Player with down syndrome scores special playoff soccer goal

Cameron Smith

Sportsmanship isn't dead. If there was any question it was, those concerns were answered last week in Louisiana, where a high school soccer player with down syndrome was allowed to score the first goal of his varsity career ... during a playoff game.

According to the KATC News in Lafayette, La, Pineville (La.) High player Ross Barron entered his first varsity playoff game with 15 minutes remaining in a first-round clash between Barron's Pineville squad and Lafayette (La.) High, which built up an early advantage and was well on its way to an eventual 8-1 victory. Barron, an enthusiastic 19-year-old with down syndrome, would enter games once they were decided, and had never scored a goal in his brief varsity career.

That's when Lafayette coach Jeremy Cart got an idea: If it was OK with Pineville, he wanted his team to make sure that Barron scored a goal in his final varsity game.

"What those guys do and to allow a player like that into their program and to work with him all year and be such a special part of it and give him opportunities was overwhelming to me," Cart told KATC.

Needless to say, Pineville coach Grant Eloi didn't need much convincing that Cart's idea was more than just a simple suggestion; it was the right thing to do.

"Well, as soon as Coach Jeremy from Lafayette came up to me and mentioned that he would like to get Ross a goal I just immediately started tearing up," Eloi told KATC. "Just the aftermath, to see that one kid, an 18-year-old kid, can make so many people so happy and fill them with so much emotion, it's just an amazing experience."

Eloi relayed to get the ball to Barron, and his charges excitedly followed his instructions. What happened next was magical. After two misfires -- with Lafayette returning the ball to Pineville as deliberately as possible while still remaining in the flow of the game -- Barron got a clear look on goal and fired a clean shot on goal, hitting nothing but the back of the net and sending his teammates and both teams' fans in the crowd into screams of excitement.

"[Barron] was on cloud nine, " Pineville player David Evans told KATC. "We were all circling around him just cheering him on and congratulating him.

"Any time we were having a bad game, you look at Ross and he's in the game and it just makes everything seem more exciting because no matter what the score is Ross is having a good time."

Scoring the goal clearly had a profound effect on the 19-year-old, with Barron sitting on his team's sideline in tears of joy after the game, greeting each and every Lafayette player and coach, all of whom walked the extra stretch to congratulate him on his goal.

Needless to say, while the goal meant a lot to Barron, it meant nearly as much to his coach and teammates, who were inspired by his exuberance all season.

"Got him on the team," Eloi told KATC. "And just be honest it was the best decision I think I've ever made in my entire life."

Eloi's next decision was easy: He said that he and his team have a distinct rooting interest for the rest of the state playoffs.

"We're hoping they take home state," Eloi told the Daily Advertiser. "If karma does exist, Lafayette will go all the way."

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