The Best Of John’s Journal From 2021-22/ No. 6: Farmington Celebrates Victory Day
Posted: Friday, July 8, 2022 - 10:40 AM
In high school sports and activities, the best stories often have nothing to do with the final score. A perfect example of this is the No. 6 story on the list of my favorites from 2021-22, from a very special event at Farmington High School.
Here’s the story, originally posted on Oct. 6 …
The band was there. The cheerleaders were there. The Farmington Tigers mascot was there. The entire student body filled the bleachers at Tiger Stadium near the end of the school day on Tuesday. Everybody smiled. Everybody had a great time.
The event was a first for Farmington: Victory Day. It’s an opportunity for cognitively and physically impaired children to play football or cheer and have their moment in the sun. It was spectacular.
The Victory Day All-Stars -- as they were introduced, running between two lines of cheerleaders and varsity football players – threw footballs into a target net, they kicked field goals, they played running back and took handoffs at the 40-yard line before running downfield, evading a whole bunch of poor tacklers and dashing into the end zone as the announcer screamed, the fans cheered and the band played the school song.
Jon Pieper, who is Farmington’s co-head football coach along with Rick Sutton, learned about Victory Day from Grand Rapids coach Greg Spahn; they were college teammates at Wisconsin-River Falls. Victory Day was created by a high school coach in Michigan and Spahn has made it an annual event in Grand Rapids.
“Greg spoke at a clinic and talked about doing this,” Pieper said. “I talked to our administration here and they wanted to give it a shot.”
Among those administrators is superintendent Jason Berg, a longtime MSHSL and NCAA football official who put on his uniform and signaled every touchdown with tremendous enthusiasm.
Students were allowed to leave their classes early and walk to the stadium. The front of the bleachers were adorned with signs carrying the names of all the Victory Day All-Stars. Those kids ran and kicked and threw, high-fived and hugged each other and the varsity players and had more fun than you can imagine.
As the event drew to a close, Pieper gathered the All-Stars around him. He told the kids that he wanted them to be a part of the football team. He wanted them to come to games and be on the sideline with the Tigers.
“We want to practice inclusive things and kind of demonstrate what that looks like to our players,” Pieper said. “They did a fantastic job to make everybody out here feel welcome, which is what we talk about all the time. This was one of those things that I think is kind of putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to that type of thing.”
Afterwards, a parent approached Pieper to thank him. She also had a question: Could her child really become part of the team?
Pieper’s reply came immediately: “Heck yeah!”
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org