Mason, Bedford head into playoffs after an emotional yearFootball  |
Selection Sunday affords 256 teams the opportunity to play at least another week with hopes of playing two or more playoff games.
Mason and Temperance Bedford are among the fortunate teams to advance into the playoffs but that’s not what made this season memorable for these two programs. For Mason and Bedford this season will be remembered for the inner strength a member of each of these teams displayed the past year.
Last December Storm Miller of Mason had a tumor (synovial sarcoma) removed from his leg near his thigh. The surgery was successful and Miller, one of the school’s best athletes, began chemotherapy and radiation treatment. His last treatment was administered in mid-June and he was cleared to begin practice a week before double sessions in August. Although he wasn’t 100 percent, Miller, a senior fullback-linebacker, began the slow process of getting himself back into shape. Eventually he did and not only did he play all nine games this season, he set the school record for career tackles and is closing in on a personal-best of 99 tackles he set last season.
Jerry VanHavel has been Mason’s head coach for 26 seasons and he coached Miller’s brother, Stone, who’s now at the Air Force Academy. VanHavel has known the Millers since they were toddlers. Both have played important roles in helping the Bulldogs maintain a high level of play within the Capital Area Conference Red Division competing against such strong programs as DeWitt, Haslett and St. Johns.
When Storm Miller was a sophomore on varsity he suffered an injury to his thigh but didn’t miss a game. The next season he took another hit to his leg and this time the injury he suffered was more serious and he did miss some time. Soon after the tumor was discovered.
“He has no residual issues,” VanHavel said. “If you look at him you’d never know he went through all of this.
“Sometimes, in these situations, people will say this and that about a person, that’s he’s a great person and such. But Storm is a great person. He’s had like one A-minus in high school. He’s a uniting presence. He’s selfless. He’s been that way all of his life.”
Bedford’s Jon Scout was a 260-pound junior lineman last season. He wasn’t a starter on varsity but his chances were good that he would move into a starting role this season.
“In February he started losing weight, in a dramatic way,” Bedford coach Jeff Wood said. “It was then they discovered a tumor in his brain stem. (In March) they removed 40 percent of it but they had to stop for fear if they went further he would be paralyzed.”
Scout began receiving treatment, radiation and chemotherapy, in order to shrink the tumor. His weight dipped to 190 but he remained active and still is a member of the program. Scout continues to receive treatment and the hope is that the tumor will continue to shrink so that the doctors are able to remove it.
“The tumor is still there,” Wood said. “It’s about 30 percent of what it was.”
The Bedford community has been behind the Scout family through it all and the support has come financially, and emotionally.
Though Scout’s football playing days were over his teammates and coaches planned on presenting him one last hurrah.
When Bedford played at Dexter on Oct. 14 the coaches and players added a play to the game plan where Scout would line up in the backfield and score a touchdown. Bedford’s lead was substantial (the Kicking Mules won, 48-0) so the wheels were sent in motion. The Dexter team got wind of what was taking place and joined in.
“They backed off,” Wood said. “They let him score. Their kids really got into it. It was very emotional. There wasn’t a dry eye in the pile.”
Winning in football isn’t always about which team scores the most points. More important victories are achieved though kindness and selflessness.