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Jeffco Adapted Athletics hosts third annual flag football event

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By Deborah Swearingen

A beautiful sunny day greeted students from across Jefferson County who last Wednesday traveled to Lakewood’s Trailblazer Stadium for the third annual flag football tournament hosted by Jeffco Adapted Athletics.

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With warm weather and back-to-back games, it was a happy day for all; smiles were plastered on the faces of flag football players and “coaches” alike.

Football players from Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools coordinated each of the games with students from a variety of Jeffco schools, including Chatfield Senior High, Columbine, Ken-Caryl Middle School, West Jefferson Middle School and Conifer High School, battling it out in a series of games.

And when it comes down to it, the smiles are what the whole day is all about.

“It’s a great day,” said Andy Lowry, head football coach at Columbine High School, while watching his players coach a game. “(There are) a lot of smiles and a lot of good opportunities for our football guys to be able to help out.”

Patrick Cervera, a Dakota Ridge football player, agreed. While he has never participated in this particular event before, Patrick said he loves to work with the kids.

“I really enjoy seeing them run around and just have fun, play with other kids and understand everything’s possible,” he said.

Students played 15-minute games both outside on the field and inside Creighton Middle School for those with wheelchairs and walkers. In addition to school staff and the football teams, parents and other students attended the Oct. 17 event to assist.

Delaney Bollwahn, a 13-year-old Ken-Caryl Middle student, ran back and forth with the Ken-Caryl team, explaining the rules and encouraging the players.

“It’s really fun for them to be able to experience it,” she said, watching the two teams take off down the field.

Prior to taking the field, Harmony Spires, a 16-year-old student at Alameda High School, felt confident about her team’s chances.

They soon took on Conifer High School in a closely contested match. At one point, Harmony caught the ball, hesitating for just a moment before bolting down the field.

“Pulling the flags and getting a touchdown,” Harmony said matter-of-factly when asked about her favorite part of the event.

While the flag football game is a lot of work to organize, it is a favorite for Bryan Wickoren. Wickoren coordinates all the adaptive athletic events for Jeffco Public Schools — and there’s one every month.

For Wickoren, it’s about “providing that opportunity for those students with disabilities to participate in an athletic event on a team just like their gen-ed peers do.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.