‘He was like a big brother:’ Players honor Cloverleaf football coach who died in car crash

LODI, Ohio-- It was a bittersweet homecoming for a local high school as they celebrate school pride while honoring a coach and mentor.

John Sands, an assistant coach at Cloverleaf High School in Lodi, was honored with a moment of silence.

The 23-year old was killed Monday morning in a car crash while leaving a class he was taking at Bowling Green State University.

"He was taken so young. It's just nice to show that so many people cared about him, and it's just nice that everybody is so touched and he meant so much to everybody," said Maegan Sands, John's sister.

"I said listen, 'You have way too many things going on, like, maybe you want to give up the coaching.' And he said, 'That's the last thing I'm giving up', that this team meant so much to him," said Maureen Randall, his mother.

In his three years as an assistant coach, John Sands made a huge impact on these players. Before taking the field, the team hugged each other and John's family, including his mother.

"I think it's important that we honor his memory. He was a wonderful coach, a wonderful man, he was like a big brother to me, so this night is really important," said senior cornerback Matt Stoner.

To start the homecoming game against the Springfield Spartans, the Colts solemnly carried John's football jersey that he wore when he played at New London High School.

"My family is all gathered together to support this team. John would have been here tonight and that's the hardest part, he loved, this is what he wanted to do," said Sands' mother.

When the game got underway, it had a special meaning. #PlayforSands appeared on a banner in the stands The players also wore John Sands' initials on their helmets.

"I'm just glad he touched so many lives," said his sister.