- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

LEXINGTON, Okla. (AP) - Ten Lexington players walk onto the field each Friday night determined to accomplish what they normally would with 11, for just one play.

Lexington returns to a full lineup on the next play, but the missing player remains on the mind of everyone involved with Lexington football.

The No. 12 belonged to Nick Faught, a two-way starter as a freshman last season. His number adorns the left side of each helmet, T-shirts, a banner and on the jersey the captains carry on the field for the pregame coin toss.

Lexington honors Faught each game the best way it knows how: by making sure he’s still with them seven months after his shocking death from an autopsy described as “binge drinking.”

“I feel like we all feel him out there with us,” said Lexington senior Nathan Ford. Everyone coming out here to cheer for us, it all seems like we all get a sense of Nick back.”

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1LOP67I ) reports the 15-year-old Faught died March 29.

Two adults - thirty-year-old Tonya Lynne Moss and thirty-four-year-old Justin Moore - were arrested and charged with allowing a person under 21 to possess or consume alcohol or drugs.

Friday’s game vs. Dibble will be Lexington’s last at home of the season, the final time the team will get to honor Faught in front of the community that has rallied since his death.

“We gain a lot from keeping his spirit alive to where it’s not just something that happened,” assistant coach Russell Price said. “Yes, it happened but there was a lesson to be learned from it. We hope that these guys and everybody else learns something from it.

Faught would have been an impact player for the Bulldogs as a free safety and wide receiver.

He had the athleticism, the strong work ethic and the charisma to be a star. He also played baseball, was in the FFA and was even about to dabble in bull riding.

“I bet I heard six kids tell me that Nick was their best friend,” said Lexington coach Jeff Hall, who was the high school principal last school year. “Think about that. Are there six people in your life that would say he’s my best friend? There’s not in mine. Nick had six tell me that. That tells you a lot about the kid.”

Yet something was different March 28. Faught had planned to attend a birthday party.

According to his mom, Heather Lawson, Faught exchanged text messages that day with a friend who begged him not to go and asked why he even wanted to. His response: He had never had the chance before.

Later that evening, Faught and another friend arrived at the party. According to the autopsy, Faught was drinking too much and suffered from nausea and vomiting before becoming unresponsive.

“There’s no excuse, but Nick wasn’t that kid,” Faught’s father, David, said. “I don’t know what the circumstances were, but I hate that that’s what got him because he wasn’t that kid.”

According to an affidavit, Moss came home early the next morning from a casino when Faught was unresponsive. She then performed CPR unsuccessfully, but left the scene with Moore before authorities arrived. They later lied about being there earlier. Moss eventually told the authorities she became scared and left because a “little boy had just died in my house.”

They were arrested on March 31. Moss also faces charges of child neglect and possession of firearms after conviction or during probation. Moore also faces charges of carrying weapons and knowingly concealing stolen property. Both await their district court arraignment.

Since the accident, the Lexington football team has become outspoken against underage drinking. Three times since March, Hall has been alerted about parties that he in turn has alerted his law enforcement contacts to get the party shut down.

On the night of Faught’s funeral, rumors spread of a party happening somewhere. Hall and his staff drove around until 4:30 a.m. unsuccessfully searching for it.

“I don’t think we really care,” Ford said, referring to the possibility of students getting upset. “We’re just watching out for everyone.”

Most of Lexington’s opponents haven’t even noticed the team lining up with just 10 players.

Three weeks ago, however, Lindsay coach John Inman quickly figured out why that was happening. He decided his team would line up with 10 as well.

“It was a move that we felt like having lost some kids from our program in the past it’s really tough to deal with and it’s a very, very small token,” Inman said. “We felt like in honor of him that it was certainly the least we can do.”

When a coach doesn’t know, though, it doesn’t exactly end well. Take the Sept. 25 game against Washington, which scored on the first play when the play call went right at Faught’s vacant spot.

Warriors coach Brad Beller later learned why the defense was short one player.

“I was going, ‘Oh my gosh, what an idiot,’” Beller said. “I felt so bad. I wanted to call (Hall) and apologize, but honestly I was too embarrassed to call him. Oh, I felt bad.”

Faught’s death was the third high school student to die last year - two of which came in separate car accidents.

Friday night has since become a time to come together.

“I don’t know that we’ve healed,” Hall said. “Every game is hard.”

The football team plans to line up with 10 players on the opening play of each game through what would have been Faught’s senior year in the 2017 season.

Much like the banner the players carry says, Faught will be forever remembered.

“It makes me feel good for Nick, it makes me sad but overall I’d say it’s a good feeling because the 11th guy obviously would have been Nick,” David said. “I think if he is watching, I think that would make him smile. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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