CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Chicopee Comp Colts started their season without a familiar face.
The death of a player and friend over the Summer has redefined the team's mission moving forward.
“Our goal definitely for this season is remembering Alex and dedicating this season to him," Chicopee Comp Football player Kyle Ingram tells us.
The Chicopee Comprehensive High School football team has a special inspiration this season, though a heartbreaking one.
In July, they lost fellow classmate, teammate, and friend Alex Ortiz.
Only 15-years-old, Ortiz died when the car he was riding in crashed into a tree, leaving his friends, family, and the school heartbroken and speechless.
“It’s been tough, you know? When I first heard the news, it was, 'What am I going to tell the guys? What am I supposed to do?" asked Ingram.
Head Coach Tony Couture says, after hearing the news and thinking about the team, the game of football seemed minuscule.
“It wasn’t about football at all until we put the pads on, so we kind of just started talking about all different things in life," says Couture.
Teammates who knew Ortiz, both on and off the field, say, since losing their friend, they’ve seen a change in the school and a change within themselves.
“I have more of a role now. I’m more of a leader than I was. I wasn’t really a part of the game as a freshman and I grew as a person more," stated senior Chris Williams.
Senior Chris Williams also tells Western Mass News his goal is to…
“Work my hardest and lead for these young kids who have been through this tragedy and to be a leader to show them what we should do, and be a positive impact on them," explained Williams.
Senior Anthony Folta says, even though you can never replace Ortiz, the teams’ response and unity is healing for everyone.
“We’ve gotten a lot closer since what happened over the Summer and I feel like everyone’s got each other’s backs now, and we’re really looking out for each other," said Folta.
And Coach Couture has one more project underway with the school's Career Technical Education program in remembrance of Alex.
“We have this colt head now that have created. Alex was part of the CT program, so a couple of the CT shops are working together, kind of build a monument we’re going to put outside the stadium that we’re going to walk past when we go to the field every game. The guys can touch it when they walk by," added Coach Couture.
So every time each player steps onto the field, they’ll always remember their former teammate.