Braedon Hyland died Monday in a car crash, a shock to the entire school and a severe blow to his football teammates.
This being his senior year, Braedon Hyland wanted the experience of being a football player.
A multisport athlete at East Ridge, Hyland's passion was hockey. He was a quick, sure-handed defenseman who played a regular shift for the Raptors last season.
But he wanted to be a football player, a sport he had played through junior high, one last time.
"He texted me all summer, asking me when practice started," said close friend and teammate Val Huerta.
Hyland made the team as a running back, going through summer two-a-days and even beating most of his teammates in a season-opening conditioning drill.
"He didn't work out with [the football players] all summer, but when he did that drill, he beat us by, like, 20 seconds," Huerta said. "He was in great shape because of hockey."
Hyland died last Monday in a car crash in Afton, a shock to the entire school district and a severe blow to his football teammates.
"He was a very well-liked and well-respected young man," said East Ridge coach Mike Pendino. "I only knew him this year, when he came out for football, but he had that air about him. He was a good kid."
East Ridge faced Park of Cottage Grove on Friday, a rivalry game that became an emotional outlet for many players on the team.
Pendino said the game was secondary to the well-being of the players. He and the other coaches spent time talking to the players about the tragedy.
"It was a learning experience in a true-life sense," he said. "We talked about how you can't take anything for granted and to be a good person and do what's right and help others because you just never know."
The game went on as scheduled, with the Raptors winning in dramatic fashion, getting a touchdown reception from Luke Misna with 1:27 left in the game to take a 20-14 lead and holding off Park.
"I cried when it was over," Huerta said. "A lot of the guys were crying. There was so much emotion. It all came out at once."
After the game, a memorial for Hyland was held in the stadium. Even the players from Park showed their respect, displaying a poster they created in his honor. It was also decided that the traveling trophy between the two schools will have Hyland's name and jersey number inscribed on it.
East Ridge High School will hold a memorial service for Hyland at the school at 6 p.m. Monday. Pendino isn't sure what the football team will do to honor him, but he is sure that one football victory isn't going to make the hurt go away.
"I don't think things will ever be back to normal this year," Pendino said. "But it will take at least until the following week for things be as normal as they'll ever be."
Here's hoping the game is as competitive as it was last year, when Wayzata won 28-27 in overtime after Eden Prairie failed on a two-point conversion attempt. The Trojans used that momentum to roll through the postseason, outscoring opponents 163-30 en route to the Class 5A championship. Game time is 7 p.m.
Zimmerman, which had its undefeated season ended by Fergus Falls on Oct. 7, played the opposite role Friday, handing St. Cloud Cathedral its first loss of the season, 24-14.
The Thunder (6-1, 5-0 in the Granite Ridge) can win the first championship in the new conference's history with a victory over Princeton on Wednesday.
• St. Croix Lutheran coach Carl Lemke enjoyed the 250th victory over his career when the No. 1, Class 3A Crusaders crushed St. Anthony 54-14, clinching a share of the Tri-Metro Conference East Division title.
• Marshall running back Beau Bofferding rushed for two touchdowns in the Tigers' 56-7 victory over Worthington, giving him a school-record 48 for his career. Marshall improved to 7-0 and has outscored opponents 357-60.