Playing for Mom
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Losing always hurts.
Jake Whaley found comfort and solace as family and friends surrounded him after Rifle’s playoff game loss. But the sorrow was overwhelming.
Cody Beauford sought out his teammate and found the big lineman as tears drained down his cheeks. Jake couldn’t contain his emotions.
Nor should he. He lost so much more than a football game.
The two juniors fell into a tight embrace and Cody pulled Jake close and whispered in his ear.
On Wednesday night, Stacey Whaley died in her sleep.
Cody offered his support and his thoughts. A touching moment between teammates, who have both lost family.
On Saturday, Stacey Whaley’s son showed the mettle and courage of a young man who was raised to be a good son who doesn’t quit.
“I just fought for her, left it all out there on the field,” Jake says, his face streaked with tears from sadness and mud from a tough battle on the football field.
Cody knows loss, too. Five years ago, his sister Megan Beauford died in an automobile accident.
“He’s a great kid,” Cody says, his voice also cracking.
Cody is a great kid, too.
Thinking of his sister, grieving for his friend and teammate.
“He’s going through a lot right now. It means so much to me knowing that he came out here and played,” Cody says.
Jakes’s dad, Charles Whaley, came to the sidelines to be near his son during the game.
When Jake came off the field, Dad was there waiting. To cheer him, to help him deal with the unimaginable. To help him stay focused.
His mother gone, his heart breaking, Jake played for his teammates, Jake played for his mom.
“I thought about her on every play,” Jake says.
Dad shakes his head, still trying to comprehend the agony of the last few days. Unable to absorb the unbelievable fortitude – sheer guts – his son showed on Saturday.
“He’s such a tough kid,” Charles pauses as his fragile emotions get away from him for a moment. “He just wanted to play for his mom. He didn’t want to come out.”
And play for Mom Jake did. Facing opponents, 50, 60, even 100 pounds larger than him, Jake’s heart led the way.
Never backing down. A snowstorm, a playoff football game, a huge opponent – easy. Playing for his mother, just three days after her death – beyond understanding.
Head coach Damon Wells shakes his head thinking of Jake.
“What he did today was a tremendous example of courage and love. To do something like that as a junior in high school, I can’t relate to that,” Wells says.
For a team that lost teammate Austin Booth in January, for Cody Beauford, who lost his sister in 2006, for a school that lost teacher Steve Chesley in October, pain and adversity is everywhere.
But no one can relate to what Jake had to endure over the most tormenting three days of his life.
Winning would have made for a great story. But there would be no silver lining to this story. Just pain, tears and loss. Unimaginable loss.
Jake played for his mom, played for his teammates, played for his coaches, played for his friends, played for his school – Jake Whaley turned in an amazing effort.
The always undersized Bears never gave up, and with a teammate with a heart so heavy it’s impossible to understand how he did, Jake was the ultimate football soldier on Saturday.
As much as Jake did on the football field in the pursuit of victory, Saturday was not as much about football as it was about love.
Jake Whaley was the ultimate son on Saturday. He fought for Mom. He played for Mom.
A good football player. A great son.
Mom would have been so proud. Everyone is proud. Everyone’s heart is breaking.
Dale Shrull is a freelance writer for the Post Independent.
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UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.