It's your typical November football practice at A&M Consolidated High School.
Players, coaches, and fans relish this time as Thanksgiving draws closer and the Tigers play each week to advance to the next.
"The end of last year, people found out our schedule for next year and they all doubted us," said senior Tyler Spaw.
Spaw is a receiver on the team and has been on varsity for two seasons.
As practice rolls on for the team, he tries to keep a recent loss in the back of his mind.
"He was always there at every game," said Spaw.
Tyler was born in Elgin and moved to College Station his freshman year. He quickly became friends will teammate Daniel Hulse and together they do just about everything. But now his friends mean that much more to him.
"The biggest thing for us is we needed to be there and try to lift him up," said Hulse.
Just hours after winning the district title, Tyler got word that his great grandfather had passed away. A tough blow for a player coming off a championship high.
Just two days later, as his family prepared for his great grandfather's funeral, something even more unimaginable happened.
"My step-mom called me and she was crying. She told me to go home and just wait there. My sister called me and she was crying as well and she asked if I knew what happened. She said Dad passed away and I was just..." said Spaw not knowing how to finish the sentence.
"This was hard, it was hard for the entire family and the team because it was such a shocker," said Consolidated Head Coach David Raffield.
In a state of shock, Tyler traveled to Elgin where his father Gregory had slammed into a tree and wasn't wearing his seat belt. He was killed instantly.
"I immediately forgot about football and just kept trying to understand how it happened and why it happened," said Spaw.
"Right now you got a guy down, you're just there to make sure he's going to be OK," said Raffield.
Coach Raffield also traveled to Elgin to offer support in a situation he's unfortunately had to deal with before.
"When you suffer a loss like he did, sometimes you feel by yourself. The more people around you, the easier it is to cope with it," said Raffield.
Hulse also made the trip to be with his friend who had to deal with the loss of the man who taught him everything he knew about sports.
"We basically live football and when something like this happens it just puts into perspective how small that is compared to family and all the other things that have so much more purpose," said Hulse.
"It meant a lot to me that they showed up and were there for me," said Spaw.
Just one week after winning the district title, Tyler had to say goodbye to his father for the final time. Once again, his team was at his side.
"I didn't know what they were going to do. I just knew that they would be there," said Spaw.
As the hearse pulled up to the cemetery, Tyler spotted two long lines of maroon jerseys. It was his teammates, leading the way to his father's final resting place.
"I don't know what everybody else was doing but I was just watching Tyler carrying his Dad's casket down the middle of the team. It's just another one of those moments that puts things into perspective," said Hulse.
"They're something special to me. They showed me a lot and they meant a lot to me," said Spaw.
With less than a week till the Tigers' first playoff game of the season, Tyler didn't hesitate when it came to hitting the field. He wanted to do it for the man who never missed a single game.
"I don't think it was ever a question in his mind that he wanted to play," said Raffield.
"I told him that this is my last year to do any sports, so I'm sure he'd want me to go as far as possible," said Spaw.
"The game is going to pull out some emotions for him also because his father won't be there and that's something he doesn't realize till he gets there," said Raffield.
As Tyler warmed up for his first game back since his father's death, the feeling of being back on the football field seemed to take over.
He played like his Dad taught him. Tough. And even though he didn't get into the end zone, Tyler did get to forget for a few minutes the pain of losing his first coach in life. For that, he thanks his teammates who have stood tall as any Tiger should.
"They've been with me all throughout my whole struggles this past week and knowing that they have my back on and off the field just means a lot," said Spaw.
As A&M Consolidated advances to the second round of the playoffs, there's one thing they do know. Tyler's dad is watching.
"That's a big part of why I'm staying strong. Knowing that he's better off now," said Spaw.
"His dad had the best seat in the house tonight," said Raffield.
Tyler and the rest of the A&M Consolidated Tigers will face off with Austin Westlake in the second round of the high school football playoffs this Friday at Waco ISD Stadium.
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