|Updated: 11/11/2011 10:20 pm
||Published: 11/11/2011 3:24 pm
BRYANT, AR - Among this chaos of the game lies a sense of calm for Coach Thomas Carpenter.
"This is where he loved to be," Carpenter said.
But for the peewee football coach, this busy field will always look a little too empty.
"I turn around and I look on the sideline when I'm not on the field, and I think okay, he's supposed to be right back here throwing the ball to somebody," Carpenter said.
Carpenter's eight-year-old son Buck died last month in a brutal car accident with his grandmother.
"I didn't know that I was ever going to have a good day again," Carpenter said.
The Vikings had a game just two days after the accident, and Coach Carpenter decided he wasn't going to miss it.
"I know that Buck would want us out here too,” Carpenter said. “He was out here as much as any kid in this league."
This game, these people, and this space is the place Carpenter can still feel his son's presence.
"We were just comfortable here,” Carpenter said. “This is where we found a lot of our peace."
"Buck was like my brother."
Christian Harp wore buck's helmet the first game he wasn't there - and scored a touchdown.
"It felt like Buck was watching me down from heaven, watching me play,” Harp said. “I'm sure he was really proud."
And he's not the only one honoring the eight-year-old.
"I told him. I said, if you want to play defense, watch him."
Razorback star Jake Beckett wore Buck's number on his wrists last weekend.
"Every time he'd see Jake on TV he'd say, 'Dad! There he is! There he is!"
"When he made the big sacks, we were up in the stands doing Buck's sack dance that he used to do,” Buck’s mother Angela said. “It just made us think of Buck."
"I was thinking, you know, that was so much like the play Buck made last year," Carpenter said.
A hero both on and off the field - Buck saved his younger cousin in the crash.
"Grief comes in those waves and sometimes you jump and it just kind of carries you but sometimes those big ones just knock you down for a little bit," Carpenter said.
"He played a really big part to our team,” Harp said. “He supported us a lot, he brought a lot of stuff to make noise and cheer for us, he did a lot for this team."
And now these players are paying it back - dedicating an undefeated season to Buck.
"Not every day is great - but it gave us hope that another great day was going to come," Carpenter said.
Even at the Vikings last game of the season, Coach Carpenter vows he'll be right back here next fall on the field that gives him the most peace.
Buck has a memorial fund at Bank of the Ozarks with all proceeds going to "Special Touch" - a ministry for people with disabilities - summer camps, ramps building, counseling, and more. It was Bucks favorite organization and he always volunteered at the camps.