DELHI, TWP, Ohio – Students and staff at the College of Mount St. Joseph are mourning two football players killed in a crash Sunday, 9 On Your Side's AJ Walker reported.
They gathered on the football field Monday afternoon to remember Tyler Stiles and Mike Tepe, both 22, and release hundreds of balloons in school colors - blue and gold - into the sky.
"This is bad. I'm trying not to cry. This is really bad," said student Dominique Springs, who was close to Stiles.
The football team held a private prayer service at noon in the college chapel.
Football coach Rod Huber said the players were like family to him – especially Stiles, who grew up just five doors from his house.
“I've literally watched this kid grow up from kindergarten and I've just … I'm overwhelmed. I mean, I can't believe that he's not with us anymore,” Huber said.
The team is grief-stricken, Huber said.
“Some kids will take this very, very hard and other kids will internalize it and handle it on their own or through their buddies," Huber said. "But I know this: as the head coach ... my job is to help them through tragedy, through triumph.”
With just one game left against rival Thomas More on Saturday, Huber feared some players might not want to play. But one player said that never crossed his mind.
"It's going to be hard, but like I said, Tepe would want to see us go out there and play hard," said Samuel Fowler, a senior defensive back.
Bobby Sagers, a senior cornerback, said he and Tepe, a junior safety, played together for three years.
“He was always smiling, always in a good mood,” Sagers said. “If something bad happened, he’d always find a way to cheer you up.”
Sagers said he will remember what Tepe said to him after last Saturday’s game – a 51-7 win over Earlham.
“The last thing he said was, ‘Have fun. Be safe.’ “
Alcohol and speed were factors in the head-on crash, police said.
It happened about 7 p.m. at 801 Covedale Ave., near Rapid Run Road. Stiles, of Amelia, was driving a 2003 Honda Civic north on Covedale when it crossed the center line and struck a 2008 Lexus RX350 driven by Michael Riggs, 63.
Stiles and Tepe, of Springboro, were pronounced dead at the scene. Neither was wearing a seatbelt, police said.
Riggs and his wife, Margaret Riggs, 61, were taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. He was treated and released. She was listed in stable condition.
Stiles was majoring in communications/new media studies with a minor in criminology, the college said. Stiles had been on the football team but didn't play this year, Sagers said.
Tepe was majoring in social work.
“The College mourns the loss of two students in the Mount family,” college president Tony Aretz said in a statement. “Tyler and Michael were well known and well liked within the Mount community. This is a difficult time for the members of our campus community. Please keep the families and friends of Tyler and Michael in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
College officials said counselors were available for students at the Wellness Center.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
The investigation is ongoing and investigators ask any witnesses to the crash to contact the Cincinnati Police Department’s Traffic Unit at (513) 352-2514.