Wash. player with Down Syndrome scores TD

Credit: KING

Ike Ditzenberger, a Snohomish High School varsity football player with Down Syndrome, celebrates after running for a touchdown in the final seconds of a 35-6 loss to Lake Stevens High School on Friday, Sept. 24, 2010.

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

kgw.com

Posted on September 30, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Sep 30 at 3:06 PM

SNOHOMISH, Wash. - By most accounts, Ike Ditzenberger is different.

The 17-year-old junior at Snohomish High School has Down Syndrome. He takes special classes during the day, but after school Ike is just like one of the guys.

He's a varsity football player.

"He gives it 100 percent every time he's out there," says Head Coach Mark Perry. "On the sidelines, he likes to crack jokes, and sometimes he'll eat a cookie or two."

The players embrace Ike as one of their own. Every night at practice, the team runs a special play. They call it the 'Ike Special'.

"Ike runs it up the middle and the guys pretend to tackle him," says Perry. "Everyone loves it and Ike gets to play."

On Friday night, Coach Perry pulled the 'Ike Special' out of the playbook. He told the opposing Lake Stevens High School Football players what was about to happen and he called number 57 out on to the field.

"I told them if he gets 10 or 20 yards, that's great," Perry says.

The play call was a surprise to almost everyone in the stands, including Ike's mom.

"I heard a lot of commotion and then I saw my son Ike run out onto the field," says Kay Ditzenberger. "My first thought was, 'I hope he doesn't drop it!,'" she laughs.

4th quarter. 10 seconds left. Quarterback Taran Lee hands the ball off to Ike.

"I dropped back to hand it off, and Ike ran backwards a little bit," says Lee.

Over the next 18 seconds, Ike ran a zig-zag pattern around the field, every step still inching closer to the goal line. Then he straightened out his run. The opposing players for Lake Stevens made admirable attempts to dive for Ike, but came up short, knowing Ike was going all the way. Then magic happened.

After a 51-yard run, Ike Ditzenberger crossed the goal line for a touchdown.

"I was bawling and everyone was screaming. It was such a special gift," says Ike's mom.

After a short celebration with his teammates in the end zone, Ike ripped off his helmet and ran toward the sideline with a grin from ear to ear. Thanks to both teams, Ike got his moment.

"To see the players and fans react the way they did was special," says Coach Perry. "They went nuts. I'm glad it could happen."

Snohomish High School lost 35-6, but the score didn't matter. Already Ike is thinking about the future.

"He wants to play for the Huskies," says mom. "But first, he says he wants a date for homecoming."

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