Unified Sports prepares for a win against Higley

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Unified Sports prepares for a win against Higley

Unified athletes gather in a celebratory huddle.

Unified athletes gather in a celebratory huddle.

Hailey James

Unified athletes gather in a celebratory huddle.

Hailey James

Hailey James

Unified athletes gather in a celebratory huddle.

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With game number two of the flag football season underway, the Perry Unified Sports team prepared to take on Higley despite the significant loss of teammates through graduation.

“This year, I only have seven players,” head coach Rose Escalante continued, “I had [about] 15 athletes last year, [and] we’re down to six because one hurt his wrist.”

Even with dwindling numbers, the team conditioned and performed football drills on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

This is possible because the Special Olympics and Arizona Interscholastic Association paired up to push for Unified Sports. The program grew when other districts like Higley and Florence began to integrate it into their schools.

“We were one of the first schools in the state to welcome in Unified Sports. Our district was the first, so it has really progressed well,” Principal Dan Serrano said. Perry officially introduced its team in 2012.

Only two of five games remain for the 2016-2017 season after they played Higley, leaving athletes ready to soak up every minute on the field.

On Sept. 20, all of the preparation was put to the test.

For this game, two 20-minute halves determined Perry’s outcome.

With 16 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock, the first touchdown was scored by Higley; just three minutes later, junior athlete David Solano secured a touchdown of his own for Perry.

By the end of the first half, the score was Perry 24, Higley 20.

The second half continued with points neck-and-neck. Eventually, the board ran down to 37.3 seconds left with Higley leading Perry, but as the time hit 6.7 seconds, Solano ran another touchdown.

The final score was Perry 50 and Higley 48, yet taking home the win is not all the players had to reflect on.

Solano, a Unified athlete, said his favorite part about being in the program is, “having a sort of determination and sportsmanship between other teams. When we win or lose, [it] doesn’t matter, it’s just playing the game.”

The Unified Athletes are able to put everything they have on the field, leaving any hindrances behind.

“The most rewarding experience about being on the team is seeing how exciting it is for the athletes to play. They are so enthusiastic and passionate about the sport,” junior Unified Sports partner Ashlee Colborn said.

As the Unified Sports team continues, scores will remain secondary while comradery takes priority.

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