LC-M Team Force tangled with Indians

Published 9:24 am Monday, December 17, 2018

By I.C. Murrell

PA News


PORT NECHES — The lights shined at The Reservation once more Thursday night.

The Port Neches-Groves Indians took the field against the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Bears. The band played and cheerleaders cheered. The crowd was into the game.

This football game was a little different from Friday night clashes that happen from August to November inside Indian Stadium, but it brought students — many of them football players and other athletes — together with their peers with special needs.

“It’s all for these kids, getting the opportunity to play under the lights,” said former PNG head coach Matt Burnett, now an LCM assistant who teaches adaptive physical education. “PNG was nice enough to help us put all this together. I’m just happy to participate.”

The students with special needs got an assist from their fellow students for a game of flag football through Special Olympics Texas’ Unified Champion Schools program. The program is designed to promote acceptance and inclusion among those who have and do not have intellectual disabilities through activities in a positive environment.

“We pair them together to play on the same playing field, thereby bringing the school together and building self-confidence in both and to reach the needs of inclusion for both the schools in the community,” Special Olympics Texas East Region executive director Renee Klovenski said.

Said PNG quarterback Roschon Johnson, who’ll sign with the University of Texas on Wednesday: “It really touches me. Just to have an impact on these kids, to give them an experience I kind of had, it’s real special to be out here with them, and you can tell by the smiles on their faces and how they approach it.”

Elementary, middle and high schools in Port Arthur, Bridge City, Lumberton and Newton participate in Unified Champion Schools, Klovenski said. Thursday night’s game helped her organization begin a concept for the fall of 2019 to have each school participate in flag football, among other adaptive sports.

“Next spring, we’ll do more,” she said. “We’ll try to do it into football season to keep continuity going with the sports season of traditional students. We’ll kick off basketball next year, track and field, bocce, bowling, volleyball, so we’ll have other sports programs going.”

Flag football will be held primarily for high school students, Klovenski said.

Thursday’s game gave football players a chance to put on jerseys one more time and guide those with special needs on the same field of Friday night lights, but with a smaller playing area.

“It’s been fun, getting to be around the kids, just kind of how they look up to us as football players,” Johnson said. “It’s neat to come out here and have this experience with us.”