Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News
The teammates of 16-year-old Austin Gaffney, who drowned at an East Texas lake, honored their friend on the field.
A North Texas football team is mourning the loss of a teammate who drowned at an East Texas lake.
Heavy hearts thudded side-by-side as the Rowlett junior varsity team got ready to take the field Thursday night without 16-year-old Austin Gaffney.
"It's been a real seldom mood around the team," teammate and friend Marc Miller said. "We all miss him. All the players are heavy-hearted and so are the coaches."
There were more hugs than usual on the field, as close friend came together to remember the player they all called "Woody."
"One of the greatest people I ever knew is gone," friend Ethan Henderson said. "He was a very strong person, and he always helped me. There is no doubt in my mind he will continue to do great things in people's lives even after his death."
Friends said Gaffney drowned at Holly Lake Ranch over the weekend. He had been swimming with his sister across the lake but didn't make it across.
"It's hard," said coach Kiff Hardin. "It was a shock and a tragedy. Austin was a super young man."
Players said they will fight without Gaffney but live out his legacy.
"We just have to work hard for him," Miller said. "We just trying to carry that on and give the same effort he gave every day and just look at life the way he looked at it."
The team held a moment of silence for Gaffney at Thursday's game against Rockwall, and players wore decals with his initials on their helmets.
Sarah McCombs, Gaffney's girlfriend, came to the game in his No. 25 jersey. She also painted her face with his number and wore bracelets with his name.
She said it has been a tough week but also said she is staying positive by focusing on her favorite things about Gaffney, such as "how nice he was and how much he smiled, and he was just an all-around great person" and his trademark red, curly hair.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Rowlett First Baptist Church on Saturday.
NBC 5's Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.