Watch Pitman High student with autism score touchdown against Golden Valley
Pitman's Steven Shamgochian lived out a dream.
Golden Valley coach Dennis Stubbs settled an old debt.
Together, it made a for a beautiful moment at the end of another Central California Conference blowout.
Shamgochian scored a 52-yard touchdown in the final minutes of Friday's 47-7 victory over Golden Valley. The touchdown run brought Joe Debely Stadium to its feet and highlighted the sportsmanship between opposing coaches.
"It's a good feeling to see something so good and so positive happen for such a good kid," Pitman athletic director Dave Walls said. "He's a great kid and he's been around our program for the last three or four years. The kids really embrace him and they treat him well. They make him feel like he's a part of the team. He does a lot of things ... he helps with the balls and the water, and he has a presence. You can't really beat that feeling. That was a great experience."
Shamgochian has autism, and for nearly four years, he's stood on the sideline on Friday nights, waiting for his chance to feel the leather in his hands.
It almost never materialized.
Pitman coach Tom Tyler planned to give Shamgochian, an honorary captain, the ball on the Pride's final possession with less than three minutes left, but a fumble foiled that opportunity.
In a remarkable show of compassion, Golden Valley coach Dennis Stubbs gave the ball back to Pitman so that Shamgochian could have his moment.
"I gathered all the kids together and said this is what we're going to do," Stubbs said. "They were all for it."
Shamgochian didn't disappoint.
With the ball cradled in his left arm, he burst through the right side of the line of scrimmage and into space. Led by a convoy of blockers, Shamgochian completed his sprint in the end zone.
Golden Valley gave pursuit, diving and tumbling around him.
Both sidelines emptied onto the field, mobbing Shamgochian.
"Even as the celebration was evolving, I tried to go right to coach Stubbs and his staff and shake their hands. I told them how grateful I was that they would allow that to happen," Walls said. "It says a lot about Golden Valley, a lot about Merced schools, and of course, a lot about coach Stubbs and his staff.
"I think that's the way it should be. I always tell kids, 'You should be looking to make other kids better. You should be serving someone greater than yourselves.' "
Stubbs was paying it forward.
In 2013, Tyler allowed Stubbs to call a touchdown play for a player who, under normal playing conditions, would have never seen the field.
"Tom forgot about that," Stubbs said, "but I told him we owed him one."
Here's a look at the rest of Week 9's "Stat Stars":
Luke Fulkerson, Summerville: Sonora has won a share of its fourth straight Mother Lode League title. Calaveras finished right on the Wildcats' heels with a dynamic center-quarterback combination. But the league MVP may come out of Summerville, where senior Luke Fulkerson is climbing a national leaderboard. As of Monday, Fulkerson was ranked 13th nationally in kickoff return average (36.7), according to statistics reported to MaxPreps. Fulkerson has returned four kickoffs for a touchdown, and nearly broke another to open a 20-17 loss to Calaveras. He returned the kick 65 yards. He also had 109 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. Friday: vs. Amador.
Bobby Avina, Gregori: The Jaguars are Modesto Metro Conference champions, regardless of what happens Friday at Chuck Hughes Stadium. Gregori clinched a share of its first football title with a 20-14 victory over Modesto. In that game, Gregori quarterback Bobby Avina outplayed another MMC MVP candidate, Modesto's Norvale Howard, competing 20 of 33 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Avina has 26 touchdown passes against just four interceptions. Friday: at Downey.
Javyn Drobnick, Big Valley Christian: The sophomore continued his breakout season, rushing for a Stanislaus District-best 370 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-37 victory over Riverbank. With the win, Big Valley Christian moved to 9-0, matching the 2009 team for the best start in program history. The Lions can complete their quest with a victory at Stone Ridge Christian, a giant in the Central California Athletic Alliance. "It's exciting to be where we are," BVC coach Brian Berkefeld said. "We know we have a monster in front of us, but the kids have responded well all year, and we are excited for the challenge. It is going to take a total team effort for us to compete with SRC. God willing, we play our brand of football and it will be good enough." Friday: at Stone Ridge Christian.
Dustin Grein, Turlock: The leader of one of the Stanislaus District's stingiest defenses, Grein paces the Bulldogs with five interceptions. He highlighted last week's 23-7 victory over Merced with two interceptions, including his second pick-six touchdown of the season. Grein is a force, whether patrolling the airways or the stepping up against the run. He is second on the team in tackles with 56.5. Friday: vs. Pitman.
Elliot Mello, Escalon: The undersized fullback played a big role in Escalon's 37-14 victory over Modesto Christian. Mello rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns, including a 65-yard scamper to make it 21-0 late in the first quarter. "The touchdown runs were important," Mello said, "because that meant the offensive line was getting good push." However, it was his fourth touchdown that deflated Modesto Christian. Mello intercepted Hayden Sauser at the 24 and returned it for the Cougars' first defensive score of the season. Defensively, Escalon was outstanding, sacking Sauser three times, forcing two turnovers, and limiting the Crusaders' chunk plays. Friday: vs. Hughson.
Anthony Caballero, Los Banos: Caballero and the Tigers bounced back from a loss to Patterson with an offensive explosion against Livingston. Caballero accounted for four touchdowns and led Los Banos with his arm and feet. He was 12 of 20 for 289 yards and three TDs, and rushed for a team-high 105 yards and a score. His top target was Daniel Guerrero, who had three catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Friday: at Pacheco.
Michael Kamps, Ripon Christian: The Knights' senior star did it all in a 34-14 victory over Le Grand. Kamps intercepted two passes and led the team in rushing, carrying the ball 27 times for 153 yards and a touchdown. With wins in four of its last five games, Ripon Christian is trending in the right direction with playoffs just around the corner. The Knights are pointed toward the Division VII bracket, where they would be favorites to win the school's first football banner. Friday: at Delhi.
Micah Irwin, Davis: Irwin became the first Spartan player in recent memory to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards, according to coach Tim Garcia. Irwin accomplished that feat on Friday with eight catches for 159 yards in a 50-0 victory over Johansen. After missing his junior season with injury, Irwin has been a bright spot in the Spartans' season. He ranks third in the section in receiving yards (1,099) and catches (59). Friday: vs. Enochs (at Don Lanphear Stadium).