Hartsville, SC (WLTX) - Saturday, despite Hartsville High School football teams undefeated record, the team will play with a heavy heart in the state championship game.
This after losing one of their own.
"We are exited about athletics here," said Athletic Director Phyllis Griggs.
In the small town of Hartsville, football is king.
"Everywhere you go, everyone is talking about the ball game," said Griggs.
October 5th was no different, it was homecoming night and the stadium was packed.
"Football was his sport his thing, his sport, his main event," said Yvonne Rouse his mother,
In the midst of the celebration, everything went quiet, as senior Ronald Rouse went down on the field.
"He raised up and called timeout and I am thinking what's going on here, then he started coming to the sideline and he collapsed then came off the field and collapsed again," said Griggs.
The 18 year old later died at the hospital.
"You know it was just a night I will never forget."
Last year his mother Yvonne decided to go back to school and moved to Columbia.
"He didn't want to relocate because it was his last year playing football. So I talked to my mom and dad so he could stay with them and finish out the year. That is where he wanted to be so he could play football," said Rouse.
She wasn't feeling well and couldn't go to the game. That night she received a call saying Ronald had collapsed.
"She called back and said well he is not getting up and you need to go to the hospital and get there as soon as you can, so I was really worried at that time," said Rouse. "The doctor came in and talked to us and we were getting ready to see the body and that was the hardest thing for me to do because I didn't get to say goodbye, I love you, I didn't get a last word, all I did was talk to him Thursday, so I didn't get to talk to him Friday."
As a mother who just lost her only son, Yvonne says some days its hard to just get out of the bed..but seeing the outpouring of support keeps her going.
"I didn't know the impact that Ronald had on a lot of people. But the last couple of months he said that he was a role model and he has to do right and little kids looked up to him. I was like RJ what kind of role model are you, like you are a NFL star and after everyone told me what Ronald did for them and how good a friend he was, I knew what he was saying but I didn't know he had that much of an impact on his peers and younger kids."
Now with the team being undefeated, His mother says she knows the players still carry Ronald's spirit in their march to the state title.
"He was just so excited about going to the State championship and getting a ring and all the celebration that comes with it."
Despite the team's success, Yvonne can't help but think that her son will never run out on the field again.
"I'm sad in a way that when the team runs out they have this flag that says rouse number 74 on it and when the team scores they say it's all for rouse, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes because he is not out there on the field making those plays. But to see how they are still running around and cheering for him and making him apart of something that he really loved is really amazing and exciting."
"I want them to know that they have done everything and they were his best friends. He called them his brothers and even though he didn't have any real brothers of his own he thought enough of them to call them his brother."