Plano East survived the first round of the playoffs by beating Irving MacArthur in overtime 27-to-26. They gambled with a 2-point conversion that allowed them to advance.
It’s part of remarkable season for a team that went 1-and-9 last season to a 7-and-3 record this year. For motivation, they don't have to look very far.
Seven months ago, one of their teammates, Zachary Schrah collapsed and died during a workout. He was slated to play varsity football this season, but instead, it's his memory that has become a driving force for the team.
"We practice, I say a little prayer for him." says Defensive Lineman Shawn Boyd. "I've got a picture of him in my locker. He was my best friend. Before every game, I say a prayer and thank him that he's there."
The "Z" for Zachary on the back of their helmets is a daily reminder of who they're playing for.
"He was a part of this family," says Linebacker Sam Trotter. "He was our brother. He was our friend. Most important, he was our teammate and it's hard losing a kid like him."
Zachary may be gone, but the "Living for Zachary Campaign" has taken on a life all its own.
Zachary's mother Karen drives an SUV that has her son's picture on the side. It's all part of getting the word out about a foundation which has been set up to help youngsters, age 13-to-22, get echocardiograms and EKG's. The goal is to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest which claimed Zachary's life.
"Zach's dad bought him this truck about a year ago when he was turning sixteen in February," she says. "Actually, he never got to drive it. I think we all share grief together and we're all working through our grief by doing positive things like this in the community."
Zachary’s web site at www.living4zachary.org lists future fund raisers for the foundation, including a bass tournament at Lake Fork in March and a golf tournament in June. The money raised by the foundation also provides AED’s or automated external defibrillators where needed.
The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano has endorsed the program, providing expensive tests for 1-hundred dollars for any parent who was to have their child undergo an echocardiogram and an EKG.
"Without the foundation, this would not have happened," says cardiologist Deepika Gopal. "In fact, we did not implement this. They approached us. The community has approached us and we are doing this as a service to the community."
This week, Plano East will face Coppell. Zachary may not be on the field for the game, but his presence is felt every day.
Says Head Coach Johnny Ringo, "You look at the way we won that game, we're down 16-to-3 going into the fourth quarter and find a way to win it, and win in overtime like that, we really feel like his presence has been with us not only then, but all season long."
The game against Coppell will be played at Cowboys Stadium Saturday morning at 11am.