'Lightweight' Elk River football team honors classmate killed in crash

The city of Elk River, Minnesota suffered a serious tragedy two months ago when a 12-year-old boy was killed in an accident

Many middle school students are still dealing with the loss. So, the city’s  “lightweight” football team decided they could do something about it. 

Kristian Berquist is pretty brave to start football as an eighth grader. Eighth grade is tough on any kid, but it is especially young to be dealing with the weight of losing a classmate -- one that was your best friend.

"[Ian] was my best friend and we really enjoyed hanging out together and he was super funny,” Kristian said. 

Ian Kniseley was hit and killed by a car in September when he stepped into oncoming traffic on Highway 169 in Elk River. It was a terrible accident. 

Kristian found out the news at football practice from his own father and it left him and the other kids with a pretty big hole in their hearts.

"I had to tell him right on the field and i just pulled him out of there and went home,” Kristian’s dad said. 

While these kids do not have much experience in death, Coach Justin Oestreich says they do know how to be a team.

“A couple of the kids tried to rally behind him and tried to offer some support came up with the idea to put name on back of helmet and play first game in honor of him and it's stuck through the season,” Oestreich said. 

The team dedicated their season to Ian, with Kristian leading the first group cheer.

"That time Kristian lead them and they did ‘one, two, three ...Ian’ and they started screaming and jumping around,” Kristian’s dad said. 

Oestreich says he really tries to teach the kids that it is “all one team as a family” and that they have to have one another’s back. 

“I feel really good about it,” Kristian said. “I feel like it's giving us something to play for.”