CHARLOTTE -- Two teams played with heart and grit for the NC Rugby State Championship, but for North Mecklenburg High School it wasn't so much about the trophy. Their fire came from Marcos Hernandez.
Their teammate and their motivator, drowned Tuesday while swimming at Mountain Island Lake.
His team wanted to make him proud.
"This was about Marcos. It was about playing as hard as we could play for Marcos. When we get tired, think about Marcos,” said David Moore, a teammate.
They say Marcos was tireless, inspiring, and he knew the perfect time to crack a joke.
He wore mismatched cleats and on Saturday some of his teammates did too in his honor as others pinned on ribbons and signed a banner presented to his family after the game.
His father moved by the support from the rugby community.
"Rugby internationally is a game of comradery, and I have never felt this level of support in my life," said Bo Pasko, the coach.
After Marco's death, his team had to decide whether they wanted to play without him in the final.
"It was unanimous, every person said yes, this was an important day, we had to do it in honor of Marcos,” said Pasko.
During the match, the team members discovered they weren't playing without him at all.
"He was there with me, he was helping me,” said Corey Patton.
Even though North Meck didn't win, the team left the field telling themselves what Marco would have said.
"We still won. Let's go! Let's go to Cookout,” said Patton.