Wake County high school football shared its grief and offered comfort Friday night as teams and fans banded together to remember and honor students from three schools who have died during recent weeks.
Tommy Moore, who coached at Enloe High for 20 years before becoming the athletics director at Rolesville High, said he had never seen students support one another like they are now.
“The support for all of the schools has simply been tremendous,” Moore said.
Moore said he had been impacted by the way schools not directly affected by the tragedies had reached out in acts of sympathy.
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Isaiah Langston, a Rolesville linebacker, collapsed before a Sept. 26 game against Southeast Raleigh. He later died.
Rolesville players wore decals with “IL” on their gear in honor of the junior during last week’s game at East Wake and might have a recognition ceremony at Friday’s home game against West Johnston.
East Wake had a moment of silence in Langston’s honor, painted his number on their field, had a ceremony for his parents and released balloons in his memory.
Many East Wake players wore one red sock in honor of Langston, and Moore said he had been told some players at other schools did the same.
“It has been overwhelming,” Moore said.
At Heritage, Braden Rock, a band member who died in an car crash Sept. 29, was honored at the Huskies’ game against Sanderson. Heritage wore helmet decals with “Rock” printed on them.
Heritage coach Jason McGeorge said students at Wake Forest High made and sent a paper banner to the students at Heritage. The banner was carried onto the field before kickoff.
The Heritage players did not run through the barrier in typical fashion. They walked it to the sidelines.
“This is a just a tremendous community,” McGeorge said. “We have different schools and it’s a big area, but we are a big community. We play each other, but we are there for each other. The Wake Forest community is incredible.”
At halftime, the Heritage band rolled a xylophone onto the field and laid a T-shirt on the instrument in honor of Rock.
Rock wasn’t a member of the football team, but McGeorge said the 15-year-old’s death in a car accident impacted the entire school. Many of the Huskies players knew Rock and had grown up playing with and against Langston.
“Our practice on Monday was optional,” McGeorge said. “We had some players who needed some time. I’ve never seen a locker room as quiet as ours. It was quiet even in the halls during the day. It was a surreal time.
“Seven of our nine football coaches are in the school or the middle school. We did a lot of walking and talking last week. Some of the guys needed a hug.”
At Wake Forest, some players donated funds to the Langston family, and coach Reggie Lucas talked to students who not only are dealing with the death of Langston, who many of the players knew, but also the shooting death of former Wake Forest player Casty St. Louis.
“I have never seen so much tragedy,” Lucas said. “It has been a difficult time for all the students at all the schools, but the kids have been there for each other.”
Laura Yost of Panther Creek died Sept. 23 from injuries sustained in a traffic accident and Keith Jones of Wendell Middle School was killed on the same day while standing at a bus stop.