DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Days after a Denton teen was killed in an accidental shooting, and just hours after his funeral, his high school football team took the field without its senior leader. There was talk of delaying or even cancelling the game Thursday between John Guyer High School and Heritage High, but the family of Nathan Maki told coaches it had to be played.

Maki’s mother and father stood on the sidelines Thursday watching their son’s team warm up. Football may be a team game, but with a “33” on the faces, shoes, and shirts of nearly every player and fan, it was clear this game was about one player in particular.

“It’s different not having him out there,” said senior Logan Helal. “I miss him. My heart’s broken.”

Broken hearts were helped by focusing on football. The team only practiced once during the week, said head coach John Walsh. It was healing to get back to the game though. The senior had earned the respect of his friends on the field, and they were eager to play again.

“It really was never on how it happened, or why it happened, or anything like that,” said senior receiver Tyler Smith. “It was just on him. He was my best friend, and a great teammate, player, friends with all of us. Family is all we are.”

It was Maki’s number the team yelled as they got pumped up before the game. It was his name on the banner they broke through. It was his jersey they carried out to the coin toss.

Team captains carried the jersey back to the Maki family, where his mother put it on. They watched from the end zone as the team went back to work. That’s what Nate Maki they said, would have wanted them all to do.

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