MALVERN, Ark. – Malvern High School is looking to capture their first state championship since 1993. To do that, they will have to beat Harding Academy. 

“To win it would mean everything from the community, for the alumni, and the former players,” head coach JD Plumlee said. 

The Malvern Leopards are playing with a heavy heart as they look to honor their former teammate who was killed.

Throughout the season the Leopards have carried with them, Daylan Ross who they say was full of joy on and off the field.

“His memory is going to live on forever here and that is just a credit to him and what type of young man he was.”

In March, Daylan’s body was found near Jones Road and Pickett Trail in Malvern shot several times.

Brion Brown has since been arrested in connection to his death.

Plumlee says he spoke at Ross’s funeral and says it was the hardest thing he’s ever done. 

“It’s not supposed to be that way. They’re supposed to be coming to my funeral. “

Seniors Arric Clegg and Cedric Simmons were sophomores when Daylan was a senior.

Clegg plays cornerback like Daylan did and says Daylan death didn’t set in until after his funeral. 

He says they always talked about winning a state championship. As he prepares for the game, those conversations they had weigh heavy. 

He said it feels different too just not being able to enjoy the moment with somebody you wanted to cherish that moment with.

Cedric Simmons, who plays quarterback says capping of the season with a hoist trophy is something the city of Malvern needs. 

“Malvern has had a black cloud on it with many deaths so this is big for everybody,” Simmons said. 

In April Malvern’s band director, Kenneth Williams was struck and killed one I-30 when he stopped to assist the victims involved in a separate accident.

Kickoff time for the Leopards against Wildcats is at noon at War Memorial.