HARRAH — Every day at Harrah football practice, Matt Grace was camped out next to a video camera, taping various parts of the Panthers' workouts to be used as a teaching tool later in the week.
It might not sound like much, but players credited the practice video — something they had never utilized before — as a significant reason for their improvement this season.
Another piece of fourth-ranked Harrah's success came from the strong foundation laid by the seniors from last year's team, which went 8-3. Jonathan Adams was one of those players.
Grace, 18, was killed in a car accident on Oct. 9, and Adams died of a sudden illness one day later, rocking the Harrah community, and especially the football team.
“You can't ever be prepared for something like this,” senior quarterback Eddie Reynolds said. “Matt was my best friend. The whole team can't believe it.”
Grace grew up in Harrah, but moved to Seminole for a portion of his high school career. After moving back, he was ruled ineligible for his senior season, so he volunteered to videotape practices, just to do anything to be around the team. Coach Greg Willis said Grace likely would have been a starter for the Panthers had he been eligible.
“He just did whatever he could to help,” Willis said. “That one really impacted our seniors, because a lot of them had known him since elementary school. He was just a great kid who meant a lot to our players.”
Adams, 19, played a significant role on last year's team, and was continuing his career as a redshirt freshman at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
After battling a sudden illness for a couple of days, he died Monday, Oct. 10.