8th-grade football player shines during team’s ‘5th quarter’
Smithfield, UT (KSL) — You can usually tell how good a football game is just by listening to the fans who are there. Especially when those fans are parents.
“Go Jake!” screamed Emily Larsen from the sidelines of a Saturday morning game at Forrester Acres in Smithfield.
Her son is on Sky View’s eighth-grade football team in Cache County. Even though time was running out for the Bobcats late in the game, she couldn’t wait for the game to be over. That’s because when the fourth quarter ended, her son was going in.
“To actually see him get onto the field and to see him play, I get emotional,” she said.
You see, Jake Larsen, No. 30, never gets to actually play in the games. Spina bifida and football don’t usually go together.
“Jake just wants to be one of the boys. He doesn’t care,” said Emily Larsen.
So, for this game, after the fourth quarter was over, Jake’s teammates rolled him onto the field in his wheelchair and the fifth quarter began.
Coaches and players on both teams agreed to run a few plays so Jake could know what a touchdown feels like. He even spiked the ball after his second touchdown.
Not even spina bifida could bring him down.
“It meant a lot. It felt like I was part of the team,” said Jake.
Talk to his teammates, though, and they’ll tell you Jake has always been a part of the team.
“Every day he’s bringing water to practices,” said his teammate Peyton Johnson. “We all love him.”
Another one of his teammates, Michael Furgeson, started having tears in his eyes when talking about Jake.
“He means so much to everyone. It just makes me so happy to see him,” said Furgeson, as he started sobbing. “He means so much, just to be able to see him play football. It’s just so awesome.”
It turns out, football can teach you more than what’s in a playbook.
“It was a good life lesson and a giant leap in their development as men, I feel,” said coach Cam Johnson. “We, this week, said there’s not a kid here who shouldn’t run the ball with everything he’s got, because Jake wishes he could.”
In fact, Jake’s mother was hoping for a little more than just a touchdown.
“The funny thing is his mother said, ‘I want him to be tackled,'” said coach Johnson with a laugh.
When asked about it, Emily Larsen started laughing as well.
“I did, because he wants to play football and what better way to play football than to be tackled? In his mind, he doesn’t understand why, if you get the ball, just get a touchdown, how easy is that?” she said with a laugh.
The team decided not to tackle him because of his wheelchair, but for a few minutes, Jake forgot he was even in his wheelchair.
“It was cool to be out there,” he said.
The Bobcats lost the game, but to them it doesn’t really matter.
“No, it doesn’t at all. It’s a win in our books,” said Furgeson.
That’s because friendships are more important than wins and losses.
“They mean a lot. They’ve been there for me since first grade, and they’ve been really great friends,” said Jake.
And good friendships last longer than five quarters.