Lions lose, yet win by helping 10-year-old cancer victim’s fundraising

Gunner Smith, 10, a brain cancer survivor, tosses the coin to begin CAREacter game festivities at Grace Christian Academy alongside his father, Brandon Smith, and CCS senior Jon Roberts.
While looking for the program’s elusive first “on the field” varsity football victory in school history, Concord Christian School helped a 10-year-old brain cancer survivor raise critically needed funds.

The Lions lost to Sunbright 41-14 Thursday night, Nov. 2, in one of four CAREacter Star Community Service Football Fundraiser Games last week at Grace Christian Academy.

While junior Todd Henningsen shined as the primary CCS running back and one of the team’s top tacklers, Lions head coach Troy Fleming put things in perspective.

“In life you’re called to do bigger things than football. And in life God gives you the ability to help others and bless others, whether it’s through monetary value or if it’s through support,” Fleming said about helping to raise funds for Gunner Smith, 10, a fourth-grader at Powell Elementary School diagnosed with brain cancer Aug. 20. He had surgery the next day.

Already having received 33 radiation treatments, Gunner faces 21 rounds of chemotherapy over 42 weeks starting in December.

“I felt like, when they called us to play in the CAREacter game, it was something we needed to do to help this young man,” he added. “I’ll pray to God every day moving forward that He miraculously heals completely and eradicates the cancer.”

Gunner was on hand for the game, tossing the coin to kick things off alongside his father, Brandon Smith, CCS and Sunbright captains and game officials.

Rafe Keyes, Lions junior receiver, caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Gage Maynard in the second quarter.

Maynard scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter, then found Connor Cloer, eighth-grade receiver, for a 2-point conversion pass completion. “He’s going to be an outstanding player. He’s a great athlete,” Fleming said of Cloer. “He has the mindset he wants to be the best, and that’s what we need more of.

“Todd Henningsen played well,” he added. “Also Rafe Keyes, a junior receiver, played well. He did all he could do in the passing game.”

Will Maynard, junior receiver/defensive back, had “some nagging injuries ... but he stepped up and he did well,” the coach said.

Fleming also praised the efforts of his five seniors this season: Jon Roberts, Bryson Butsko, Dat Ngyen, John Haeberli and Hunter Templin.