ELYRIA, Ohio — A Friday night football game had never been so special for Elyria High School.
This game was the first for the team since the loss of assistant coach De'van Bogard, who died overnight Tuesday after becoming trapped in an apartment fire. Under the Friday night lights at Ely Stadium, there was a spirit that could be felt, one who's presence is no longer on the sidelines.
"Being here on the field every Friday night meant everything to him," Bogard's girlfriend Ryanne Hill said. "I haven't been able to find words since it happened. ... It's weird not to see him here."
Just one day after learning of Bogard's death, the Pioneer made the decision to play on senior night against Amherst Steele. Head coach Devlin Culliver told 3News Wednesday the team wanted to play in Bogard's honor.
"They know that he would want them out there right now," Athletic Booster Rachel Boddy added.
Special tributes to Bogard rook place Friday. As a good luck charm, the players wore the initials "DB" on the sides of their helmets, and the No. 30 — the same number Bogard wore as a member of Ohio State's 2014 national championship team — was prominent throughout.
"Seeing them when they came out of the locker room, he was all over their shirts and everything," Hill said with pride.
Bogard's family was on the sidelines Friday night with Bogard's son Jaden, whom the team is also playing for. One player handed the ball directly to Jaden after the team scored its second touchdown of the game.
"I'm just super grateful that they're honoring him in a positive way because that's all he would want," Taylor Osbey, Jaden's mother, said. Even the touchdown that they made and they passed it to our son Jaden, that was the cutest thing. My heart is just so full of joy."
Elyria went on to beat Amherst 36-13 to improve to 5-4, their best season in six years.