Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
The Denton Guyer football team is on a quest to become state champions. This year, they are dedicating that quest to Nathan Maki who was killed in an apparent hunting accident.
This year has been emotional for the Denton Guyer football team.
Days after the season began, and the team began its quest to repeat as state champions, Nathan Maki, a senior fullback, was killed in an apparent hunting accident with friends in Montague County.
Since Maki's death, teammates have put together an impressive set of wins, leading the Wildcats back to the Texas 4A Division I football championship game, which the team won 31-14.
"It's been hard. We've, we had a great memorial for him. Today's gonna be an even greater one for him," Coach John Walsh said moments before the championship game against Brennan San Antonio.
Fans filled AT&T stadium wearing Denton Guyer shirts with Maki's name and jersey number '33.'. Many held signs that read "State for Nate," a motto that became a rallying cry in honor of the fallen teenager.
"Just supporting Nate because he's here watching over us," said Guyer sophomore Emily Houlihan, who painted '33' on her face for the game.
Maki's mother, Bonnie Maki, walked the sidelines ahead of Friday night's game wearing Nate's '33' jersey, a gift from the team on the day of her son's funeral. The jersey is covered with messages written by members of the team.
"It's awesome," Bonnie Maki said about the outpouring of emotional support the Denton Guyer fans have shown her family. "It's awesome, and it's wonderful to know that my son was loved."
Bonnie Maki said she had mixed emotions prior to the game.
"It would have been his last high school game tonight," Bonnie Maki said about her son. "And it's it's sad. It is. I'm happy for his friends, his other teammates and his brothers. But at the same time it's sad."