BURNT HILLS — There were no posters or banners hanging on the fence that surrounds Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School's Centennial Field, nothing that marked the sadness hanging over the program. There were no stripes or special stickers on the helmets of the Spartans varsity players that were scrimmaging Saturday against a group from Shaker.
Deacon Martucci was still in their thoughts, though, even as they tried for a few hours to put aside his tragic death.
"He was excited to be up playing with us," Spartans rising senior quarterback Darien LaPietro said of Martucci, who was a grade lower than his new teammate. "He was a high energy guy. A kid you wanted to be around on the football field and as a friend."
Martucci died in a one-vehicle accident in Glenville the Friday before last at the age of 16. He had played with the Burnt Hills junior varsity football team last year, and was climbing the depth chart with the varsity like his brother Cannon had a few years before.
"I've known him since elementary school," said Anne-Marie Warren, president of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Booster Club. "He made people laugh. He was kind. He was polite. He affected everyone he met."
Martucci had a lot of friends, and the rising junior was fast gaining more as one of the varsity newcomers.
"Everybody loved him," Burnt Hills varsity football coach Matt Shell said after Saturday's scrimmage. "What happened is just tragic. Awful. The kids are still trying to figure out everything. As coaches we're trying to figure it out, too.
"We are going to battle and get better. We've got to heal emotionally. This was the first step."
Martucci's funeral was Thursday. His wake was held Wednesday. On Tuesday, Martucci's best friend, Sam Stevens, organized through social media a get-together in front of the high school to celebrate his life and dozens upon dozens of students and adults showed up.
"We wanted to show Deacon how much he meant," said Stevens, a rising junior, who, like his pal, had made the jump this year from the JV to the varsity football team. "We wanted to bring everyone together to show him the impact he left."
Stevens watched the scrimmage from the sideline due to a hand injury, wishing he and Martucci could both be out there. He spoke glowingly of his longtime friend.
"He saw everything differently," Stevens said. "When he spoke, people listened. He was very smart. He stood out. He was just different. He made a name for himself."
Stevens was among those with Martucci shortly before his accident.
"It was disbelief," Stevens said. "I was with him an hour before at a friends house."
Stevens is certain Martucci would have found his way onto the field for game action this season as a defensive linebacker.
"He was a good player," Stevens said. "They were getting him in the rotation. He had a huge hit last year I'll never forget."
Martucci and Stevens played JV baseball together this past season and had planned to try out for the varsity team next spring.
"He loved to play football," Shell said. "He loved to play all sports in general. He was a good athlete."
Warren said by the time the varsity football team heads to Gloversville for its season opener Friday their helmets will have a black stripe down the middle and a sticker with the initials 'DM' on the back in honor of Martucci. She said the varsity players requested that, as well as a commemorative sign to hang in the lockerroom.
"The boys wanted a sign so they can remember him before they come out," Warren said.
Shell said it was good for his varsity team to get on the field and trade hits with an opponent for a couple hours Saturday.
"It was good to get out and play," Shell said. "It's been such an emotional week. Your mind needs a break. It's what we needed to do."