Football team gives little heroes night to remember

When Ashton Herd woke up Saturday morn­ing, he wasn’t feel­ing too great. The Quakertown Community High School line­man and his Panthers had lost their first game, a phys­i­cal con­test, 17–14, to Cheltenham, drop­ping their record to 4–1.

But then Ashton turned on his lap­top and clicked on Facebook. He soon remem­bered that no mat­ter what the score­board said, his foot­ball team pro­duced a win­ning effort before the game even began.

On the Quakertown Panther Football page, a mes­sage stat­ed: “Thank you for hon­or­ing my son last night and thank you to #74 for mak­ing my son feel so spe­cial!”

That made my day,” said Ashton, num­ber 74. “I’m hap­py we could give them a night to remem­ber.”

Friday was Childhood Cancer Night at Alumni Field, and the stands were filled with black and gold to raise aware­ness for pedi­atric can­cer. The foot­ball team hon­ored five young peo­ple either cur­rent­ly bat­tling the dread­ed dis­ease or have beat­en it into remis­sion. The heroes are:

  • Liam Brennan, fourth grade, Quakertown
  • Oliver Brooks, first grade, Trumbauersville
  • Wyatt Rotenberger, sev­enth grade, Strayer
  • Braden Sell, sev­enth grade, Strayer
  • Cameron Wakeley, first grade, home­schooled

The lit­tle guys were part of the team hud­dle, led the Panthers onto the field, and walked with the team cap­tains to mid­field for the coin toss. Ashton and his fel­low cap­tains — Brad Bryan, Nick Levinski and Michael Terra — held hands with the young war­riors and escort­ed them to mid­field and back to the side­lines.

“It was very hum­bling,” said Ashton, who appre­ci­at­ed the post from Cameron’s mom. “They’re strug­gling to win their bat­tles every­day. No mat­ter what bat­tles we have, they don’t com­pare to their fight. We tried to involve them in the pregame rou­tine and make them feel part of the team. Family is some­thing we empha­size, and we want­ed them to feel like part of our team fam­i­ly.”

The foot­ball team began hold­ing this spe­cial evening six years ago. Head coach George Banas lost his nephew, Parker Lutz, 10 years ago from neu­rob­las­toma. Parker and Banas’s son Logan, a junior on the foot­ball team, were best friends. On Friday night, the back of Banas’ shirt read “Parker Power Forever.”  

This is some­thing that the com­mu­ni­ty has real­ly got­ten behind,” Banas said. “You can see the cheer­lead­ers, the stu­dent body, they’re real­ly into it. They real­ize what it means to these fam­i­lies.”

Last week the wrestling team put out a video in sup­port of young Cam, a neigh­bor of sopho­more wrestler Domenic DeFalco. On Cam’s Corner, a Facebook page put togeth­er by the Wakeley fam­i­ly, is a pho­to of the girls vol­ley­ball team hold­ing up signs in sup­port of the young­ster, includ­ing “Cam Can,” and Cam, You Got This!”

Banas said his play­ers have bought into the impor­tance of the event. “They were excit­ed to find those five kids wait­ing for them at the fence,” he said. “Every cap­tain want­ed to have a hand walk­ing out to the coin toss.

They under­stand that these kids may nev­er be able to step onto a play­ing field. Everyday for them is a gift. They don’t know if tomor­row is going to come.”

During the coin toss, pub­lic address announc­er Dave Fosbenner had a dif­fi­cult time get­ting the words out as he asked for a moment of silence for Harrison Willing, who cel­e­brat­ed with the team dur­ing last year’s event but lost his bat­tle in the last year.

Banas noticed. “The moment of silence was long,” he said. “No one said a word. They were respect­ful.”

Ashton said he began “to tear up. I’m just hap­py the kids had a great time. They seemed tru­ly hap­py to be with us.”

Football team captains hold the hands of children with cancer as they walk out to midfield for the coin toss.

Football team cap­tains hold the hands of chil­dren with can­cer as they walk out to mid­field for the coin toss.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the peo­ple and the pro­grams that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215–529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.