Making a Difference | "The Donte Play"
CUMBERLAND COUNTY —
High school football playoff games continue Friday night in Central Pa., and one of those teams will be the Cedar Cliff Colts in Cumberland County.
But, even if they don't score a single touchdown, the players are already champions in my book.
All because of a special play, a special student and the players and coaches who made a difference.
"It was a 60-yard touchdown run, we said man that's a long run, how is this going to go? And it was perfect," said John Kosydar, the Cedar Cliff Athletic Director.
A perfect way to end the regular season for the Cedar Cliff J.V. football team. Number 43 gets the ball and doesn't stop running 'til he hits the end zone.
But, what outside circles did not know, was this was the first time number 43's number was called.
The determined face behind the helmet belongs to Donte Hammond, a Cedar Cliff student with a huge personality, infectious smile and secondary to all that - Down Syndrome.
Theresa Matthews is Donte and his brother Diante’s mom. She tells me through tears how much “The Donte Play” means to her and her sons.
"For the school and coaches to be able to actually allow his brother to give him the football that made the touchdown and run alongside with him -- truly amazing (wipes tear from eye" truly amazing," Matthew said.
So amazing that when I caught up with some of the team at the high school on Wednesday to re-live that moment, brother Diante was so overcome with emotion he could barely compose himself to answer.
He did manage to say ever since he started playing football, his brother Donte has always wanted to play, always wanted to be right next to him, but he couldn’t.
His teammates helped Diante express what “The Donte Play” meant to him.
Brady Kiehl, Claude Godinaeaux, Antonio Rodriguez, Seth Gillen and Cameron Goff are some of the players who orchestrated “The Donte Play”.
They put into words what brother Diante couldn’t.
“"You can do anything if you put your mind to it and obviously, Donte showed that on the field," said Kiehl.
"No matter what, you always have a chance to prove yourself and do something great," said Godineaux.
"We always have each other's backs, we're always brothers no matter what," said Goff.
"This whole team is a brotherhood. We all love each other, we all respect each other and it was a real special moment," said Seth Gillen.
It was moment that was about two years in the making.
But, with his younger brother now playing, it was fitting for "The Donte Play" to happen this year.
So, the coach reached out to their opponents, Susquehanna Township, for their cooperation and it all came together.
I should point out that Cedar Cliff was up by 3 touchdowns at the time -- still the players say it didn't matter.
"It still would have been the same. Brady says, yeah, it wouldn't have mattered," said teammate Antonio Rodriguez. "Cameron says it brought so much joy to everybody. I think it could have been 70 to nothing and it wouldn't have mattered."
"Susquehanna Township our opponent were right there the whole time. They encouraged it just as much as our team and to see the fans on both sides standing and cheering and the sideline going nuts, it was like the Super Bowl and it was the Super Bowl for Donte," said John Kosydar.
Donte sums everything up with 6 words: “This is my team right here!”
Cedar Cliff plays Warwick Friday night in a playoff game, but even if no touchdown is scored, these players are already champions.