Nothing they did -- nothing anyone could do -- was going to assuage a loss so monumental and so raw.
And so rather than trying, the Kelvin Clippers instead paid quiet tribute in triumph last night.
Having dedicated Friday night's Free Press Bowl to their late classmate, Julia Romanow, the Clippers promptly went out on a frozen field at Canad Inns Stadium and won it too, holding off a late charge by the Grant Park Pirates to capture a 31-28 victory in the final of the Winnipeg High School Football Vidruk Division (AA).
"We're a big family. The team is a family, the school is a family and we just lost one of our family members," said Clippers head coach Jon Romu.
"I think the guys played with a lot emotion, especially at the start of the game, knowing it's not just a football game. Someone's lost their life and life is more important than football. These guys came out and showed they have heart and they wanted to play and they did."
Romanow was the 17-year-old Grade 12 Kelvin student who died Nov. 1 in a car accident on Wellington Crescent when a fellow student who was driving lost control and struck a tree. The driver was charged this week in Romanow's death.
With Romanow's initials emblazoned on their helmets, the Clippers got two first-half touchdowns from running back Avery Sharpe en route to a 28-7 first-half lead and then hung on as the Pirates stormed back in the second half.
A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by Grant Park's Michael Ritchott -- the first on a punt return, the second a two-yard touchdown run with just 11 seconds remaining -- made the final score close, but this night belonged to the Clippers.
"We had her in our hearts in the game. And we truly won that game for her," said Sharpe. "The atmosphere in the school all week -- it's been tough. It's good to have something that we've done for Julia in this way."
The victory was also a measure of vindication for a Kelvin program that went winless last season. "I'm proud of the guys who stepped up," said Kelvin quarterback Kristian D'Ignazio. "We were 0-8 last year and now we're on top. It feels so good."