MORGAN COUNTY, Tenn — On Friday, football teams across East Tennessee ran onto the field for the first time of the season. For the team at Sunbright High School, it was more than the start of the season. The game was meant to honor the life of a teammate who died almost a week prior.
Zander Guinn, 16, was involved in the car crash on Aug. 12. Family and friends said he was known as a great athlete who played football and basketball at the high school. On Friday, neighbors filled the bleachers in white to honor his life and memory.
"I feel like I'm more of a big brother figure, and I definitely saw that with Zander," said Hunter Crouch, his basketball coach. "He was best friends with everybody in our team. There wasn't anybody who looked at Zander in a negative way."
Crouch said Zander was hoping to have him as a teacher for the new school year.
"That was one thing that hit me pretty hard, because I finally had the chance to have him in class, but it got cut too short," he said.
His teammates and teachers are now finding hope in the game, reflecting on the person they called "Z-Money." They held a quiet, candlelight moment of silence for Guinn at halftime.
"He was the kind of kid where you will shake your head because you wouldn't know what he said or asked," said Julia Smith, the principal at the school. "I could hear them laugh, and that was beautiful to hear. That they were laughing, telling the funny stories."