LEWISTOWN — The Fergus County community was reeling this week after losing 17-year old Dylan Morris in a tragic car crash.
Morris was an athlete at Fergus High School who excelled on the football field and the wrestling mats. But more than that, he was a positive influence on every person around him. He was the team captain of the Golden Eagles, and was selected homecoming king by his peers.
The football team had a nearly impossible task this week. They had to push aside their grief and prepare for an Eastern A football game against Miles City, less than a week after losing the heart and soul of their team.
No one would have batted an eye, if they needed more time to process the loss.
But the Morris family encouraged the Eagles to play. And on Friday night, they played through the pain for four quarters - and won, 7-0.
To first-year head coach Derek Lear, it was clear they had a 12th man on the field who helped.
“Honestly, what a group of kids I have. I didn’t really know what to expect, but every time we were down on the practice field, it seemed like that was where we needed to be, and it was the same thing out here,” Lear said. “I’m kind of speechless in the moment. My guys are tremendous players, the fact that they even stepped on the field tonight is amazing. But what got us through is it’s what Dylan would want. He was obviously looking down on us tonight for sure.”
The atmosphere certainly helped. Golden Eagle stadium was packed, and Dylan Morris was on the hearts and kinds of everyone on both sidelines. And after a week full of heartache and reflection, the support of their community was just what the team needed.
“This is obviously the biggest crowd of the year. Dylan deserved that, and to celebrate him,” Lear said. “When you can pack the place like this, every Friday its pretty special. These kids feed off it. Our kids were drained, and I give a lot of that to this crowd getting us through.”
The final whistle sounded, and the bottled up emotion began to pour out of the players, coaching staff and fans. It was a release for coach Lear and the Eagles.
The seniors lined up with Dylan’s helmet and jersey, walking the length of the field.
After getting through the most difficult week of their lives, they can now focus on healing, and moving forward.
“We knew going into this game we were going to get next week off. These kids are going to need it,” Lear said. “Obviously it’s been an emotional week, and the weekend will be as well. And they’ve earned that right to take some time. Somehow, some way we’ll keep pushing through because that’s what Dylan would want.”