GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) Three Cedaredge High School athletes were sickened by carbon monoxide exposure on Sunday. Senior Reid Gates passed away Monday while his friends Aaron Henrie and Tyler Cooper remained hospitalized.
On Wednesday their teammates and coaches spoke out about the tragedy. For the Bruins football team, their home opener is just two nights away, and they're trying their hardest to work through all the emotions and find a way to move forward without one of their star players.
"This has affected so many people that it's just a very difficult time," said head football coach Brandon Milholland.
As a four-year starter and captain on the football team, a two-sport state champion, and a 4.0 student, Reid Gates was no ordinary young man.
"He was never really down," said Kyle Ward, a wide receiver. "He was usually the one that picked most people up."
"He'd go across the field just to talk to somebody, to get them going, get their heads back up," said running back Beau Hebert.
"He was just that guy who was just, if you're down and everything, he would just make you laugh and make you feel better," said Alejandro Alejandre, offensive lineman.
Even the coaches were impacted by Reid's life.
"Reid made us become better coaches, you know, without saying a word, you just see it," said Kirby Henderson, Reid's former track coach. "He makes you elevate your game."
In a high school of just 250 people, everyone knew his name. On the field, he was part of a tight-knit group - the Bruins - the reigning 1A state champions.
"When we're out there we're going to try to really focus on football," said Coach Milholland. "I know it's in the back of our minds, I know it is."
But even in the midst of tragedy, they're moving one small step at a time, taking nothing for granted, and looking back only to reflect on the impact Reid had.
"[He'd be] out there cheering us on, pumping us all up, and getting guys all going and fired up," said Hebert.
"You still remember things that they used to do out there, too," said quarterback Trent Walker, "plays that they ran, plays that they'd make, things that they'd say."
And while the team entered the season with high expectations - a goal to repeat - those wins are no longer the driving force.
"It doesn't get any harder than this," said Coach Milholland. "Football is one thing, but that's just a game."
Through it all, the Bruins remain united, playing for the love of the game, and playing to honor everyone affected by the unexpected.
Cedaredge will kick off their home opener this Friday night at 7:00 PM against Dolores. They will have a moment of silence to honor the three boys affected.