SLOAN, IOWA (KCAU) — Last Friday, the Westwood Community suffered an unspeakable loss after an accident in the homecoming parade cost the life of 12-year-old Kage McDonald, prompting the team to move their homecoming game to Saturday, a game that proved to be exactly what the grieving Rebel community needed to rally around.

“Kage was very bright and full of energy,” junior running back and linebacker Jackson Dewald said. “He liked to have fun.”

Tragedy struck the Westwood community on Friday when Kage McDonald, a 12-year old middle schooler, died in an accident during the homecoming parade.

“He was an outstanding young man, always a smile on his face,” Westwood head football coach Cass Burkhart said. “Just a great individual.”

Westwood postponed their homecoming football game on Friday night out of respect for Kage, as the community came together on the field to pay their respects. And before the game on Saturday, the tributes continued with balloons, shirts, and his football number three painted on the grass, as well as the back of Rebel helmets.

“It’s a chance for our football team to honor Kage’s memory,” Burkhart said. “It’s a close-knit group of guys, and our junior high is a close-knit group of guys. We just wanna do everything we can to honor Kage and his family.”

The Rebels opponent, the Hinton Blackhawks, know what the Westwood community is going through all too well. Nearly two years ago, Hinton also lost one of its students in a tragic accident. After receiving community support then, including from Westwood, the Blackhawk coaching staff wore blue to show their support for the rebel community.

“We remember back to the support that we got from other communities, and just how that felt like you weren’t on an island, that other people understood other people had compassion with you and that’s kind of what we wanted to show,” Hinton head football coach Kadrian Hardersen said.

But before the Rebels and Blackhawks kicked off on Saturday, the crowd held a moment of silence, followed by the release of hundreds of balloons in a touching moment honoring Kage’s memory.

“The balloons were different colors because he liked neon colors,” DeWald said. “If you saw him in the halls he was always wearing neon green or neon yellow, so it was just in his memory to use those bright colored balloons and symbolize him.”

But perhaps the biggest tribute of all came during the game, with the rebels scoring 35 points in the second half on their way to an emotional 49-13 win over the Blackhawks. That gave a heartbroken community a chance to take their minds off of their loss for at least a couple of hours.

“We’re one big family here and we just had to get around each other,” senior offensive tackle and defensive end Caleb Drees said. “We’re feeling down but we came to play today and we left it on the scoreboard.”

“Being that rock that the community can look to and pick them up and give them something to get behind to help ease the pain a little bit,” DeWald said.

And the team plans to continue to play for Kage throughout the season, because they know, he’s always watching.

“We felt his presence before the game, during the game, halftime, everything,” DeWald said.

“We’re gonna get behind each other and we’re just gonna rally towards the end of the year for Kage,” Drees said.

A link to a GoFundMe page set up for the McDonald family can be found here.