MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. - A high school student from DAR died in a two-vehicle wreck Friday morning. The wreck happened on Simpson Road in Grant around 8:45 a.m.
Authorities identified the teen killed in the wreck as Eli Spray, 17.
Eli played tailback for the DAR Patriots football team. School officials tell us they considered canceling the game against Brindlee Mountain, but decided to use the game to honor Eli instead.
"Originally we thought about just canceling the game all together. The parents and the grandparents of Eli said by all means Eli would want us to play the game. We talked to Eli’s first cousin who plays beside him on the offensive line, he wanted to play. The seniors all wanted to play the game in honor of Eli. Quite frankly it surprised me but I wanted to honor the kids wishes," said Joel Poole, Head Coach for the DAR football team.
Eli's #77 jersey will be retired about at the game tonight in a ceremony remembering the tailback.
Eli's death is hitting not only his family hard but also the school in the entire community.
"Eli is a great kid. He was a leader among our guys. A senior. One of our strongest players. All the things that go with that. They've taken it extremely hard. It's going to be a long process to recover," said Poole.
Eli Spray, also known as Little Giant is described as the pride and joy of his family. He played for the football team on the offensive line. His family described him as big-hearted and sunny, always trying to make others laugh.
School district officials say they are heartbroken by this tragedy.
"Everyone is affected by this. We all love our students -- so the community parents, the school staff, our students -we are just all heartbroken," said Marshall County Superintendent Cindy Wigley.
The school district now has counselors on hand to help students staff and faculty cope with Eli's death
It's a tragedy that's left his family and the community in tears.
"Its tough and I couldn't imagine -- its really hitting his dad hard, it's his only son," said Eli's uncle James Kimberly.
Friday night would have been the final game of Eli's senior year.
"He has always been a bright light to the family and a role model. He's really been a pride and joy of DAR. He's been a very good straight A student," said Kimberly.
Eli's family said the road where their loved one crashed and died can be incredibly dangerous.
"If you hit certain spots -- it just really blinds you in certain areas. It is bad if you aren't an experienced driver," said Kimberly.
To honor Eli, students took part in a balloon release and the football coach gave his helmet to Eli's father.
"It's going to take us a while to get adjusted to the loss," said Kimberly.