EUFAULA — About 30 minutes after Stigler finished off a rough eight days with a 21-7 win over Eufaula on Friday night, Austan Drewry had an obligation to fulfill.
While his teammates got dressed and began boarding the bus that would take them back home, Drewry stood on the field at Eufaula's Paul Bell Stadium and took picture after picture.
This night, Drewry was chosen to wear Cory Casinger's No. 65. The pictures he was taking were with Casinger's family, most of whom wore shirts honoring Casinger.
Casinger was killed in a car accident just outside of Stigler on July 20.
The Panthers have been rotating the number through the offensive line all season, and Drewry drew the honor against the Ironheads, wearing not only Casinger's number but his name on his back.
“It means a lot to get a chance to wear his number,” Drewry said. “Cory was one of my good friends and I think I made him proud tonight.”
The Stigler team had plenty more on its mind Friday, playing just eight days after another player — senior Gordon Parsons — was found dead. His death was announced to the team immediately following their win over Spiro.
“It's been rough,” Panthers quarterback Cade Shearwood said. “It's been hard to stay focused with all this. We tried to keep the same schedule as much as possible and keep everything as normal as possible.”
But there was nothing normal about the week of preparations for Eufaula.
Parsons' funeral was Tuesday, and his death provoked emotions that were already raw after Casinger's death.
“It's been painful; it's been long; it's been tiring, exhausting emotionally,” Stigler coach Chris Risenhoover said. “If you're not just hooked up busy, if you find yourself with any time at all, it's on your mind.
“We tried to get around this week and focus on football when we could to keep our mind on it. We also want to make sure we were enjoying each other everyday in practice.”
Stigler came into this season with plenty of promise. The Panthers had district championships and playoff successes in their minds. No matter how far Stigler goes, though, winning can only bring about a certain amount of help.
“It was hard on all of us losing Cory,” Drewry said. “We were just starting to get over it and then this happens again and everything starts coming back, not only with Gordon but about Cory too.
“It's going to be hard for awhile. We're a real close football team.”
Shearwood said sometimes it's hard not to wonder when bad things will stop happening.
“A little bit,” Shearwood said. “But we're all right. The Lord's with us.”
Now, at least, the first game since the team found out about Parsons' death is in the books.
“I was trying to get it to hurry up and get here,” Risenhoover. “It's a relief to get this one behind us.”
The experience has changed Risenhoover as a coach.
“It just makes you understand to love 'em every minute,” Risenhoover said. “You don't take anything for granted.”