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Mustangs ready to take on Burnham Bulldogs Special Needs team

Daily Item - 10/3/2018

Oct. 03--Midd-West senior football player Bryce Fawver will be on the field when the Mustangs face the Burnham Bulldogs Special Needs football team on Saturday.

"If you want to see a good, fun game," this is it, the 18-year-old said of the annual event.

When Fawver was initially tapped to compete against the physically and mentally disabled athletes in a game of two-hand touch football four years ago, the then-14-year-old was hesitant.

"I'd never been around a lot of people with disabilities," he said.

The experience was so much fun that Fawver has returned to face the competition every year.

"They're really competitive, which I didn't expect, and they bring all their family, friends and fans to the game," he said.

The Bulldogs team is composed of people with varied disabilities ranging in ages from 10 to 40, said coach Kenny Varner, who established the team 12 years ago.

"When we first started (competing with non-disabled athletes) we would tell the other teams to take it easy," he recalled.

The Bulldog athletes started out shy and tentative but soon found their footing.

"Now we have to tell our guys to take it easy," Varner said.

The annual event with Midd-West was started by Juniata school district football coach George Miskinis about four years ago when the Snyder County players were involved in a football co-op.

Midd-West Quarterback Club president Jean Fawver is keeping the event going and invites the community to attend the game at 1 p.m. Saturday at the West Snyder Elementary School stadium in Beaver Springs. Admission is free and the concession stand will be open.

In case of rain, the game will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"I would like the community to come out and support both teams," said Fawver. "Seeing the smiles on our football players and the Bulldogs' faces is always a win-win, feel-good kind of game."

Make no mistake about it, though, the Bulldogs come to win, said Varner.

"They love the competition," he said.

Varner said his goal when he started the Bulldogs 12 years ago was to give people with special needs a chance to be part of a sports team.

He now has his sights set on encouraging others to establish special needs teams so they can build a league and compete against one another.

"I'd be more than happy to help anyone build a team," said Varner.

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(c)2018 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.)

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