BILLINGS — Just weeks after Rocky Mountain College football player Chandler Stalcup tragically lost his life, the Battlin' Bears took the field at home for the first time with the memory of their teammate heavy on their minds.
The last home football game of the season is typically bittersweet, as teams bid farewell to their outgoing seniors. But for this game it was a freshman that was on everyone's minds.
"We’ve banded together, there’s been tough days, there’s been crying, there’s been laughing, there’s been stories, there’s been everything. Throughout our whole program. So we’ll just keep going day by day, but he was a great one," said Rocky head football coach Chris Stutzriem.
On Oct. 28, Stalcup was shot and killed in his car after picking up his friend at a house party. Two teens have since been charged with deliberate homicide. The 18-year-old from Florida was loved by teammates and classmates.
"He’s the type of kid that always brought a smile to your face. The things that he brought every day; hard work, dedication, and he comes from a phenomenal family. We hit a home-run with him," added Stutzriem.
The Bears paid tribute to Stalcup with a moment of silence before the game.
His death didn't just take a heavy toll on the team. It impacted the entire campus.
"It happened very early in the morning; we all got an email from the Dean saying that something had happened. As time went on and we found out, unfortunately, the news of him passing, it just was very sad," said Rocky freshman Alex Coumou.
"He had a very big presence, even not knowing him personally. It was really hard just knowing he’s not here anymore," added Rocky freshman Noelle Grudzinski.
A vigil was held on campus for Stalcup the day after he was killed. Students said his loss is felt throughout the school.
"A lot of teachers will dismiss class early or pause and go, ‘Hey, we’re about to talk about gun violence,’ or something like that. Or just stop class or say, 'You're more than welcome to leave.' I had a few of my finals get put online instead of in person because so many people have missed class the last few weeks," said Rocky senior Mollie Watson.
Coumou said the entire campus has come together in the wake of the tragedy.
"After it happened it just showed how tight the community can be. Whether that was the vigil they held for him and the memorial service, or just kind of everybody being able to embrace each other," added Coumou.
"He left a lasting impression on this program and throughout this school with what he did every day. That’s why I wish we were able to be around him a lot more, because he was a special young man. And so his honor will live on day after day here," said Stutzriem.