BALTIMORE — The Mervo High School Mustang's 7-game winning streak heading into their match up against the Dundalk Owls for the state championship can be summed up by #7 himself, Elijah Gorham.
An 8th straight win for Mervo High would symbolize a kept promise the team made to themselves in Gorham's honor.
Final memories of the late senior wide receiver motivate Mervo football players to make history as Maryland State Champions.
"He caught the kick, he caught it. I'm watching him. Man, he cut up the field. He hurdled a dude and he just went up the sideline full speed. The crowd was going crazy and I was just like 'dang he said he was going to do it and he did it' he returned the kick," Kylish Kick, a Mervo senior wide receiver and safety remembered.
That was the last game Elijah would play and the last promise he made his teammates.
"Knowing that our brother's not here anymore, like we gotta practice harder, play harder. Just knowing what he would want for us," said Hicks.
They say Elijah has been their biggest inspiration well before the season even started.
"I was about to give up but on the bus stop Elijah told me stop bluffing he basically told me straight up I cant quit because this is what I love to do," said Jamal Baldwin, a senior offensive linebacker for the Mustangs.
Mervo's head football coach, as great as this season has been on the field, hopes his players will pursue greatness in Elijah's honor beyond the field.
"Not letting your greatness be circumstantial. A lot of time our kids are making promises or say they're going to be great when all the circumstances are correct when things are right when the sun is out but they've got to be willing to be great and do all of the right things even when things aren't going your way. You have to keep pushing and keep moving forward," said Coach Patrick Nixon.
To Mervo players, coaches have become more than football coaches but their life coaches.
"I'm hoping they get that from the season regardless of what happens tomorrow they're going to keep their head high and keep pushing forward and be great at their future endeavors," Nixon shared with WMAR-2 News
Players leaned on their coaches who were battling through bereavement themselves. It was a battled they all faced and still face together.
"They were going through it just like how we were. We all cried together. they held it down as best as they could and we got through it. Still getting through it," said Davon Telp, a senior linebacker.
"I think things changed with the passing of Elijah. It went from we want to do this to we have to do this," said Coach Nixon.
Now they all have one last step in their mission together, keeping the promise they made to themselves and to Elijah.
"Knowing that we said we were going to win the state championship for him and doing it means a lot just like how he said he was going to return that kick and he did it," said Hicks.
"Winning that state championship and just letting him know that we meant what we said we kept our promise," added Baldwin.
Mervo takes on Dundalk at the Navy Marine Corpse Stadium in Annapolis Thursday at 7 p.m.
Full list of MD high school football championship games (in order of when they take place)
All games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis
12/2 7:00 p.m.
12/3 4:00 p.m.
Milford Mill Academy (12-1)
Douglass (Prince George’s) (12-1)
12/3 7:30 p.m.
Quince Orchard (13-0)
South Carroll (12-0)
12/4 3:30 p.m.
Fort Hill (12-0)
Mountain Ridge (12-1)
12/4 7:00 p.m.
Northern (Calvert) (11-1)