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Locals take second in Special Olympics
Warren County athletes participate in day of fun
Evan Cary.jpg
Photo courtesy of Melissa Tegos Evan Cary was a standout in the TN Special Olympics flag football tournament over the weekend. He played multiple positions for the team, including spending time at quarterback and scoring two touchdowns.
Special Olympics Football.jpg
Photo provided Members of the Warren County flag football team that took part in the state Special Olympics tournament last weekend in Franklin are, from left, John Madewell, Wiley Madewell, Evan Cary, Jake Fann and peer partners Maverick Smith and Rudy DeArmond.

Mark going to state off the bucket list for local football. A group of super athletes took care of that feat last weekend at Franklin Road Academy.

Six locals were able to take second in the Tennessee State Flag Football Special Olympics, winning two games throughout the day highlighted by touchdowns and fun times.

Loree DeArmond guided a unified team from Warren County playing in the high school division. Athletes John Madewell, Wily Madewell, Evan Cary and Jake Fann stole the show, while their peer partners – Rudy DeArmond and Maverick Smith – showed up in contributing roles. 

It was a huge moment for the team, which has never been to the state competition before and had a huge impact upon its arrival in Franklin.

“We were invited to play this year. It was 2019 the last time the state held games, but this was our first time making it to state since they switched over from softball in the late 2000s,” said Loree DeArmond, who has been a mainstay helping the unified teams at the high school get organized.

The games are suited to everybody’s skill sets, with groups matched up to maximize competition and even the playing field. Five players were always on the field, with three traditional athletes getting assistance from two peer partners.

Warren County wasn’t out of place against the state’s top teams and even excelled at times with the matchups throughout the day.

“It’s more competitive because it’s the same-aged peers. It’s also good because we have always done unified sports – playing peer-to-peer – because it helps build daily relationships,” said Loree. “Our peer partners have been great this year. It was just an overall great experience and great exposure for our kids being there.”

The group of Pioneers didn’t lack for highlights either. Cary was the orchestrator of the offense most of the day, channeling his inner Joe Montana while operating his team’s West Coast style of quick, short passes to move the chains.

John Madewell, an eighth grader playing up at the high school level, was one the team’s top defenders and flag pullers, while Jake Fann was the perfect snapper to get the game rolling. It was one of the first times the six teammates were able to take the field together as a group, but they were able to make lasting memories.

Most were of the lighthearted variety, particularly early as the team tried to pick up the game while playing opponents for the first time.

“We’ve practiced so much against each other that when the game started, we were pulling each other’s flags some. Once we figured that out, we started getting some stops,” said Loree with a laugh.

Fann also impressed with his endurance – playing the full second half during the team’s final game – and his moves on the field. Well, dance moves that is.

“My favorite memory would have to be Jake dancing on the football field before one game,” said Rudy, who played a supporting role on the field to help the team throughout their journey at state. “We asked him why he was dancing and he said, ‘I’m a little nervous and it helps me calm down.’ He was having a good time.”

Overall, it was also an eye-opening experience for the team to know they have so many peers out there to compete against in Tennessee. 

“It was a great experience. It really showed our traditional athletes how much fun they could have doing something outside of school,” said Rudy, a former member of the Lady Pioneers who is now going to Motlow, assisting with the WCMS basketball team and always finding time to help with the Special Olympics. “The traditional athletes were very overstimulated at first because they did not realize how many people participated in the thing they could do.”

Rudy left with great memories, but maybe some bumps and bruises too. She busted up a finger while trying to grab a flag, but she wouldn’t have traded the time she spent on the field with her friends for anything. Maverick, who can rarely be seen at WCHS without his buddy Jake by his side, also had a tremendous time helping out.

“Being a part of something like this means a lot to me. It is great getting to help spread this sport, with how it can help kids. It shows that no matter where you come from or where you’re going, you have time to help someone, no matter what,” said Maverick, a sophomore at WCHS. “That’s how my mom raised me and that’s how I’ll always live my life. There’s nothing that is going to stop these kids. The fire that all my teammates displayed was amazing.

“I’m so proud of all of them and so happy that I got to be a part of this. It was awesome to help guide and shows that sports can always be a way to escape. I hope they know they can always count on me to be a friend and I’m so thankful for this program and the hard work from people behind the scenes to make this happen.”

It won’t be the only time the unified team will be in action on the gridiron this year. The Warren County squad will also play Friday, Nov. 4 at home as a number of groups will be heading to WCHS for football and bocce. 

Next time, the goal will be bringing home a championship.