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A special football moment in Palmyra for Paxton

A special football moment in Palmyra for Paxton


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

Paxton Hemberger is surrounded by his teammates after scoring a touchdown to end the first half of Sunday’s youth varsity game against Field.
Special to Portage Sports

There were a lot of touchdowns scored across the Portage County youth football landscape on Sunday, but none meant more than the one scored by Paxton Hemberger. 

The Southeast Middle School sixth-grader scored from 20 yards out to close out the first half in an emotional moment that represents all that is good about small-town youth sports.

Hemberger, 12, has cerebral palsy and dystonia.

For four years, he has watched from the sidelines while his younger sister cheers on the Pirates.

Sunday was his time to get on the field.

At the end of the first half of the varsity game against Field, both teams lined up near the Falcons’ 20, where the ball was snapped, handed off to Paxton, and he burst up the middle with his mother Christina Hemberger pushing his chair through the Falcons defense and across the goal line and into the end zone, where his teammates came rushing to him to share the moment.

“I am still processing all of this!” Christina Hemberger posted on Facebook on Sunday evening. “We have an amazing community with so much love and support!”

The moment was something that has been on Southeast youth varsity coach Mike Richeson’s mind for quite some time.

“I had been wanting to do something like this for him for a while,” Richeson said. “This year, he is part of the team (Paxton was the team mascot last season), and he leads us onto the field when we are introduced. I talked with the Field head coach (Randy Porter) about setting up this moment for him last week, and he was all for it.”

Porter said the decision was easy, and he was grateful to be part of it.

“We want to thank the Southeast coaches and directors for allowing us to be a part of such an amazing moment to recognize and honor Paxton,” Porter said. “As a coach, these are truly the moments in your career you will remember. Years down the road, we will forget about a specific touchdown pass or fumble, but we will never forget Paxton and his touchdown.”

Hemberger’s conditions make it difficult for him to move his muscles, and he is nonverbal, but uses a communication device to communicate. He began his education at Happy Day School, then transitioned to Southeast in first grade.

“We are so glad we did,” Christina Hemberger said. “Paxton has made so many friends. He is very social and loves to be around other kids. He is very smart and understands everything.

“He has a typical boy mindset and loves to rough house and get dirty.”

And he loves to score touchdowns.

“We are blessed to be part of an amazing community and organization that makes stuff like this happen,” Christina Hemberger said. “We try to give Paxton the most typical life possible and moments like this wouldn’t be possible without our amazing community.”


  1. Shari Lallanilla August 21, 2023

    What a heartwarming and emotional high for all the family and friends!!

    Thank you everyone involved in this wonderful display of a loving environment……

  2. Mary Ammerman August 21, 2023

    That is amazing! What they did for Paxton will be long remembered!!!!!


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