Soccer player returns from leukemia, nets goal
Thursday night’s senior night at the SCHS Soccer Complex had an extra special story wrapped in with the regular goodbyes and hugs of players graduating from their high school program.
SCHS senior Edward Amador, a leukemia survivor who hasn’t played with the Smoky Bears since his sophomore season, returned to the Smoky Bears sideline in uniform and ready for action against visiting Anderson County.
“I had promised him on senior night I would start him,” SCHS coach Bryan Atchley said. “And he’d be introduced one last time in the lineup.”
Not only did Amador — who’s still taking regular chemotherapy despite being in remission — start, he scored a goal.
Playing left forward, Amador received a pass from teammate Brayan Lemus, the right forward, for an open shot just 90 seconds into the game.
“It was totally legitimate,” Atchley said. “It was just part of our offense, and there he was for the goal.
“I thought the place was going to go nuts,” Atchley continued. “My kids were jumping off the bench and celebrating. I’ve been (coaching) for a while, won a state title in football as an assistant, but it was one of the best things I’ve been involved in in high school sports.
“I just felt blessed to be a part of that, it was pretty cool.”
While Amador was obviously pleased with the goal — which came just a minute and a half or so into the game — it was also apparent he was just happy to be on the field.
“It felt pretty good back playing again with my team,” he said Saturday. “It’s been a year and a half.”
Amador was a semi-regular player for the Bears as a sophomore before his diagnosis with leukemia. In fact he scored a few goals with the team that year, despite being among veterans on a good team.
“There’s no doubt he’d have been a contributor if he’d been healthy,” Atchley said. “He would have played on last year’s team that was so good, and he would have played quite a bit for us this year if not been a starter.”
Amador said battling the leukemia has been a difficult process.
“It was pretty hard,” he said. “I was taking chemo almost every day for weeks.
“When I first (was diagnosed), I thought that I wasn’t going to be in school (anymore) or play soccer, I was really sad.”
Amador was able to return to school this semester, however, and was especially thrilled when his doctor said he should get some exercise.
“So I asked him if I could play soccer,” he said. “He said it was OK if I felt up to it.”
Though he’d lost a lot of weight and muscle mass, Amador said he definitely felt ready.
“I was excited, happy I was able to play with my teammates again and be back in the field,” he said.
The only concern was protecting the chemotherapy port on his chest, which he was able to do.
“He probably played the first 10 minutes of the game,” Atchley said. “And then I played him about the last 10 minutes of the game. He doesn’t have a lot of stamina this year. He’s not even practiced with us.”
Amador said he hopes he’ll get to play some more with the Bears before the postseason, which starts Monday, is over.
“I can play,” he said. “I feel pretty good, except for the same days I get the chemo treatment when I have some nausea.”
The Bears added three more goals throughout the rest of the game, eventually winning 4-0 to send out the other SCHS seniors — John Burke, Cory Ramsey, Ryan Indelicato, Patrick Hanlon, William Winborn, Justin Cope and Brayan Lemus — out on a high-note as well. Ramsey, Lemus and Anthony Lemus accounted for the Bears’ final three goals.
“And Brandon Delgado made some really nice saves to keep us up (after the excitement of the Amador goal), and then we got our feet back on the ground and pretty much sailed through the rest of the game.”
The Bears have been on a hot streak of late, ever since a narrow loss to Jefferson County, which Atchley called the team’s best performance of the game.
SCHS dealt Morristown West their first district loss of the season last week, 3-2.
“We just keep playing and keep improving,” Atchley said. “I’m very proud of our guys.”
The Bears (12-5-1) will now move on to the District 2-AAA tournament, where they’ll host South-Doyle Monday at 7 p.m.