ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) Numbers are not just symbols on a piece of paper, they have life, and for East football, one number in particular has been a motivating factor during a historic season.
"I knew he was right there with me," said senior Tyvionne Horton. "He was right there with me."
Horton's game winning touchdown catch against Boylan was an emotional experience for everyone on the East sideline.
Head coach Gary Griffin knows his senior receiver was not alone when he stepped into the endzone.
"It was rough, it was rough," said Griffin. "He's a good kid. He was like a little brother. I got to get after him a little bit and have fun with him. He's a good kid and we miss him."
East assistant Alex Kube, a former NIU linebacker, died in February due to an enlarged heart.
Remembered for his energy and positive attitude, Kube rallied around his players and so they would do the same for him.
"We were trying to come up with a way to honor him so I said why don't we get a 37 jersey and somebody wears 37," Griffin said.
And so for every game this season, a different E-Rabs player has donned the number 37.
Kube's wife, Elizabeth, continues to attend games with full support from the East High community.
"I instantly started crying and I thanked him," said Kube. "I couldn't have asked for East to do anything better to honor Alex and to represent him. East was our family and they have made me their family even after he's been gone."
As for the team's success, that touchdown pushed the E-Rabs into the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. It's something Kube predicted would happen after watching his players beat that same Boylan team just a year ago.
"We're going to do things that nobody believes that those kids can accomplish because of those kids' circumstances," said Kube in a series of videos posted to his Instagram account. "Those kids don't have a two million dollar weight room, they don't come from five, 50 million dollar families, they don't come from that, they don't have that and they still find a way. Just look out for Rockford East, E-Rabs football because it's going to be something amazing, it's going to be something special."