State wrestling champion Miguel Salamanca may have been a step slower in his return to the gridiron Saturday, but it sure felt good to get out in the open again with a football in his hands.
“I had a little rust to knock off,” he said. “It felt really good to put the pads back on, and to hit some people. It was fun getting everyone back together for one more game of football.”
Especially for a cause as important as the Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland. Salamanca knows first hand of the miracles happening at that place. About 20 years ago, his older brother was a patient at Shriners battling cerebral palsy.
“It felt great to raise a lot of money, and to see all of these people in the stands,” Salamanca said. “Once we stepped on the field, there were no rivalries. We were all one team playing for that hospital.”
Salamanca made four catches for 74 yards as a member of the East All-Stars in the 2011 Shriners Freedom Bowl Saturday, at Kiggins Bowl. He was one of six Camas High School graduates who played in the game, along with David Anderson, Kyle Ervin, Jeremy Faulkner, Logan Grindy and Ikaika Gunderson. Washougal High School graduate Ryan Erdwins also played for the East. Washougal head football coach Bob Jacobs was head coach for the East.
Grindy’s senior year in football ended on the sidelines, after he broke his leg in the game before the playoffs. Throwing the ball around with his friends Saturday gave Grindy the opportunity to walk away with a smile on his face.
“Going out with a broken leg is no fun,” he said. “It was exciting to be able to get back on the field for a game, and finish it off right.”
Grindy and Ervin hooked up for the last time on an 18-yard pass. The two former Papermakers shared a meaningful glance before getting back in the huddle.
“We’ve been on this ride together since seventh grade, so that last catch felt amazing,” Ervin said.
Ervin made a lot of new friends this week, especially with the children at the hospital.
“It was an awesome experience seeing what those kids are like, and how they fight everyday,” he said. “It made me really proud to be able to come out here today and play for those kids.”
The West All-Stars defeated the East 22-14. The fourth- and fifth-grade Washougal Panthers from the Clark County Youth Football league kicked off the festivities with a game against the North County Colts.
Kade Coons delivered some long touchdown runs. The last one went for about 63 yards.
“Guys were just grabbing my jersey, left and right, on that last touchdown run,” Coons said. “I just kept running, and I didn’t stop.”
Grant Lewis recovered a fumble and took it to the house, to give the Panthers a five-point lead with about three minutes to go. The Colts had just enough time on the clock to get seven more points for a 33-31 victory.
“It was awesome getting high-fives from my coaches and hugs from my teammates,” Lewis said. “We thought we were going to win, but our confidence was too high and we lowered our shoulder. It was still a great game. This was the greatest hour of football in my life, so far.”
The CCYF Washougal Panthers are Jack Latimer, Tanner Klopman, Wyatt Ringo, Max Churchman, Preston Thornton, Josiah Villegas, Jace Gwyinn, Cole Robb, Nick Oaks, Carson Adams, Andrew Ludlow, Ben Gutkind, Carter Murray, Austin Leamer, Walker Layne, Tanner Trangmar, Payten Van Dyke, Ryan Harness, Ashton Wiege, Ryan Bausch, Ryan Stevens, Coons, Lewis.