• Playing through tragedy: Beggs one win away from winning state title in honor of fallen teammate

    By: Nathan Thompson

    Updated:

    Tragedy is not supposed to be for high school students -- for teenagers on football teams playing for state titles -- but it's the hand this team, this year was dealt.

    "It was one of the hardest things I've had to go through in my life," said Beggs senior linebacker Dax McElroy.

    The Beggs football team and the community surrounding it are still healing from the murder of starting running back Kayson Toliver and his younger sister Kloee five weeks ago.  According to court documents, their own mother admitted shooting them both in their sleep.


    "I still don't believe it to this day," said Beggs senior running back Jared Sutter. "Just feels like he's sick or in the hospital or something. Feel like he'll come back in a day or two."


    "You try to deny that that's what you're being told," Beggs head coach David Tenison said. "How is she saying this? Why is she saying this? This can't really be real."

    The demons aren't moving on, but they are playing on. They're taking on Sperry in the Class 2A state championshiop game thursday night at 7 in Owasso -- the same Sperry team they played the day after Kayson died.

    The team honored Kayson that night with a moment of silence, a special coin flip, and their first offensive play was in a missing man formation -- ten players instead of 11. The Demons are still honoring Kayson. They're wearing his number on their helmets and breaking their huddles by saying Kayson Toliver's initials.

    Beggs' locker room has become a sort of shrine for Kayson with letters and messages from teams across the state. More than one hundred schools have reached out. The Demons' second-round opponent Oklahoma Christian gave each Beggs football player their own Bible with personalized messages plus a hand towel with Kayson's number 27 on it. But the biggest tribute for Kayson is from the team itself -- Kayson's locker left as it was but with more. There are pictures of Kayson left after his death and even his favorite snack. They're all memories of a teammate and friend lost too soon.


    "You know you walk by and you see the pictures and stuff and it feels like just yesterday you were taking those pictures or hanging around with him and stuff," said Sutter. "It brings a smile to your face and lets you know how good of a friend he was."


    "He's still here like he's still a part of us even though he's not physically like he's still a brother to us," Beggs senior quarterback Dalton Spring said.

     

    There's one more game for Beggs, one chance to win a gold ball for the first time in 43 years, one person they say they're doing it all for.


     "This whole football season and the rest of our lives are gonna be doing everything for him," said McElroy.


    "It's all for you, Kayson," Sutter said. "We did this all for you."

    Next Up: