STILLMAN VALLEY, Ill. (WIFR) The Big Northern title is on the line when Stillman Valley and Genoa-Kingston meet on Friday, but this is about more than football. This is about two communities, two schools, two teams coming together to show support for one of their own.
"I can't imagine being in a place where a person could be more loved and cherished than here," said Scott Rempfer.
Cancer may be no match for the army of adoration Rempfer has standing beside him. The Stillman Valley assistant coach did not ask for any of it, but he now knows he is not alone.
"It's humbling more than anything else," Rempfer said. "It's not the kind of attention you want, but I don't know how anyone could complain."
At the start of the season, Rempfer was told by doctors that a tumor on the side of his face was cancer. The special education teacher missed time for surgery and will miss more for radiation.
Cardinals head coach Mike Lalor admires his determination.
"He's taken it straight on and it's some of the worst news you can get, but he hasn't done the self pity thing at all," said Lalor. "He's just found a way to keep going every day and take this thing head on."
In more than 20 years at Stillman, Rempfer has made an impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of students with many sending their love through the mail. While he asks his current players not to use him as motivation, it's pretty difficult for them not to.
"He's impacted so many people that it's easy to get behind him and rally behind him because you want him to beat it," said senior Trae Varney.
"We really want to play for him at the same time, but I think he just doesn't want all of that glamour," said senior Luke Frost. "I think he just wants us to play our game and just not for him."
"He said don't play for me, but we have to," said senior Logan Jennings. "He puts so much into this team and if we weren't playing for him then I don't know what else I'd be playing for."
The support is not restricted to the Stillman sideline. Genoa-Kingston assistant and former athletic director Jim Hughes has watched Rempfer since grade school and says they are right there with the Cogs grad.
"Obviously both Stillman and Genoa Kingston want to win that game, before the game coming together for coach Rempfer, we're all teammates joining him in his battle," said Hughes.
On Friday, fans from both sides of the stadium will be sporting t-shirts with Rempfer's motto "I'm built for this," which he says has only grown stronger with time. However, Rempfer cannot help but think how much more fortunate he is than others."
"I think about people that have to go through what I'm going through and worse, that have to do it alone and that really gets to me because I'm not."