HAZEN, Ark.— A Prarie County high school football team took to their field for the first time since losing a player in a tragic accident in January.
Hazen Hornet football team honored Drake Jones.
Senior Kade Perry said, “It doesn’t matter how much you put on the field or on the helmet we’re always going to know deep in our hearts and minds, you know, on our shoulders (that) we’ll have Drake with us forever .”
The Hazen Hornets said the game is more than a game for them this year.
Hazen is a small town where everyone knows everyone. The police chief helps coach the high school football team.
The football team has only 24 players. Half of the players are seniors.
But it’s the teammate who would’ve been a senior that they are playing for not only Friday night but every game this season.
There’s one Hazen Hornet missing at the small town’s big pep rally Friday.
Perry held his helmet and said, “This right here’s new. There’s number 9.”
To the tight-knit football team that’s doesn’t mean that number 9 Drake Jones won’t be at Friday’s home opener.
We talked with three of the seniors on the team.
“He (Drake) may be missing from here on this Earth, but we know he’s above us and in our hearts and on our shoulders,” Chance Taylor said.
Every step and every play, especially the ones the seniors make, honor their teammate who died after falling through a frozen pond in January
Senior Tayor said, “He will be there and we won’t be playing without him.”
The seniors now use the grief that gripped the community as support and inspiration to win.
“Tt makes you really thankful that you can live in a community in a town like this. (It’s) Where everybody knows everybody. You know the person next to you,” Perry said.
The number “9” shows up all around town to honor Drake.
Perry said, “We lost Drake, but we still have him with us all the time.”
Taylor told us, “We won’t be playing without him.”
Drake’s initials and/or number are found on bumper stickers, flags, helmets, t-shirts and on the field.
Perry said, “All the memories, you know, no matter what those will stick with us longer than this spray paint will.”
As one player put it– it’s about more than who’s to the right or to the left.
“We’ll have Drake with us forever,” Perry said.
It’s also about who’s now looking down over them.
Hazen’s ranked as one of the top five high school football teams in the state.
Hazen won their first game.
The players are determined to win every game for Drake this season.