FREEPORT, Pa. — With a little creative planning, two opposing high school football teams allowed for a moment that a teammate with autism will remember forever.
It was the fourth quarter with two minutes on the clock during the Oct. 24 game between Valley and Freeport high schools in Freeport, Pennsylvania. Valley was down by more than a touchdown.
However, emphasis on the game took a sharp turn, at least for Valley junior Zachary Clarke, a loyal and dedicated member of the team who has autism. What happened next stunned his mother, Kathy Clarke.
“I said to my husband, ‘He’s in,’ ” she said.
“I’ll give you the ball and you run to the end zone, and he said, ‘All right,’ ” explained quarterback Phillip Petit. “And then he’s running for a touchdown.”
For Clarke, it was no sweat.
“Just run up the middle and I’m gone,” he said. “I scored.”
His teammates raised him onto their shoulders, similar to a scene from a movie, which left the stadium in tears.
“The coaches were crying, the fans were crying and everybody’s crying,” said coach Muzzy Colosimo.
Coaches and players from both teams mapped out the play days before. A community came out in full support for a teen who never fails to give it his all.
Andrew Romanchak, the opposing team’s quarterback, said, “It’s definitely one of the moments that will live in my mind forever, a moment that changes a person.”
Assistant football coach Ron Balla said, “At the end of the day it soothes our soul that we could provide something like this for this kid because he is an awesome kid.”
The final score was Freeport 39, Valley 30.