The final score didn't really matter to Tivy football coach David Jones.
As the final seconds of the season ticked down, Jones was more concerned about the message to his boys, his team and his community. In the most trying of seasons, Jones faced an unimaginable day on Friday — grieving the loss of one of his players.
Tivy's defense played well on Friday night against district-leading Alamo Heights.
Tivy lost on Friday night, 24-7, to visiting Alamo Heights. However, what mattered most was the picture in the middle of the scoreboard — the picture of David Palestrant, who died late Thursday night in a car crash.
"Do not walk off this field with your head down," said Jones in the moments after the game ended. "You represent everything this community stands for — everything. You represent it well. Don't forget. Love you guys."
At 6:30 a.m., Jones got a call that Palestrant, a senior defensive lineman, had been killed in a car crash. Another player suffered injuries in the crash. The Texas Department of Safety was investigating the crash and did not return calls seeking comment about the incident.
However, the community was grappling with the aftermath of the fatal crash all day. At 2 p.m., students, parents and the community came together at Antler Stadium for a prayer vigil and to remember their friend — all with a funny story about Palestrant, who was known to epitomize the school's motto, Tivy Fight Never Dies.
And then the Antlers took the field against Alamo Heights — the first-place team in the district. At 1-8, Tivy's season would be over no matter the game's outcome.
Through the season, fathers of three Tivy players have died, including two within the last three weeks. Standout receiver Jackson Johnston suffered a severely broken leg that ended his football season and his basketball season as well.
"It was one of the worst phone calls you can ever have as a coach," Jones said. "But I can only imagine the parents getting that phone call. I have three kids, and I cannot imagine the heartache and the pain they are going through."
Even for Alamo Heights, the moments after the game were reflective, and it was clear they wanted to spend time with the Tivy players. Both teams held hands and prayed at the end of the game. They lingered together.
For Tivy's seniors, this was also their final game in an Antlers uniform. There were long hugs in the moments after the game. Everyone was somber, but Jones reminded his players that work remained.
"Our kids have been through so much this year," Jones said. "We've lost three dads. We've lost a player. Our record wasn't very good, but I love these kids. They're resilient. They will be back."
Tivy showed how resilient they could be in the first half by holding the Mules to a 10-7 halftime lead. Alamo Heights put together an epic 10-minute drive that closed out the third quarter and ate up the opening 90 seconds of the fourth quarter with a touchdown to take a 17-7 lead. The Mules scored once more in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
However, the day wasn't about stats and plays. This day was about remembering a 17-year-old boy whose life was cut way too short. This day was also about remembering each other.
"If you get a chance to tell your parents you love them — tell them you love them," Jones said. "If you get a chance to tell somebody close to you that you love them — tell 'em. Don't let an opportunity pass you by. Don't do that. Life is too precious."
On this night, on a football field in Kerrville, Texas, football players remembered that preciousness of life. They played their best for a friend. They played for their community. And they also played because they loved David Palestrant.