Dylan Keith lost his last battle - drowning in a pond near Allemansville Saturday afternoon, when he was about 20 yards from safety, after trying to swim across.
His former football coach on Sunday evening, however, preferred to look back on a battle Keith won, after a challenge that would have discouraged many young men.
It was early in the 2010 season, when Keith was a senior at Moshannon Valley playing against Glendale - and Coach Murray Fetzer had started another player over Keith at cornerback.
"I want to see you step up," explained Fetzer to Keith, who had only won his starting position at the beginning of that season.
Keith didn't argue or complain.
But in the third quarter, after Fetzer inserted him, and with Glendale driving, Keith intercepted a pass in the end zone.
There will be a benefit bake sale and fundraiser to benefit the Keith family from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Shop & Save Express/Woodward Pharmacy in Houtzdale. It will be run on a "take what you want, give what you can" basis. For more information or to donate, call Toni Gearhart at 553-6681.
"I knew he had come into his own then," Fetzer said.
As the young man came off the field, Fetzer hugged him and said, "You didn't back down from the challenge. You embraced it."
Except for that game, Keith started all his games his senior year at both cornerback and wide receiver.
He was one of a core of seniors "who never quit," Fetzer said.
In the last regular season game, against Southern Huntingdon, to determine which of the two teams would go to the playoffs, Moshannon Valley began the second half two touchdowns behind.
During a comeback, Keith, on offense, threw a block 30 yards downfield, as his tailback followed.
That kind of block - so far downfield - exemplifies grittiness in a wide receiver, like that of Steeler great Hines Ward.
"We ended up pulling that game out," Fetzer said. "When the chips were down, he showed up."
Later, reviewing tape of the Southern Huntingdon game with his players, Fetzer reran the play several times.
That's how we want you to play, he told them.
Keith was happy-go-lucky, according to his brother, Scott Fleming.
A mama's boy, Fleming wrote in an email.
And devoted to a 15-month-old niece, Arianna, who called him "Uncle Crazy."
"They were inseparable," Fleming wrote.
In the way of kids everywhere, Keith became a fan of a sports team - the San Francisco 49ers - because his brother was.
His brother was a fan for the most insubstantial of reasons - because his initials, SF, matches the initials of the city where the 49ers played.
"His mom bought Scott a helmet when he was 2," family friend Allyson Hegarty said.
Keith's death is the first among current or recent students that Moshannon Valley Principal John Dibert has had to contend with during his three years at the school.
"Incredibly sad," Dibert said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.