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AW Football Team Earns First NLL Championship Since 1988

AW senior running back Max Guitteau eludes a Napoleon defender in last Friday’s contest. Guitteau ran for 40 yards and a score in the Generals’ 42-7, NLL championship-clinching victory. MIRROR PHOTO BY ART WEBER

BY JOEL SENSENIG | MIRROR REPORTER — It was a truly magical night for the Anthony Wayne football team and community last Friday. Getting a dominant win against Napoleon? Check. Earning a Northern Lakes League championship for the first time since 1988? Check. Getting team captain and cancer survivor Michael Dandan into the end zone with a play called “Dandan the Magic Man?” Check. The win, coupled with a Northview loss to Perrysburg on the same night, ensured the Generals (8-1 overall, 6-0 NLL) their first league championship since 1988 (and first outright title since 1987). “I don’t think we could have asked for anything to go better,” said AW coach Andy Brungard. “You talk about a special night. It’s 67 degrees. Every senior got to play. Michael Dandan scores a touchdown. This is one of those special nights you won’t forget.” As big an accomplishment as the title was, the victory managed to mean even more to a young man, his family and all those in attendance cheering for him. Dandan, who is now in remission, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the eighth grade. Because his bones were weakened from chemotherapy, he was told he would never again be able to play the game he loved. After he finished treatment in February, Dandan decided to see if he could contribute to the AW football program in some way. Coach Brungard readily accepted him and he has served as a captain and inspiration to his AW teammates this fall. With AW leading 35-7 and 5:13 left in the game, Dandan took a handoff from junior quarterback Max Denman and plunged into the end zone from a yard out, causing the hometown fans to give their hands, vocal chords and tear ducts a workout as they cheered for him. “I was focused on just holding on to the ball. That’s all that was going though my mind: grab that ball and keep ahold of it,” Dandan said, noting the excitement of his teammates. “They were all calling out for me to go in there and score the touchdown. Nobody else wanted it. It means a lot to me. It just means the world. I love my teammates.” Afterward, Dandan received the game ball, which he said he planned to have his teammates sign and display in his room. Dandan’s mother, Gloria Wang, was moved to tears seeing the moment play out before her eyes. “That moment was everything. His love and passion has always been football,” she said. “I have always told him that no matter what, he can do anything he wants. So much was taken from him. His whole high school life has been ‘cancer.’” Wang admitted the last few years have been very tough for her son. “He was so depressed the last couple years, especially being isolated due to treatment and thinking he would never get to do one of the things he loves the most.” Wang thanked the coaching staff for including her son as one of them. “Coach Brungard made Michael part of the team – really made sure he was included at practice, pushing him to practice if he could and knowing when to back down.” Still, seeing Michael run out there onto the field came as a shock to her. “I never thought he would make a play just for him and make sure Michael gets to score a touchdown,” she said. “I already thought the world of him and the other coaches. Now I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate and respect them. “And the boys on the team, to give him that opportunity – what good-hearted, sweet boys. They are just amazing.” Prior to the Dandan play, the Generals controlled the game from both sides of the ball. On just one more play from scrimmage, AW outgained Napoleon 365-95. Defensively, numerous Anthony Wayne players put up video-game numbers, as junior Ben Allen (17 tackles), senior Nolan Anderson (15), junior Nick Prokup (14) and senior Bryce Williams (10) all topped double digits. Led by senior Nick Schneider’s 195 yards and two scores on 22 carries (8.9 average) and Denman’s 8-of-10 passing for 120 yards and two touchdowns, the Generals moved the ball at will on the Wildcats (1-8, 0-6). Schneider opened the first drive of the game with a pair of 18-yard runs to put the ball on the Napoleon 19-yard line. Several plays later, senior back Max Guitteau (40 yards on nine carries) plunged in from a yard out. The point-after by senior Tucker Ramirez made it 7-0 just 2:55 into the game. After forcing a Napoleon punt, AW added to its lead when Denman found senior tight end Ralph Burdo wide open across the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown. Ramirez’ kick made it 14-0 with 2:25 left in the opening quarter. A Wildcat three-and-out gave the Generals the ball back to start the second stanza. Denman found sophomore receiver Mason Alberts (three catches, 42 yards) for a 28-yard gain. Two plays later, Schneider ran it in from 12 yards out, giving Anthony Wayne (after the Ramirez point-after) a 21-0 advantage with 8:59 remaining in the half. On AW’s next possession, Napoleon recovered a Schneider fumble on the Generals’ side of the field. In a wild series of events, Napoleon senior quarterback Grant Strock was intercepted by AW junior Jacob Gordon, who returned the ball to the Generals’ 25 before the ball was stripped and recovered by Napoleon junior receiver Logan Shepherd. Napoleon took over on the 27. The Wildcats took advantage of the miscue and nine plays later, senior fullback Dylan Unverferth (14 carries, 33 yards) powered in for the 1-yard score. Senior Caleb Franz’ kick made it 21-7 with 17 seconds to play in the half. AW added to its lead on its first possession of the third, a seven-play drive capped by a 10-yard pass from Denman to Alberts. The point-after made it 28-7 with 6:24 left in the third. Early in the fourth, Schneider struck for his second touchdown of the night when he ran it in from 9 yards out to cap a quick four-play drive that began at the Napoleon 47. The Ramirez boot made it 35-7 with 9:15 to play. When Anthony Wayne got the ball with 6:58 left on the clock, only one play was on the minds of the coaches and players: “Dandan the Magic Man.” After a pass from Denman to junior receiver Max Bradfield (three catches, 41 yards) went for 7 yards to the Napoleon 5, Guitteau took it 4 yards before going down on the 1. That’s when No. 55 came running onto the field and made history as he took the ball into the end zone at the west end of Schaller Stadium. Brungard said the play had long been in the works. “As a staff, we started thinking about it during two-a-days. ‘How can this happen?’” he said. “It’s one of those things where you have to wait for the right moment and time. Our senior running backs asked for it – Guitteau and Schneider. They knew they weren’t going to score, they were just trying to put it on the 1.” Guitteau said it was important for the team to give Dandan this moment. “We are all pretty close with him and would do anything for him to have his dream,” he said. “When a friend like that fights one of the hardest battles you can fight, you take a step back and realize how blessed you really are to have a healthy body.” Guitteau said Dandan has been an incredible inspiration to everyone on the team. “Michael has been a huge part of our team this year,” he said. “We all love Michael. If he’s not filming practice, he’s filling water, signaling in plays from the sideline and a bunch of other tasks that make games and practices go smoothly. “Michael has shown us not to take anything for granted because it could be gone one day. He is such a brave, helpful and caring guy and having a guy like that on your team is incredible.” Brungard said the team knew it had to do this for Dandan. “He shared with the team during two-a-days that his dream was to play football,” he said. “Our goal was to find a way for him to live his dream. It’s just one of those things you can’t pass up.” After their game at Springfield on Friday, the Generals will have secured a playoff spot for the following week. It will most likely be a road contest, although nothing will be finalized until late Friday. “It’s nice when you know you’re in the playoffs, you know you have a league title and all you have to do is play week 10,” Brungard said. “This is going to be a fun week, when all you have to do is go play. There’s no stress involved, other than playing your rival.” Springfield (6-3, 4-2) is coming off of a 34-14 win over Maumee. The Blue Devils lost to NLL foes Perrysburg and Northview this season.

With a victory over Napoleon and a Perrysburg win over Northview last Friday, Anthony Wayne’s football team earned its first Northern Lakes League championship since 1988.

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