Connecticut football team starts game with 10 players in memory of fallen teammate

Berlin (Conn.) High School’s Nick Zuk died in June after a battle with cancer.

Friday night, his football team played its first home game since his passing. The town and the team honored their fallen teammate on an emotional night.

“This is an incredible tribute to Nick,” Redcoats head coach Joe Aresimowicz told the Hartford Courant after his team’s 50-14 victory over Rockville (the halftime score was 36-7). The coach also read a proclamation from Gov. Dannel Malloy designating Sept. 16, 2016, as Nicholas Zuk Day in Connecticut.

Zuk fell ill his sophomore year, according to his mother Michelle.

“Last year, he couldn’t play football, but he was at every game,” Michelle Zuk recalled to the crowd of his son’s time in remission. He was working out in a gym and preparing to return to the field this year when the cancer came back in the spring.

“We were hoping for a miracle. But it was not meant to be,” she said. Then she looked around the field before speaking again. “What an incredible tribute to our son.”

According to the Hartford Courant’s story, roughly half of the 1,000 people at Sage Park’s Scalise Field wore “Team Zuk 53, Redcoats Tackle Cancer” T-shirts, which were sold for $20 apiece to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

The night included the Berlin High School chorus singing Kenny Chesney’s “The Boys of Fall,” the singer’s homage to high school football.

Berlin came out at the start of the game with just 10 players, something Aresimowicz said the team will do to start every game. Zuk was the team’s right tackle and nose guard.

“We will have 10 for our first offensive play. We will send in the 11 for the second,” the coach said at halftime. “The team is really emotional tonight but OK.”