With heavy hearts and candles, they gathered to remember the coach who died only 24 hours ago.
"Gene Daniels is an icon in Apex," Apex High School Principal Matt White said.
Daniels, 47, who was better known as Coach D, was a beloved PE teacher before leading the girls' soccer teams at Salem Middle and Apex High.
News of his sudden death -- a possible heart attack -- has brought hundreds to Thursday night's vigil, asking why.
"That's the other hard part, he was at practice with the girls yesterday and then for him to pass away suddenly, it's just been very, very difficult," White said.
A mentor, a friend, a husband and a father -- Daniels has left his mark on the Apex community, encouraging students to live as he lived.
"Just always a giving spirit, just very much a giving person and that's what will be truly missed," Apex High School Athletic Director Del Phillips said.
Thursday night they remembered a man who was more than a team player, more than any win on the field. He was "family" his soccer team said.
Daniels was supposed to see a cardiologist Thursday for a heart problem. He's survived by his wife and two teenage children, who are students at Apex High School.