CANTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Between the band, the cheerleaders, and the fans, the excitement surrounding Canton South High School’s first football game of the season is loud and clear.
But it’s the moment of the silence, before the game, that also speaks volumes signifying that the Wildcat’s are missing one of their own: Omarion Baker.
“Right when we were getting into camp and two-a-days, we had this awful tragedy with Omar,” said head coach Matt Dennison.
Thirteen-year-old Omarian, or Omar as he was known, would’ve been a freshman this year.
“The kid loved football. He was a beloved kid in the class. He was everybody’s best friend,” said Dennison.
Last month, Omar was swimming at Cleveland Metroparks’ Villa Angela Beach with friends, when he didn’t come back up from the water.
“It was a terrible time for our kids, for our community,” said Dennison. “But the kids have really rallied and done a good job coming back and working through it.”
Now, the entire team will be wearing Omar’s initials ‘OB’ on their helmets the entire season.
“Our coach said he was going to give us an ‘OB’ sticker for the back of our helmet and our faces lit up. We really loved Omar,” said Jzanon Hill, a freshman and Omar’s best friend.
Hill has also chosen to wear Omar’s football number 16 in his honor.
“He was really lovable to everyone,” he said. “We all miss him.”
Hill said he could’ve never imagined being at his first high school game without his friend by his side.
“He loved football, always wanted to play for the Steelers,” he said.
But if he can’t play with him, then Hill said he’ll play for him.
“I’m going to keep his number and I’m going to wear his number forever,” said Hill.
Dennison echoed his sentiment.
“He’s just going to be in our hearts and our thoughts all year long,” said Dennison.