Game of the Week

Joey McGhee’s dash to glory a shining moment at the right time

Joey McGhee gets a game ball from Wooster coach Doug Haas

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With Wooster in command during its week-six confrontation with Ohio Cardinal Conference foe West Holmes on Friday, Sept. 29 at West Holmes High School, Generals’ No. 50 Joey McGhee was loosening up on the sideline for his chance to have an impact on the game.

While the Generals were in complete command as time wound down, McGhee managed to make the play of the game, darting through a hole in the West Holmes defensive line and sprinting 64 yards for the first touchdown of his career.

For four years, McGhee, a young man with Down Syndrome, has been a faithful part of the Wooster football program. His exuberance, his charm, his broad smile and his great attitude have endeared him to Wooster fans, and when No. 50 marched on to the field with about two minutes to play and Wooster leading 49-20, it was supposed to be a simple play. Wooster head coach Doug Haas would send in a play. The Generals would hike the ball to the quarterback, who would hand McGhee the ball, and he would take a knee. He would have played a real down in a real high school football game.

West Holmes head coach Zac Gardner would have none of that. He wanted to really allow McGhee to make an impact. After taking a knee, West Holmes sent Wooster the message they wanted McGhee to score a touchdown.

In a world torn apart by indifference, prejudice and ill will, it was one of those moments that makes a person feel like there really is hope for humanity.

Amidst plenty of wild applause, as well as more than a few tear-laden eyes, McGhee blew through the line, and with his Wooster teammates running alongside him, traversed the 64 yards for a touchdown. As the Wooster players rushed the field, it was hard to tell who was more excited: McGhee, his teammates or perhaps the fans on both sides of the field.

“That was fun,” McGhee said following his romp to the end zone. “I’m happy, and I did a dance.”

And after receiving the royal treatment of having his teammates rush the field and carry him off while applause from all four directions of the stadium erupted?

“That made me happy,” McGhee said.

It was his dream come true. However, it wasn’t his only dream scenario. Last season in the spring Joey hit a home run for the Generals’ baseball team. And earlier this summer, he got to visit with Cleveland Indians players Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Brandon Guyer.

While he has continually asked coach Haas to get into a football game this season, don’t think for a minute that McGhee will stop now that he has gotten a taste.

“I’m sure he will keep asking me to get in games,” Haas said with a laugh. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

Following the game, Haas was more excited about the way that whole scenario transpired than he was about the game itself. Choking back tears, Haas related what that moment meant to McGhee, to himself and to everyone present at the game.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank coach Gardner and his staff and those kids enough,” Haas said. “That means the world to me. It means the world to Joey and his family, and I am just so proud of both of these communities and how they responded. That should be the lead to this game. I love Joey. He has been around for four years, and he is such a great kid. I’m proud of Joey, and I couldn’t be prouder of the West Holmes team.”

Realizing the magnitude of what was taking place in having McGhee take a snap and take a knee, Gardner put aside all of the thoughts of rivalry games and wins and losses and said he and his staff and team wanted to do something special that would be meaningful above and beyond wins and losses.

“There are things that are bigger than the game,” Gardner said. “There are a lot of great coaches around the state who have done the same thing, and we are proud of that kid and what he has accomplished. Again, there are just things that are much bigger than the game of football.”

Wooster quarterback Dylan Dagley had a monster game, but he too was more excited for his teammate.

“He had been asking all season for a score, and we kept telling him we weren’t sure it was going to happen,” Dagley said. “Thanks to West Holmes, it happened. We were just going to have him take a knee at the end of the game, but they said they wanted him to score. That was really, really, really cool by them.”

What’s next for McGhee? It’s hard to say, but the way his last year has gone, can a dunk in a Generals basketball game, a shoot-around with LeBron James or a race with Usain Bolt be far behind?

Not for this General, who has provided a wonderful example of how humanity can overcome obstacles.



  1. Dave Mast

    Sep 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Seeing both of these teams pour their hearts and souls into this game,then turn around and show the compassion they exhibited is an inspiration we should all relish. The OCC has promoted leadership and respect from day 1 as a conference. Tonight we saw young men exhibiting those very traits in a positive and uplifting way. Congrats to all.

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