Caledonia, Webster Co. football teams come together to help player with special needs score his first touchdown
CALEDONIA, Miss. (WCBI) – Team sports for most children is an opportunity to learn about working together, supporting one another, and taking the wins and the losses.
But for two very young teams – one from Webster County and the other from Caledonia, the lesson learned during one recent game, is that sometimes being kind is the best accomplishment of all.
Scoring their first touchdown is a special moment for any player. But it’s usually not something both teams celebrate, let alone draw up a play for.
But that’s what happened during a game between the Caledonia Cavaliers and Webster County Bulldogs in the 11-12 Oxford Football League on October 9th.
“I just told my quarterback and center, ‘Hey, ya’ll fumble the ball and he’s going to pick it up and he’s going to take it to the house,'” says Caledonia Coach Jason Counts.
“I brought him up to the line and I said ‘Junior, if you see the ball, get the ball,” Webster County Coach James Davidson says.
“We didn’t care about the score, the score didn’t have anything to do with it right (then),” says Trenton Brock one of the Caledonia team captains. “All that mattered was him getting the touchdown.”
“I like my touchdown!” says Robert Watkins Jr. “It makes me happy!”
Watkins is a 13-year-old from Maben who everyone knows as simply, Junior.
“Man, Junior’s like a spark plug,” says Coach Davidson. “I mean, he comes out here and if you’re having a down day, man that kid just brightens you up. He will brighten your day up.”
Junior is developmentally delayed, has partial deafness and asthma. But he is also a football player for the Webster County Bulldogs.
“He’s just trying to do what the other kids do,” says his mother Lascandra Watkins.
Lascandra says she was nervous at first when Junior told her he wanted to strap on a helmet and pads and join his younger brother Zalan on Coach Davidson’s new 11-12 peewee football team.
“I filled out the form for Zalan, I wasn’t too sure about Junior,” she says. “But he wanted to play, so I wasn’t going to take that away from him.”
Coach Davidson had some of the same concerns.
“I don’t want anything to happen to him,” he said. “So I was kind of telling his mother that and she was like, ‘Coach, I just want him to be normal…him being out here with the boys would be good for him.”
It didn’t take long for Junior to become part of the team. While he might not participate in every drill, Coach Davidson says he’s never afraid to lay a hit or dive into the middle of a pile.
“He usually wants to rush the quarterback,” Coach Davidson says. “That’s what he wants to do, rush the quarterback.”
As the season got underway, Lascandra and Coach Davidson wanted to find a way to get Junior involved on game days. During weeks two and three of the season, both opposing head coaches were more than happy to let Junior run around on the field with their teams after the games were over.
But Caledonia’s Coach Counts had other ideas.
The Cavaliers were up 22-0 on the Bulldogs when Coach Davidson approached Coach Counts about Junior.
“And I said, ‘Coach,’ I said, ‘I just don’t think I can agree to that,'” Counts says. “And he just kind of looked at me and I said, ‘It doesn’t count if it’s after the game. It only counts if it’s in the game and it goes on that scoreboard.’ So I told him I said ‘With a couple of minutes left, that’s when we’re gonna do it. That’s when we’ll let him score his touchdown.”
And that’s exactly what Junior did, taking off for a 56-yard scoop and score to give Webster County their first and only points of the game.
“I was on the sideline, actually, cheering my baby on,” Lascandra says. “Because I’m his number one fan. If he doesn’t hear nobody else, he’s going to hear his momma.”
But she was certainly not the only one cheering.
“I just wanted to run up there and hug him and grab him because it felt like they won the game,” says Coach Counts. “And to him, (they) did. It was just a great feeling all the way around.”
After battling against each other for about 59 minutes, the players and coaches for Caledonia and Webster County were all part of one team as they celebrated with Junior in the end zone.
“It felt like we won the Super Bowl. I was excited,” says Caledonia player Landon Merchant. “We were all jumping around, we were all huddling around him, smacking him on the pads.”
Lascandra watched as the entire Caledonia sideline rushed the field to celebrate with her son.
“Oh man, it was awesome. It was awesome,” she said. “And then they even gave him the game ball. Oh my, he loved that ball.”
While it was only week four, for both teams, it was the crowning moment of their seasons.
“Whatever happens the rest of the season, whether we win the championship or not, it does not matter,” says Coach Counts. “In my opinion, the championship was won last Saturday.”
For Coach Davidson, it was a reminder of the power that a few white lines on a field of turf or grass can have.
“For these two to three hours that we’re all together, for him to be one of us, to be able to run, play, jump, catch…that’s special, man,” he says.
Lascandra’s hope was that football could give her son a few moments to experience an ordinary childhood.
Instead, Junior got to show everyone that he is extraordinary.