YELLVILLE, Ark. -- Kymball Duffy's final football "game" didn't take place under the glow of Friday night lights, but it was impossible to tell by the players and fans who gathered for it in a small Arkansas town.
The 1,300 residents of Yellville, and then some, crowded into a school gymnasium Wednesday to honor the 16-year-old offensive and defensive tackle, who was killed in a rollover truck crash just hours before his Panthers were to host the season's first home game.
In the small community with a passion for high school football, mourners wore team jerseys, cheer-leading outfits and hand-painted T-shirts bearing Kymball's number 72. The teen was to be buried in his green home-game jersey, black-and-white shorts and a pair of athletic socks.
"Just like he was coming home from football practice," said local funeral home worker Jim Collins.
Yellville-Summit High School football games bring the town together to sip hot chocolate in foam cups, cheer touchdowns and commiserate about losses. Away from the field, parents mind their neighbor's children as well as their own, hidden away from the rest of the world among the hills of north Arkansas' Ozark Mountains.
"If there ever was a village as Hillary Clinton would talk about to raise a child, this is one," said high school principal Ralph Bishop. "We take pride in our village, raising our kids."
It's where Kymball Ray Duffy was raised. The stocky boy who drank lots of milk and made other people laugh not only played football, but loved it, memorizing all the plays kept on the quarterback's wrist to prepare for a no-huddle offense.
Last Friday, the high school junior left a school pep rally with four friends. The team planned to have its traditional pre-game supper at Kymball's house, then return to the field to face the Salem Greyhounds from nearby Fulton County.
The meal was left untouched as panicked phone calls brought players and community members to the narrow country road that leads to Kymball's home. Just past a small brush pile left by a road crew, they found the small pickup truck Kymball drove.
Marion County Sheriff Roger Vickers said in his excitement, Kymball had sped down the road with two of the friends riding in the truck's bed. Kymball came over a hill and dodged the brush pile, running up the other side of the road before overcorrecting and losing control, the sheriff said.
Four of the boys went flying from the truck. Kymball died there, only a short distance from home. Another boy remains medically sedated at a hospital in Springfield, Mo., Bishop said.
White shoe polish messages scrawled on vehicle windows that celebrated the team were soon converted to mobile memorials to "KD 72." Stickers bearing "KD 72" showed up on cars' back windows and the high school's front doors. Inside, students wore hand-painted signs bearing the initials. A locker decorated in green construction paper bore Kymball's name and a message: "You will never be forgotten."
Twenty-seven counselors came to the high school of 290 students, offering support. Bishop wore a green rubber bracelet on his wrist, the kind popularized by one athlete but now commemorating the town's shared loss.
"It helped out our kids and it helps our neighboring communities too, because they hurt with you," the principal said. "They know how easily it could happen to one of theirs."
Kymball's parents planned to hold the Wednesday funeral at the football field, but rain forced mourners inside a brand new school basketball gym. Still, the football field's score board remained lit, showing 72-72.
"His family really wanted this to kind of be his last game," coach Calvin Mallett said.
It began with the entire Salem Greyhounds team coming across the floor in uniform and walking over to touch Kymball's casket, draped in white lilies and topped by a football. Uniformed Panthers players of all ages then walked across the hard court, bumping their fists into Kymball's helmet and putting their palms on his casket.
Some wept when they talked. Others smiled through the tears as they danced to a Christian rock song. Kymball's father, a pastor, later gave a sermon to those gathered and called them to the front to be saved.
Another hymn played over the speakers as classmates joined Kymball's family in their grief.
It was Kymball's last huddle.