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To say the least, it's been a long season for my son and his teammates on their little-league football team. Because we live in a small, rural town, let's say the pool of potential ball players is much smaller, and so are many of our boys. Yet our league takes us to the Wasatch Front to play teams where hundreds, in some cases, try out.
As hard as they tried (and they played their hearts out) our boys were simply out muscled and out massed and the final scores reflected that.
But Saturday's game gave them a chance to walk tall off the field with their heads held high.
By the fourth quarter, our team was losing, 28-7. (We were proud of the fact that our boys had put together a long-sustained drive for a score in the game.) But as the clock wound down, having given the ball over on downs deep in our own territory, the other team moved again toward our end-zone.
As runner sped to what appeared to be an easy score, he suddenly stepped out of bounds on the one-yard line. The next play, they handed off the ball to a player who had been playing on the defensive line for much of the game. There was a miscue and the boy was sacked deep in the back-field.
Again, they handed the ball to same boy. Again he was sacked and we got the ball back on downs.
But soon the other team had the ball again and once again, a runner purposely stepped out at the one-yard line when he could easily have scored. Just like before, the boy who had been involved in the miscue went in.
Our coach called a time out. After a short meeting with our players on the field, the play was set. Following the snap, the opposing team's quarterback handed the ball off to the boy, then put his arm around him and ran with him in the direction of the right side of our line, which suddenly had become very open. He made it into the end-zone to the cheers of both sides.
Turns out, as I understand it, the boy is autistic and the team had tried all season to help him score just one touchdown. After the game, the coach told our coach they had tried unsuccessfully for seven games to help him score, and that on the second-to-last series the discouraged boy had walked off the field and told him "I'll never do it, I'm too stupid." Scoring that touchdown, as our coach put it, "Meant the world to him."
The play and what happened afterward, erased whatever ugliness had happened during the season. I applaud the opposing team and coaches for what they did.
I also applaud our coach, and especially our boys who had courageously lined up against much bigger boys play after play during the season, and who stood up like giants when it came to something that really mattered.