Basalt’s biggest football fan scores TD after getting the call
Oliver Harrington of Basalt got his day in the sun Monday despite overcast skies and a light drizzle.
Oliver’s everyday life is filled with more challenges than the average 17-year-old faces. He was born with craniosynostosis, a birth condition where his skull was fused together and interfered with the development of his brain. He has a hip disorder that prevents him from walking. He’s endured more than 30 major surgeries.
Despite those challenges, Oliver, a junior at Basalt High School, has a passion for football. He is in the second year as special assistant to Basalt High School football coach Carl Frerichs and he also uses his wheel chair to retrieve the kicking tee at home games.
On Monday, Oliver’s role expanded. He ran a play for the junior varsity football squad.
“He’s always the kid on the outside looking in,” said his dad, Matt Harrington. “Finally, he’s on the inside looking out.”
In a pregame play against Coal Ridge, the Longhorns offense lined up with varsity quarterback Miles Levy taking time out of his practice to sit in the for the special play. Levy took the snap and tucked the handoff into Oliver’s lap.
Oliver broke to his right in his Ferrari yellow wheelchair, waited patiently for his blockers to create a lane, then let ’er rip down the right sideline for a touchdown sprint of about 50 yards. The wheelchair hits speeds up to 6 mph.
He was ecstatic as he was surrounded by his cheering teammates in the end zone. Coal Ridge players displayed the epitome of sportsmanship by joining the celebration. A decent-sized crowd of Basalt students and parents cheered from the sideline.
As the commotion died down, Oliver got a fist-bump from his older brother, Max, and hugs from his mom, Terry, and Matt. “You were bobbing, weaving and you flattened Rupert,” Matt told his son. Rupert is the imaginary 300-pound defender Oliver often confronts, Matt explained.
Oliver said the play unfolded like he always imagined. Matt said Oliver never complains about watching the varsity from the sideline.
“He says, ‘Dad, I am so happy to be part of the team,’” Matt said.
Oliver “idolizes” Frerichs, and Levy has always been one of his best friends and biggest supporters, according to Matt. But getting to actually run a play is something that will stick with him.
Matt and Terry encourage Oliver to be as active as possible. He has bowled in the Special Olympics. He enters skateboard competitions in his souped-up wheelchair.
Oliver was imagining his big play since coach Frerichs called Oliver’s cellphone on Thursday and left a message that he would have a chance to run a play Monday. Oliver wore out the voice mail, playing it frequently over the weekend.
Oliver never dreamed his first carry would result in a touchdown in the pregame scrimmage. The celebration made it clear he’s got a lot of friends and supporters.
“It’s because of where we live,” Matt said.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.