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A run to remember

Emotional season finale for Ty Boatman and Jr. Zebras
By: Brett Ransford, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Seven-year-old Ty Boatman returned to the Jr. Zebra Mighty Mites team ready to run the ball. As he streaked up the sideline and into the end zone, all of Keith Howard Memorial Stadium witnessed a dream come true for one young boy in the struggle for his life. Boatman was diagnosed with a form of cancer known as nephroblastoma or stage four Wilms’ Tumor on March 15 and was unable to play football this season as he battles the illness. Saturday, at the Jr. Zebras season finale, the game was an afterthought when compared with the special show of community support for young Ty Boatman. Inspired by a similar event at a Folsom Pee Wee game a year ago, Saturday’s heartwarming moment began with a phone call from Jr. Zebra president Mike Fain to his counterpart at Nevada Union, Troy Spangler about a month ago. The plan that followed allowed for Boatman to carry the ball on the first play of the second half of Saturday’s game, scoring his first-ever touchdown. “The response from Troy and everyone else of the idea was overwhelming and exciting,” Fain said. “I haven’t come across anyone who wasn’t emotionally drawn into it. Realistically, most football programs take a lot of community involvement. This is an example of making it about the community and not just football.” Spangler was in total support of the Lincoln team’s plan from the outset, pointing out that this is what Sierra Youth Football and Cheer is all about. “It’s all about helping kids and helping families,” Spangler said. “Of course I said yes right away to Mike. It’s not about football and it’s not about the scoreboard. I was thrilled Mike asked me because it’s important. It’s important to that kid, his family and probably the whole program. It makes me very proud to be a part of it.” Those in attendance were for the most part unaware that the play arranged would be a touchdown. Jr. Zebra Mighty Mite head coach James Brown said he let Boatman decide what play he’d run in arranging the team’s honorary player a chance to suit up. On a pitch to the right side he received the ball and proceeded as planned to paint the sideline. The smallest boy on the field broke through the defense, up the right sideline 20 yards and in for a touchdown. Brown made sure Boatman knew how much the team needed him to score before the play began. “Not ten yards…not twenty yards…touchdown,” was how Boatman described his coach’s instructions. Boatman stole the show with his end zone dance and then Brown ran out onto the field, picked him up and held Ty over his head like a trophy. The proud youngster held the ball up showing it off to the Lincoln bleachers. He carried his game ball tucked under his left arm the rest of the game. “No one’s going to remember the score down the road,” Brown said. “The only thing people are going to remember from today was Ty Boatman.” His seven-month battle began on a Sunday when he came to his parents and said his urine was red. Since then he has had a kidney removed, his vena cava vein repaired and had numerous tumors metastasize to his lungs. Since March, Boatman has been under treatment of a 33-week chemotherapy cycle in addition to radiation therapy. The second grader has been unable to attend his school, Carlin C. Coppin Elementary, so a teacher comes to the Boatman home to teach him. Luckily for all involved, on Saturday Ty was able. “He was all smiles,” said Donald Boatman, Ty’s father, who is a local dentist. "Things like this give us a real uplift. It’s great knowing there’s people out there pulling for Ty and wanting to do something for him that they don’t have to do. And seeing that big smile on his face is just great.” On the Nevada Union side, Might Mite head coach Mike Smith was happy for his team to participate in this amazing event. “There was no question,” said Smith. “I believe that any sports program should support opportunities like this. The community should always be a part of something like this.”