Letter to the editor: Thankful for football community



Our son played his final game of football as a Saratoga Panther this past Thursday night. The night was an emotional rollercoaster. The emotions went from sadness to anxiety to disbelief, horror, hope and celebration as we watched one of the most exciting events I have seen in a long, long time. Overcoming a 26-0 deficit and winning in the final moments was quite a way to end the season and a storybook finish for the team’s seniors.

As a sense of normalcy has returned I am full of thankfulness. Thankfulness is why I write this letter to the editor.

We moved to Saratoga in August of 2009. One essential part of our life was how our son would fit into a new community. Like many his age, athletics was his niche and he found a home and friends through the game of football. That journey came to an end on Thursday night and we are so grateful to many for their part in this chapter of our son’s life.

Scott Bokelman has coached our son all five years. He is always teaching, always pushing the players to be their best without demeaning them or losing perspective. He guides these young men with a higher goal than winning games, a goal of developing respectful and responsible young men.

Other coaches as well have played an essential part. “Pops” Doc Merlo poured his life into these young men. Josh Sandlian gives himself selflessly for their development. This year, a former Panther, Caleb Newton volunteered his time because he loves the game and loves the boys. Perhaps Luke Spiering’s commitment speaks to the attitude of the coaches that leaves us so thankful.

Budget challenges and low numbers of players led to only funding two coaches for the 2013 season. Coach Spiering’s position was eliminated. Coach Spiering made a decision that was symbolic of how this team would approach the entire season. He refused to give up and refused to put his concerns before those of others. He chose to coach … without pay. Wouldn’t it be something if the people of this great town sent Luke a note of thanks with a financial gift and his salary wound up being met out of the thankfulness of a community?

Thankfulness goes beyond the coaches. Young ladies manage the team and put up with sweaty boys who aren’t always in the best of moods after a loss. A local restaurant owner gave our son a “free lunch” one day as congratulation for a game well played … he felt like a superstar. Guys from Carbon Power and Light volunteered time to help make the lighting project of the field a possibility … our son always dreamed of playing under the lights. Teachers and Staff encouraged him. Students, the pep band and fans braved the chilly fall nights to cheer.

Our son’s days as a Panther football player are over. Toward the end of Thursday night’s game I grabbed two young boys by the shoulder and said “Tate’s career is just about over … you have to be ready to step up and continue the tradition of Panther football.” They grinned with excitement and are eager for their turn to carry on.

Our thanks to so many in this great community who make Panther Football an experience that shapes young men. Lessons learned will serve them well in the years to come. Panther Football is indeed a special part of this valley.

Sincerely in Christ,

#5’s Mom and Dad

Lou and Scott Stinson


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