The high school team took the field Friday night for the first time since four team members were killed in a car crash.
Their opponents hugged and greeted them.
Their community cheered louder than ever for them.
And their hearts were heavy for the four players, Nick Conner, Dean Khoury, Edgar Bozzi and Casey Brenner, who lost their lives just three weeks ago in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway.
"This is a very happy day for me today to be around everybody and see the boys recover, help themselves heal and get on the field tonight," Ted Khoury, Dean's father, said.
Families of the victims were applauded as they walked in.
Moments later, the school remembered the teenagers with a ceremony, promised never to forget and unveiled a mural honoring the young men.
"Everything has been phenomenal and I think that's what's kept the families of the four of us who have lost our sons, that's what's keeping us together right now," John Brenner, Casey's father, said.
In the stands, students wore t-shirts with the names of the four players on the back.
"They're always here, they're going to be here no matter what, but it's hard for us to come back to normal and start new," junior Alex Raring said.
Getting back to normal - that's what this kickoff against the Hammonton High Blue Devils represented as this community and school start the healing process.
"I think it's going to be a year where we learn a lot about ourselves and grow. One of the things we need to do is continue the strength in community and support in the school, the players who were killed loved the game so much; their parents say their spirits will be felt on the field every Friday night," Principal Mark Marrone said.
"It's hard you know, I want to see my son play, but I love all his friends and all of Mainland, I went to Mainland so we're here and I'm here and I'm not going anywhere," Cristina Meoli, Nick Conner's mother, said.
Four other players injured the crash were able to play in the game.