Playing a man up on everyone |

Playing a man up on everyone

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Emily Johnson’s dad, D.J., put it best.

Coal Ridge’s girls soccer team is playing a man up on everyone this season.

D.J.’s daughter, Emily, who was killed in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident back in November, is finding a way to share the field with her Titan teammates from afar.

Emily, just 16 years old at the time of her passing, is the Titans’ “soccer angel,” family friend Carrie Lyon proclaimed.

“She’s with us every second ” at practice, at school, at games,” said junior Chelsie Ryan, sporting a blue armband with Emily’s No. 5 on it. “She’s with us 24-7.”

And she’ll be with Coal Ridge’s future soccer players. The Titans’ home field has been named “The Pasture,” in honor of Emily.

The Pasture, you ask? That’s what Emily always wanted to call Coal Ridge’s manure-fertilized field. The name brings big smiles to the faces of her parents, who’ve been floored by a rush of school and community support.

From all corners of the Valley.

“It’s tremendous,” D.J. said. “You know, it’s just a lot of little things. Like the Basalt girls (who the Titans played on Thursday) played with a No. 5 on their game ball. They wore blue-and-white No. 5 ribbons. It was a classy act.”

And, of course, Emily’s memory blazes on at Coal Ridge.

A pair of brass plaques donning Emily’s handprint will be up at the field’s two entrances soon. As they rush onto the field, players will press their palms up against Emily’s.

In their first home game against Roaring Fork on Saturday, the Titans started the tradition with a sample version of the plaque.

Emily’s mom, Sheryl, proudly clutched that mock-up plaque as she left the field on Saturday. Having just watched her soccer-loving daughter’s team knock off the visiting Rams, she knew Emily had a part in the outcome.

“She’s here with us all,” she said with a smile.

And the Titans seem to be benefiting from Emily’s presence. Now 3-0-1, Coal Ridge is on track for its best soccer season to date.

A dream season is what Emily would have wanted.

“We know what she would want,” said sophomore Ashlie Bowles, wearing a blue armband like Ryan and all of her teammates. “She’d want us to play hard, no matter who’s playing her position. She’d want us to never give up.”

As the Titans’ soccer angel, Emily will be there to make sure of that.

Contact Jeff Caspersen: 384-9123

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