March 9, 2014

Georgia Rampage pairs with Miracle League for winning score

Even if just for one play, Henry Helton felt like a part of the Georgia Rampage. He took the handoff, ran to the right side of the offensive line and crossed the goal line to celebrate a score.

He’s the first of four Miracle League of Whitfield County players who will receive a similar moment this spring.

Despite losing 44-43 to the Alabama Outlawz last Monday, Dalton’s indoor professional football team made sure at least one from the home side left the trade center feeling like a winner. Henry took the field after the Rampage scored their first touchdown and enjoyed the start of his professional football career by scoring on the post-touchdown conversion.

“When he got to run, I was very proud first because he got to go out and run for a touchdown,” said Henry’s mother, Betsy Helton. “One of the things I liked the most was he thought he was one of the players. All he was missing was pads and a helmet. He got in a stance just like the players do.”

The Miracle League — a youth baseball program for children who cannot participate in regular recreation leagues due to either a physical or mental disability — is played at the Miracle Field at Westside Park on Mount Vernon Road. Henry, 10, has played since it started in the fall of 2012. The third-grader at Westside Elementary School is on the Yankees.

But there are other sports besides baseball — and Henry is a big football fan, too.

“I liked running for a touchdown,” Henry said. “It was fun.”

Said his mother, “We were excited because he loves football and any sports. He was thrilled to have the opportunity.”

The Rampage grabbed a 10-8 lead when Akeen Scruggs returned an interception for a touchdown to end the first quarter. At all Rampage home games this season, a player from the Whitfield County Miracle League will enter the field and score after the first touchdown for the home team.

While the play doesn’t count toward the scoreboard — the Rampage failed to convert on the two-point attempt after Henry’s play — it does count for the kids and parents participating and watching.

“He walked on that field like he was part of the team,” said Millie Hicks, co-director of the Miracle League. “He was not scared one bit. He was fist bumping and high fiving.”

That idea came from last season, when the Rampage had a “Miracle League night” during a home game.

“Last season, we had some of the Miracle Field athletes come on the field during player introductions,” Rampage owner Kacee Smith said. “They all enjoyed that, so we wanted to do more.”

The Rampage have three more home games this season, with the next April 3 against the Florida Marine Raiders. The Rampage play at home April 19 versus the St. Louis Attack and May 12 against the Pennsylvania Steam.

“It was wonderful,” Millie said of Henry’s score. “He was so excited. When they announced his name, he waved to the crowd just like he was a pro. It was something to see.

“When they lined up for the play, he got into his stance just like the players. When they handed him the ball, he took off.”

The Rampage offensive line paved the way for Henry to reach the end zone.

After the score, the Rampage and Outlawz players applauded and some players hoisted Henry into the air to celebrate as if he just won the Super Bowl.

“It touched my heart to see the whole team pick him up and lift him into the air after he scored,” Betsy said. “It made me proud as apparent that they were kind enough to do that for him.

“It’s wonderful for everyone like that to see kids have the opportunity to participate in sports.”

Registration for the spring season at the Miracle League is open through March 15. Register online at www.whitfieldcountymiracleleague.com or call (706) 260-8861.

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