STERLING, Ill. (KWQC) Many in the Sterling-Rock Falls community remember January 13, 2016.
"it's the day my world was shaken," says Monica Kalina.
For Kalina, it was the day she lost her nephew Donovan Hopkins and the Newman football team lost their teammate.
Then sophomores, the Newman football players grappled with losing one of their best friends.
"I knew he lived everyday to the fullest and wanted to be the best person he can," says Cade Bianchi.
Other players remember his sense of humor and ability to crack jokes.
"He was the buddy there at the lunch table making us all laugh," recalls Brentin Erickson.
Now seniors, the class of 2018 wants to include Hopkins in what would have been his senior football season.
"We're him and us at the same time," says Easton Bianchi. "We give so much effort to make up for what he has to miss out on."
The student section is also showing support by displaying a banner that reads 'Never Forgotten #83'.
"Besides our best friends, our whole school knows him," says Trevor Buser. "It's just awesome to look up in the stands and see that everybody's supporting him and knows him."
The group keeps him in the team huddle by visiting his grave before and after every game.
"Sometimes in the cemetery too, I'd say help me. Send your guardian angel to help us out," Nicholas Nailor says.
The Comets are using this one last season to do it for Donovan.
"He crosses my mind every moment of the day," says Easton Bianchi. "Just everything that we do we try and do it for him."
The team is ranked number one in the state in Class 2A and starts the season 3-0.