Little league season ends on a high note for autistic S. Ogden boy

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SOUTH OGDEN -- Little league football has a less than rosy reputation at times. It's part of the reason why Harrison LaRose's parents, Ben and Cindy, had mixed feelings about letting the 12-year-old with Asperger's syndrome-—a milder variant of Autistic Disorder--play.

"I kind of felt like I was throwing him into the lion's den," Cindy LaRose said.

But they also saw an upside. Cindy said, "Ben and I both feel real strongly that the world's not going to accommodate Harrison his whole life, so he needs to be put in situations where he can cope."

Through the season, the team embraced Harrison as one of its own. His parents' hopes that he could feel part of a group came through.

It was amazing. I think there wasn't a dry eye in the stadium.

–Carl Harwood, assistant coach for the S. Ogden Jets

"First they're my team, then they became my friends, and now they're like a family. I love them," Harrison said.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, the South Ogden Jets were in Coalville playing the North Summit Braves. It was obvious the Jets would win, but the team wanted Harrison--who'd been playing mostly defense--to score. After a runner stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line, Harrison went in. The first series was a disaster. The Jets lost yards and turned the ball over on downs.

"He came off the field and was kind of upset with himself, thinking it was his fault," Assistant Coach Carl Harwood said.

But soon the Jets were driving for the end zone again, and again the runner stepped out at the 1-yard line. On first down, Harrison was hit behind the line again. Then, realizing the situation, the Braves coach called a time out and approached the Jets huddle.

"He came up and grabbed me and said to try a sweep around the left side," Harwood said.

With just over a minute in the game the ball was snapped. Quarterback Bricklan Greely handed Harrison the ball, then put his arm around him and guided him to the left.

"And when my chance came, I got to score a touchdown," Harrison said. "I spiked it [the ball] down. Everybody circled me, and I felt like I was on top of the world."

The play brought applause from both sides.

"It was amazing. I think there wasn't a dry eye in the stadium," said Harwood.

"I think what occurred on Saturday was the most remarkable display of sportsmanship in little league sports I've ever witnessed on both sides of the ball," said Ben LaRose.

I spiked it [the ball] down. Everybody circled me, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

–Harrison LaRose

After the game, Harrison floated off the field. "Maybe he'll go to the Super Bowl and go to Disney World one day," said one teammate.

"Well, I told my dad I'm going to Disneyland because that's what all the champions say," Harrison said.

His mom said he's hardly put down his football photo since then.



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Marc Giauque


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