Preseason football camp is intended to be a time to bond with new teammates, learn new roles and shake the rust off following a long offseason. This past summer, the Bonny Eagle players were still nursing the aches of the first day of drills when they were forced to cope with tragedy.

On Aug. 21, soon after the Scots arrived at camp, they received word that Dana Jackson, a starting offensive lineman on the 2007 Class A state champion team, was killed in an early-morning car accident in Buxton. The 18-year-old honor roll student at Bonny Eagle had attended college orientation just the day before.

“It was a hard thing to deal with, finding out up at camp on the second day, then on the third day, dealing with it,” said Bonny Eagle senior Josh Spearin, who played next to Jackson on the offensive line. “He was my guard. We worked together on every play.”

Jackson is remembered by his teammates as a quiet, hardworking player whose diligence in the weight room and intelligence on the field made him into a starter on one of the best lines in the state. While time has dulled the pain of losing a friend and teammate, Jackson’s memory remains with the Scots every time they take the field.

“At the beginning of the season, we all said we were going to make this season in memory of Dana, so that’s what we’ve been thinking about before every game,” said Bonny Eagle senior linebacker Dayton McPherson. “We always like to say, ‘This one’s for Dana.'”

After topping Thornton Academy 20-0 in Saco last Saturday, Bonny Eagle (9-2) will again play for the state title. The Scots will face Eastern Maine champ Skowhegan (10-1) at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Dana’s mother, Joanne Jackson, said she and husband Neil Jackson plan to be there. They’ve been following the team closely this season. It has helped them cope with the loss of their son, she said.

“That was Dana’s love. Football was his love,” she said. “Those boys are like a band of brothers. It helps. It really does.”

Joanne said many of the players have left notes on Dana’s MySpace page. On a recent visit to Dana’s gravesite, Joanne found cards from players saying they were going to win the state championship for him.

“They have just been the best,” Joanne said. “I’m so impressed with these boys. I hope they can get the job done and win the Gold Ball.”

Many of the Bonny Eagle players will wear eye black stickers with Dana’s number on them on Saturday – as they have throughout the year – as a way to show he remains in their thoughts.

“The starters wear the eye black with ‘RIP 63’ on it,” McPherson said. “It’s just in commemoration of how much we miss him and how much of a great player he was.”

When the Scots take the field on Saturday, they’ll try to honor Dana in the best way they know possible – with another title.

“We try to ask him for his help before every single game,” McPherson said. “We’ll go out there and do our best for his sake.”

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