Macon, Georgia (CNN)Dylan Thomas' number was painted on the faces of Pike County High School cheerleaders, emblazoned on T-shirts, wristbands and the towels hanging from his teammates' waists.
Under Friday night lights, Georgia high school 'played from the heart' to win first game since teammate's death
Balloons of No. 32 floated in the air under the Friday night lights of the field in Macon, south of Atlanta.
The 16-year-old Pike County linebacker -- who wore No. 32 -- collapsed in the third quarter during a football game last week. Dylan had to be helped off the field. He lost consciousness and died of a head injury two days later, on Sunday.
There were reminders of Dylan everywhere -- even in the prayer by the play-by-play announcer who pastored a local church -- as the teenager's teammates slugged it out with Rutland High School on Friday, Pike's first game since Dylan's death.
Fans and parents wore red shirts that had Dylan's initials and number. Coaches wore red shirts with his name on the back.
What was supposed to be just another Friday night game for the Pirates took on new meaning. Teammates said they were determined to play for Dylan -- who was known as DT -- and for everyone in the close-knit community, such as the churchgoers who welcomed players into their sanctuaries in the days following Dylan's death. His parents wanted the team to play, too.
"The loss of Dylan will now force us to strengthen our hearts," Jordan Holley said of his teammate in a message to CNN. "We may not be the fastest, strongest or best team in our region and we may not win another game this season but moving forward there's not a single high school team in the United States that has more heart than us, right now."
Twenty-four hours before the game, hundreds attended Dylan's funeral. His teammates and members of the junior varsity team wore their red jerseys following his family's request.
Mourners painted the number 32 on car windows.
A group of players from Peach County High School -- the team Pike County played when Dylan was fatally injured -- came to pay their respects Thursday. Peach County Coach Chad Campbell had told his team it was going to be a tough day. Two years ago, two Peach County players died in a car accident, he said.
Campbell said he knew what Pike County was going through, and how community matters.
"Pike County loves their sports and their community. This is a rallying cry for that community and knowing from our circumstances a couple years ago, it made our community get closer," he told CNN.