Two New Mexico football teams with high school players ended up celebrating together when a player with Down Syndrome scored his first touchdown.
As their coach put it, the team’s reaction showed how great sportsmanship could be, and the video footage captured the unique moments when the opposing teams bonded over the success.
What are the details?
Iziah Martinez is an 18-year-old player on Lovington High School’s Wildcats team. He has been playing since he turned freshman, and he moved on to varsity level when he started his senior year, according to The Epoch Times.
Iziah has not let Down Syndrome hold him back from fulfilling his dreams, and he is now a popular and valued member of the team he plays for.
And he left an ecstatic crowd in his wake at a major senior game. His team was playing against Ruidoso High School, and Iziah made his first touchdown while he was being cheered by the crowd.
“Ruidoso and Lovington are big-time rivals. The winner was going to win the district championship; there was a lot on the line. It was a very emotional moment,” Anthony Gonzales, who coaches the football team at Lovington High School, shared with the outlet.
Just before the game began, Gonzales talked to the Ruidoso coach to accommodate a special request about Iziah. The other coach immediately agreed.
When the time was up, Lovington High School won the game, and then the coach’s plan kicked off.
The Ruidoso team held defense “to make it as realistic as possible.” The players passed the ball to Iziah, and the teenager ran, heading for the end zone.
“At that moment, when we put him in, nobody moved. Nobody left the bleachers. Nobody knew what we were doing, but I think they could sense it,” Gonzales said.
The second Iziah touched down, the whole stadium erupted. While Gonzales thought the players might want to celebrate privately, he was surprised to see the opposing team show up.
“I look over to the sideline, and it’s just a wall of white and gold sprinting onto the field. They don’t know Iziah, but they knew that moment meant something to him. They were upset because they didn’t win, but to be able to put all that away, to share in a moment with a young man, that’s sportsmanship at its finest,” the coach recalled.
Gonzales pointed out that the 15-second play was a central “affirming” moment for Iziah and that it will help to reshape the community’s perception of what anyone can do.
“One thing I’ll never forget about Iziah is that when he walks into a room, he’s always smiling. He’s always happy to be there. So, he has Down syndrome. You can use it not to do things that you want to do, or you can use it to your advantage. Iziah has done that; he’s never allowed anybody to tell him he can’t do something,” Gonzales concluded after the fantastic moments on the field.
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