YORK — From the stickers bearing the number 50 on their helmets to the sign the cheerleaders held aloft that read "Play for Vick," there was no question why New Kent High's players walked arm-in-arm onto the football field on Friday for their game at Bruton.
They were determined to honor Jacob Vick, the 15-year-old starting linebacker who died of unknown causes shortly after collapsing during football practice at school Tuesday.
The scoreboard might not have indicated so following the Trojans' 49-7 loss, but they accomplished their mission and then some. Not only did they honor their teammate by playing, they displayed remarkable perseverance by playing hard and brought pride to a community in pain.
"I think this was about pulling up your bootstraps when you don't think there's any way possible that you can do it," New Kent coach Dan Rounds said afterward. "You get up and go the next day and do all the things you've normally done and move forward.
"That's the way Jacob was: He worked. If he wasn't good enough at something, he worked to get better. Grades or football, that's what he did."
The Trojans started well before the emotionally draining week quickly caught up with them. Mikel Chalmers ran for 15 yards on the first play of the game, but the Trojans punted four plays later. Just two plays after that, Bruton star Kapri Doucet ran 33 yards for a touchdown that gave the Panthers (6-3) the lead for good.
New Kent lineman Wilson Gregory stemmed the Bruton tide momentarily, forcing one fumble and recovering another during the first quarter. But soon, despite their efforts, Gregory and the Trojans saw Doucet (157 yards rushing, three TDs) and the Panthers pull away.
"It was definitely rough for all of us to come out and play," Gregory said. "I miss the kid a lot. I took him home from practice every day.
"His birthday is Tuesday. All he could wait for was to drive, man, and he just didn't get the chance.
"I love him a lot and I'm going to miss that kid."
Gregory's mom, Jane Moss, watched her son and his teammates from the stands. She admitted that she had wished earlier in the week the Trojans would cancel the season, but was filled with pride as she watched them play.
"I felt because we started the season with a severe injury to (star running back) Trey Lee (who broke his leg in the season opener), and then the constant injuries to other players, my first thought (after Vick's death) was that they needed to call it a season," she said. "But after talking to the boys, they were determined to do this and do this in honor of Jacob.
"I'm very proud of them."
Rounds felt the same.
"It's been the hardest week of my life because of the kids and understanding their pain and understanding Jacob's parents and his family and knowing their pain," he said. "Just coming out here persevering and continuing to do what we do I felt was the best way to represent him."
Moss said the players did more than honor Vick's memory with their play Friday. She said they have lifted the New Kent community with their behavior since their teammate tragically passed away.
"Last night (on Halloween) several of the team captains took Jacob's little sisters trick-or-treating," Moss said. "I'm beyond proud that we've raised such good caring kids who will reach out to others who are hurting in New Kent.
"Watching them on the field tonight, I know they are trying their best but they're just holding on. They'll get through it."
BRUTON 49, NEW KENT 7
New Kent: 0....7....0....0 - 7
Bruton: 21....21....7....0 - 49
Bru: Doucet 33 run (kick blocked), 10:02
Bru: Jones 4 pass from Wallace (Brown run), 3:30
Bru: Doucet 18 run (Uvodich kick), :24
Bru: Wallace 5 run (Uvodich kick), 6:32
Bru: Etheridge 25 fumble return (Uvodich kick), 6:12
Bru: Rice 3 run (Uvodich kick), 5:00
NK: Chalmers 6 run (Rountree kick), 2:26
Bru: Doucet 31 run (Uvodich kick), 9:10
First downs: 4; 20
Rushes-yards: 30-37; 47-356
Passing yards: 13; 34
Comp-att-int: 1-9-1; 3-4-0
Penalties-yards: 1-15; 10-83
Punts-avg: 5-30.1; 1-50
Fumbles-lost: 4-3; 3-3
O'Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963