In the middle of a tightly-contested junior varsity football game on Oct. 2, a wide receiver for Berean Christian of Walnut Creek dropped a “sure touchdown” in the end zone on fourth down and fell to the turf.
In anguish, the receiver kept his head down. The Oiler who had been guarding him had much to cheer about, but he wasn’t celebrating.
“He went over, picked up the receiver, and then patted him on the helmet in a very compassionate way,” according to Michael Williams, parent of a Berean Christian player. “He didn’t jump and run around and point to himself or the stands.”
Take note, NFL.
The Richmond High defensive back, who was seen on multiple occasions picking up fallen opponents, wasn’t the only example of class on the Oilers squad. The entire team exhibited what Williams described as shining examples of sportsmanship.
Although Berean Christian fell 28-22, one player said it was the best loss he’s experienced in football. That player told Williams that many of his teammates felt the same way.
“I am writing to commend the Jr. Varsity team and their coaches for great character displayed during and after the Berean Christian game back on Oct. 2,” Williams wrote, adding later, “I saw firsthand some of the best sportsmanship demonstrated at this or any level. I saw guys picking up opponents after a play, I saw incidents where guys could have let their tempers get the best of them but they commanded their emotions and continued on in the game without further issue.”
After the game ended, Berean Christian players, as part of custom, invited the Richmond High players to join them in prayer. The Oilers coaches and kids accepted.
“No other schools up to that point (to my knowledge or recollection) had accepted Berean’s invitation,” Williams said.
The Oilers varsity team was paid the same respect. The team exhibited an impressive display of good character in a tough loss later that night, Berean Christian JV Coach Mark Barcelon said.
Tragedy helped bring these two teams closer. Last year, the Richmond High players mourning the death of a classmate invited Berean Christian to pray with them.
“Before the game started the players, coaches, referees all gathered for prayer and some grieving,” Barcelon said. “After, the teams played a spirited game and I think there was some unspoken camaraderie developed.”
In response to Williams’ email, a grateful Collins said he shared the letter with the team. He wrote that he grew up in Walnut Creek and had once harbored misconceptions about Richmond like many others.
“I sold my condo in Walnut Creek four years ago and moved to Richmond,” Collins said. “I truly enjoy being a part of the community.”