, like one of our family members and then having to come out and have a must-need win, it was such mixed emotions. I don't think anyone on the team can explain the feelings we were going through."
"Ever since it happened we were out here on the field. It's the first place we came," Pina said. "As a team this is the closest we're ever been so we were just there for each other. Emotions were up and down all week in school but we held each other up and we knew that we had one job to do - we had to go out here and do it for Dave."
And Stoughton did just that. This week, perhaps more than ever, the Black Knights exemplified their motto of "us, we, together, forever."
"The kids played awesome," Burke said. "They did have a little extra something today."