LENOIR COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Students, administrators, school board members and city leaders came to Hibriten High School to cheer on the football team. The team won the state championship for their division on Saturday and the school held a pep rally for them on Monday to celebrate.
"This means the world to me," football player Charles Tassinari said. "It means the world just to our community."
It was a bittersweet victory. About two weeks before the championship game, the football team lost one of their own in a terrible accident. Fifteen-year-old Wesley Oliver died leaving behind a shattered team.
"We had to channel those feelings because it was detrimental to all of us and we didn't expect it," football player Noah Gambill said.
Football players remained focused to score a win for Wesley.
"I think he is proud of us and I think he would have loved it and came out and watched us and celebrated us," Gambrill said.
After the death, the school wanted to assist Wesley's family. Money started coming in to help with funeral expenses. Even teams that played against Hibriten gave money.
"It's brought our school together like no one could imagine," Principal David Colwell said. "It's brought our community together."
The giving made a difference.
"All of the money is going to go to defer the burial expenses and funeral expenses for the family and we feel like we are close to reaching that goal," the principal said.
This win was for Wesley. It's a big deal. This is the first time Hibriten High School has won a state football championship. Soon signs will go up throughout Lenoir to reflect that.
The principal says students taught others a valuable lesson while players say Wesley will always be a part of the team.
"We put our hearts into his family and into him," Gambrill said. "We all know he is above us and looking over us."