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Harrah football team deals with pair of tough losses

Deaths of Matt Grace and Jonathan Adams have hit the Panthers' program hard.
By Scott Wright, Staff Writer, Published: October 18, 2011

“That senior class was so important to the progress we've made here,” Willis said. “They were freshmen when I became the coach. He still has a sister in the high school. That really hit a lot of us hard.”

Willis had their jersey numbers painted on the field for last Friday's game against Santa Fe South. And despite the difficult week, Harrah fought through for a 41-20 victory.

Football, in a sense, has provided a safe haven for the players in battling the emotional difficulties of losing two friends in two days.

“We got the win on Friday for our buddies,” senior Jake Queen said. “It's about bonding with your brothers and fighting through.

“Things like football really help to get your mind off it, everything from practice to going to school with your teammates. It helps you get over something like this.”

Now, the Panthers turn their focus to a Thursday night game at Douglass, the defending Class 4A champion, which could have significant district championship implications. Add in the emotion of the last two weeks, and Harrah's players expect a lot of inspiration to be flowing on Thursday.

“I think this experience has brought us closer as a team, and I think that's what Matt and Jon would have wanted,” senior Brandon McDonald said. “We've dedicated the rest of the season to them, and we're sticking it in God's hands, just taking it one day at a time.

“It will be a real emotional night.”

Memorial funds have been created for each player. Grace's memorial fund is at Arvest Bank branches, and Adams' is at BancFirst locations.