Good Sports: Atwater High School Football Programs

FRESNO, Calif.

"It was just a special moment, one that you don't get too often," said Buhach Colony JV Head Coach Jack Campbell. "I've been coaching long time and I've never experienced this before."

Atwater sophomore Cameron Pacheco came up with the idea at a team dinner the week before. He wanted his teammate, his friend Alex Zapien to score a touchdown.

"He can't do anything about his disability," said Pacheco. "That's nothing he can control. I thought it was good that he was our captain last year. And I just wanted to get him involved this year too."

"That day I went to my team and said, are you guys willing to participate and do this, and without hesitation they said yes," said Coach Campbell.

The referees put one second on the clock, and Alex couldn't believe it. His Cerebral Palsy no obstacle, there he was at the 50 yard line running Yellow Jet Right. He read his blocks behind a convoy of teammates, smiling the entire time.

"I was pumped, so pumped, and I went out there and gave it my all," said Zapien. "I just felt like really, actually part of the team. All my friends helped me out to achieve what I wanted to achieve. And it was just great."

Thunder players said even if they wanted to get to Alex, they wouldn't have been able to.

"We all just swarmed to the ball but we just got blocked," said Buhach Colony JV Captain Brandon Muse. "We got hit and fell on the ground a couple times. We got up and started chasing him and then he crossed the goal line and we didn't do anything about it because he'd already scored."

What took place at Atwater High school will be referenced for decades to come, with so many lessons learned from a single act of sportsmanship, of compassion.

"Football is a great tool to teach life lessons, and this was one of them," said Atwater JV Head Coach Nathan Ramirez. "To show that even though you have a disability, you don't let it stop you, you don't let it hinder you. You come in with a great attitude, you smile, and you push through it."

But no one learned more than Alex, the touchdown machine himself.

"I learned that whatever I want to do, I can do it," said Zapien. "I learned that I have some great friends and I'll be here all the way until my senior year."

"You can't really describe it. It was just the feeling in your heart – it's just wow," said Alex's mother, Gloria Zapien. "It's so touching. I almost got teary-eyed like oh my goodness."

Two Atwater high schools stepping up to show what being Good Sports is all about.

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