Posted at: 09/28/2013 12:21 AM
Updated at: 09/28/2013 12:23 AM
By: Dan Levy
CLIFTON PARK - The Friday night lights were just what the doctor ordered. The homecoming atmosphere on the Shenendehowa campus was frenzied and fired up. The student body, much of which was wearing green, provided a perfect cure for the blues.
According to school superintendent Oliver Robinson, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers wouldn't have wanted this night to be spent any other way.
"If they were here, they would be the spirit of the day," Robinson says, "I think the kids here have taken on that as a way of remembering them, by living life in a very exciting way, a very respectful way, in a way that characterized Chris and Deanna."
It was on the very same Shenendehowa football field last December when 10,000 mourners gathered for a memorial service, just three days after Stewart and Rivers, both popular student/athletes at the school, were killed in a Northway car crash.
The pain and the anger created by that tragedy has lingered, and the irony of returning to the same football field, ten months later, on the same day when Dennis Drue pleaded guilty to all 58 criminal charges against him in connection with the crash, created a grid iron of mixed emotions.
"I'm happy that the families get closure," said Fred Sawyer, of Clifton Park. "It's also sad to see (Drue) have to spend (up to) fifteen years in prison."
"I was pleased that they decided to plead guilty and not draw it out," said Brian Erdoes, also of Clifton Park. "I think that was a smart decision."
"It really did devastate a lot of football players," said Hunter Galpin, a Shenendehowa 8th grader, "It was a real shocker and a wake up to the community."
That's why Friday's homecoming game became a welcome turning point for a community that's been stressed out for ten months.
"Any time a life is lost it's tragic," Robinson says, "Particularly tragic when you think about how those kids lost their lives and to be completely vindicated by this young man's admission is a major, major shift in terms of the psychology of our students, (because) we can stop talking about it and move on."
Dennis Drue is scheduled to be sentenced on December 5th.