After winning the championship game on Thursday, St. John’s High School (Winnipeg) laid down a jersey in front of the team for a group photo.
It was No. 7, the jersey of their former quarterback, Jordan Thomas, who was killed in 2017, according to CTV News.
The Tigers broke a 38-year championship drought in their title run inspired by Thomas.
“It was about honoring him and the players who have come before us,” head coach Grant McMillan told Manito Football Feed. “This victory is bigger than the team and bigger than the school. It’s a celebration for our community.”
Thomas was stabbed while walking home with his brother, according to the National Post.
His final game had been a 2016 loss in the championship game at the same stadium the Tigers won on Thursday night, the news outlet wrote.
But his presence was felt on the field in this title game.
“It felt like we had a thirteenth man on the field, like (Thomas) was watching over us and he was helping us,” said middle linebacker Nick Wakos.
As the players laid the No. 7 jersey in front of them, they knew they had fulfilled the promise made to themselves that they would win the championship for Thomas.
“It felt great to have that jersey with us because we knew that he was shining down on us and smiling at us while we were playing that day,” Wakos said. “I feel absolutely honored to say that we fulfilled that promise for Jordan.”