MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just five days after their teammate lost his life near the end of a game because of a heart condition, the Esko High School football team achieved an emotional victory on their home turf.
Head coach Scott Arnston described the past several days a hell after losing sophomore quarterback Jackson Pfister. He says there was a point when they almost weren’t going to even play Wednesday night’s game. But he credits his players for deciding they wanted to take the field in Pfister’s honor.
The 15 year old collapsed at the end of last week’s game and later died. The medical examiner says it was due to congenital heart disease.
Shirts bearing Pfister’s number 15 and initials were given to the crowd Wednesday night. A moment of silence was held before the game, and students in the stands were wiping away tears. But once kickoff happened, the players fueled their pain into a resounding 33-0 win over Crosby-Ironton.
“Tonight was about Jackson, and everyone on the team knew that and everyone played their hearts out for him,” said senior teammate Lincoln Severson. “All of us loved him, and I know us as the seniors, we wanted to win this game just for him.”
The coaches described Pfister as a competitor who wanted to be pushed to get better. They missed his presence on the sidelines, but they’re more proud of how the players rose to the occasion during an incredibly tough time in their lives.
“We’re dealing with young men that are dealing with a lot, so it was good to finally get the ball kicked off and just to play,” said head coach Scott Arnston.
Pfister’s father told WCCO his family wasn’t sure if they were going to attend the game due to the incredible emotions they were feeling. But they ultimately did show up, getting a front row seat to see Pfister’s teammates carry Esko High School, and the community, to a meaningful win.