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Sportsmanship can go a long way

Wins and losses are nice when it comes to sports. But it’s really how you play the game that counts most.

There was a touching show of sportsmanship displayed at Bryant Field in Saturday’s eighth-grade JFL game between Princeton and Dixon. Princeton was leading 30-0 with a continuous running clock en force when the president of the Dixon League, Seth Tegeler, called for a timeout and met the Princeton coach at midfield. Some thought he was upset about the score or running up the game, but that was the farthest thing on his mind.

Tegeler asked Princeton if they would allow one of their players. Jacob Garland, to score a touchdown. Jacob is a special needs boy with autism and Tegeler was hoping to, as Clint Eastwood would say, “Make His Day.”

“They said they were going to give him the ball and run sweep and wanted our team to make it look good, and we said, ‘you got it,’” Princeton JFL president Jerry Weber said.

The Princeton kids made sure they did their best to give Jacob the real deal, chasing him down the field, some grabbing at his shoulders. Aaron Sears earned an Academy Award for his acting job.

“I couldn’t have been more proud of my eighth-graders,” Weber said. “They chased him and some grabbed his shoulders. Little Aaron Sears took a path running toward him when we thought — what’s he doing? All of a sudden he did big dive, timed it perfect, and just missed him. That kid stepped around him and took it in the end zone and was jumping up and down he was so excited. Seth told us he didn’t expect us to make it look that good.”

Jacob’s happiness was certainly the real deal when he reached the end zone. He ran over to the Dixon side and then ran up and down the track in front of the bleachers with the Princeton and Dixon crowd hooting and hollering as he took his victory lap.

Ed Garland said you can't believe how much they meant to his family what the Princeton boys did for Jacob, who is his only child and pride and joy.

"We all had tears in our eyes,” said Stephanie Lovett, whose husband Mike coaches the Dixon team. “It was touching. It was incredible those guys would understand what it meant for Jacob. He’ll never play football again.”

Linda Gieson, secretary and cheer coach for Dixon, said it was an awesome thing.

Princeton mom Lori Tuft (Zach) was certainly impressed, even though none of the parents in the crowd knew what was going on until they texted the coach.

“That is very good sportsmanship. Shows our kids do care,” Tuft said.

Ed Garland said the sportsmanship extended to the baseball field this summer when an opposing  team allowed Jacob to get a hit.

Jacob's story, reminds me of the story of the Greece Athena High School manager, Jacob McElwain, who came off the bench and hit six 3-point shots in 2006, and in his own words, was “on fire,” and became an overnight Internet sensation.

Great, great stories. You can’t get enough of them. Way to go boys.

• More good sports: It’s great to see how sportsmanship has been spreading this fall. Al Haun of Cherry took notice of the show of sportsmanship of a Fulton fan donating the winnings of that night’s 50-50 from the Hall-Fulton game back to the Daniel Lule family. They tragically lost their son on the first practice of the football season.

Hall athletic director Eric Bryant Jr. said that’s happened a couple different times this season, which speaks highly of the Big Rivers Conference as a whole.

“It is just simply amazing how people can come together in a time of a horrible tragedy,” Bryant said.

On Tuesday, St. Bede Academy not only honored its senior volleyball players on Senior Night, they also presented the seniors from Princeton with a bouquet of flowers. What a classy touch. The PHS girls were clearly moved by the gesture

• Last call: Lanny Slevin, the longtime Voice of the Valley will make his final call of LaSalle-Peru football at Geneseo Friday night. He worked his first game for WLPO on the first Friday of October in 1973 at Roscoe Eades Stadium in Sterling with Jeff Green and Dave Patterozzi. He said he let Green drive since he had no idea where they were going, and was too nervous to drive anyway.

He’ll continue to call Cavs basketball games and would like to ride off into the broadcast sunset next spring calling St. Bede’s baseball title game in Peoria.

If you get a chance, be sure to tune into 1220 AM Friday night to hear the golden voice call football once more. Lanny’s play-by-play is as sweet as the days I spent growing up listening to Jack Buck’s Cardinals broadcasts.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com

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