ROELAND PARK, Kan. - Months after Coach Eric Driskell passed away unexpectedly, the Blue Valley High School football team began its season on Friday night.
Coach Driskell died in February following a ruptured aneurysm.
Driskell had coached the team since 2010 and won two state titles.
On Friday night, the community came together to show support for the late coach.
Despite the game being played at rival Bishop Miege High School, fans and coaches from both sides could be seen wearing shirts in honor of Driskell.
Many of the shirts had a saying he was often heard telling players: “Live like champions.”
“He was a little bit bigger than football,” Blue Valley High School Athletic Director Matt Ortman said. “That was Eric. It was never just about football. It was always about life and bringing boys into men."
Following Driskell’s death, the team had to navigate through many emotions during the offseason.
“That was really hard,” Marsha Waldron, a mother of a senior on the team, said. “The kids were really suffering; a lot of kids were struggling. We really miss Eric."
After seeing the support from Bishop Miege’s fans and coaches, Waldron said she was moved at the gesture to honor Driskell.
“That brings tears to your eyes,” she said. “It just shows you what Eric Driskell meant to everyone."
For others, not seeing Driskell on the sidelines made the game feel very different.
Cheerleading Coach Michele Wirt said she missed seeing the beloved coach known for his kindness and encouragement.
“He was very positive and never had a negative thing to say about anybody,” she said. “He was always encouraging the kids."
Moving forward, parents said they hoped the team could help keep Driskell’s memory alive.
“I think the community will see that we are a family,” Waldron said. “I think they'll see that Blue Valley comes together and we rally around our community."
Blue Valley lost Friday night’s game 55-10.
The Tigers return home next week and plan to honor Coach Driskell with decorations around the stadium and a pregame ceremony.