It was the fourth quarter and the Plainedge Bobcats football team was facing off against the Bethpage Eagles at John H. West Elementary School when 12-year-old Michael DiMarco ran the ball in for an 8-0 victory on Sunday.
While this scene could have played out in any peewee football matchup on a host of school fields across Long Island on any given Sunday, there was one detail that really got parents in the bleachers on their feet and cheering: DiMarco was making a guest appearance as a running back for just that one play for Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
DiMarco, wearing a red No. 48 Bobcats jersey specially made for him the night before, is a child with the genetic, chromosomal disorder. The Eagles, like the Bobcats, had been undefeated so far this season yet celebrated alongside DiMarco after letting him score.
“For the kids on the team to do something for someone like that made the whole day really special,” DiMarco’s father, Vincent, said after the game.
One in every 691 babies is born with Down syndrome and there are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the US, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.
Mikey, as his fans affectionately call him, regularly watches his 9-year-old brother, Vincent Jr., practice his drills as a defensive tackle after school where he is in 4th grade. This Sunday, little Vinny stood in as quarterback for the last play of the game when he handed off the ball to his big brother. The Bobcats scored a safety earlier in the game.
“We gave him the game ball,” John Petrucci, the Bobcats’ head coach, later told the Press from the sidelines. “He’ll have a smile on his face for the rest of his life.”