DALLAS (AP) — Players from a South Dallas high school football team will play their first-round playoff game Thursday night in honor of their fallen coach.

On Friday, they will bury him.

Jack Schuler, 51, an economics teacher and defensive line coach at Kimball High, died Monday morning after collapsing in a classroom full of students, including some football players. Schuler’s death left the team reeling, and some initially wondered whether they should play on so soon after losing a father figure and friend.

“We just lost one of our family members,” head coach Darrell Jordan said. “Coach was a part of our family.”

Several of the Knights, including defensive standouts Chris Gipson and Bennie Wright, were in Schuler’s classroom when their coach went down. Schuler had smiled, cracked a joke related to the economics lesson at hand and then fell, gasping for air.

Gipson said he sprinted from the classroom, alerted several nearby teachers and then made a dash for the school nurse.

Paramedics arrived and tried to revive Schuler as they rushed him to a hospital.

“But I knew when I went in and saw him there, he was already gone,” Gipson said. “He was blue.”

Schuler was dead, likely of a heart attack. And his players were left to mourn, three days before their playoff opener against Dallas Samuell. They skipped practice that night, with coaches and teammates trying to help one another through their grief.

“We sat in the locker room and prayed,” Wright said.

They also listened to comforting words from Jordan, who tried to use Schuler’s death to teach his players a lesson.

“Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them,” Jordan said. “Don’t leave something unsaid that you could say today. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone.”

That hit home to players displeased about a season in which the tradition-rich team didn’t always live up to its own lofty expectations.

Despite an unyielding defense that allows fewer than 10 points per game, Kimball is 5-5. Four of those losses were by a total of 11 points, including a 3-2 loss to Tyler Lee.