EUCLID, Ohio-- An emotional homecoming night for a local high school, as they honor a football player who died after a game last Friday. Despite their pain, the team took the field with an extra level of drive and determination to remember 17-year old Andre Jackson.
With his father leading the charge, the Panthers remembered Andre during their homecoming game against the Strongsville Mustangs, where they won, 41-0.
"It was emotional, you know; I saw his locker, you know. Friday night was his favorite night of the week; he lived for Friday night," said his father, Andre Littlejohn.
After honoring him with a moment of silence, people in the stands released balloons into the heavens.
Euclid's football coach says the team played with inspiration from Andre.
"I wanted to push the game back, but these kids demanded to play on Friday night. They wanted to play for Dre tonight and kind of a mini slogan has been: pray for Dre and play for Dre," said Euclid football coach, Jeff Rotsky.
Andre died Sunday after he was hit during a play against Solon last Friday night. The medical examiner says Andre died from a ruptured bowel after he was struck in the abdomen.
Although he wore number 48 last week, his original number was 24, as seen on the jersey his father proudly held. He was honored on the field, on helmets and on uniforms.
"The hardest thing is knowing that he's not gonna be in that locker room with us tonight," Rotsky said.
But Coach Rotsky says Andre will forever be a 12th man on the field.
"I'm gonna miss him coming in at night from the games, telling me dad, who won, the score, who did what, you know? He loved these guys out here on this team," said his father.
There are still more tough days ahead for Andre Jackson’s family and friends.
His funeral will be held next Saturday, Oct. 8 at 10 a.m., at Starlight Baptist Church, 14516 Euclid Ave., East Cleveland.
A viewing will be held Friday, Oct. 7, from noon to 6 p.m. at Rogers Funeral Home, 8608 Quincy Ave., Cleveland.
Those who would like to make donations to help cover the cost of the arrangements can send a check or money order to Rogers Funeral Service (memo: Andre L. Jackson).