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The game of life

The Pilot Point Bearcats scored a big victory when they beat Whitesboro in a critical district football game Friday at Massey Stadium.

But the team – and a particular player – scored a different kind of triumph before the game.

Zak Powell plays on the Pilot Point football team, and players from units from the two teams lined up on the field – Pilot Point on offense and Whitesboro on defense – before the game started. Powell took the ball and scored a touchdown.

The touchdown didn’t count in the final outcome, but the sentiment from the team and crowd will live on.

“It felt pretty good,” Zak said.

Zak, a senior, was diagnosed with Dubowitz Syndrome when he was 2. He has experienced additional health problems such as severe scoliosis and had a growth rod placed in his back when he was 6 years old. The rod is still there, and because of his condition, he cannot participate in live action during football games.

He enjoyed hearing his name on the public address system and giving the play to the quarterback. He liked the report done by WFAA television Channel 8 in Dallas.

“That was pretty cool,” he said. “I had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I saw your video and you getting that touchdown.’”

Zak’s fame was all over social media.

“It was crazy this weekend on Facebook,” he said.

is parents, Robert and Lori Powell, were excited to see their son score a touchdown.

“We were extremely proud of him and proud of the coaching staff and all of the players for always including him as part of the team,” Lori Powell said. “I can’t say enough good things about coach [Danny] David. He’s always been very willing to include Zakary as much as Zakary can do. They allow him to practice with the team and do as much as he can and let him suit up at the games and make him feel like he is part of the team.”

His teammates have accepted him, Zak said, and he thinks the team will not just merely make the playoffs this season.

“I think we’re going to go to state this year,” he said.

Wide receiver Gage Rider said Zak has motivates the team.

“He runs sprints with us, he shows every day unless he has something, and he pumps us up before every practice and very game. He loves us all,” Rider said, adding that Zak is a big Texas Longhorn fan and Rider is a big Oklahoma sooner fan and that Zak “let him have it” out the outcome, which Texas won 48-45.

Despite his health challenges, Zak has played youth baseball and football, and he played on the junior varsity last year. He also is a student trainer for the junior varsity football team.

“I love being varsity – you get to play on Friday nights,” he said.

Dealing with the condition brings its challenges, but he faces it with a positive attitude.

“Sometimes it’s hard because I want to get on that football field and start playing,” he said.

But he participates in practice like other players and contributes on game nights by encouraging his teammates on the sidelines.

Zak participates in track and field with Special Olympics, doing running events and softball throw.

He is not sure what he wants to do after high school. He is involved in a school-to-work program and works at Ace Hardware in Pilot Point.

Lisa Wheeler, Zak’s teacher in the Student to Employer Program, said she enjoys having Zak is as a student.

“He is respectful; he is attentive; he works as hard as he can work,” Wheeler said. “He’s got a great personality. Everybody loves him. He’s like a dream student.”

Wheeler said whatever Zak puts his mind to, “he is going to do a great job at it.”

“He’s very determined and very enthusiastic,” she said.

Zak’s father, Sgt. Robert Powell of the Pilot Point Police Department, has been undergoing treatments for Stage4BCellLymphoma, and the community has thrown its support behind him, including holding a fundraiser in September. Zak said he is able to balance his home and school life as his father deals with his illness. Robert had his fourth chemo treatment Monday.

“At school, I set that aside and just have fun with my friends,” Zak said.

Pilot Point head football coach said Zak contributes greatly to the team.

“There’s times when he gives a pre-game talk,” David said. “There’s a time when he’s leading the team out on the field through the tunnel. … He’s just a positive part of not only our team, but [also] our school and Pilot Point.”

Lori said her son is a social butterfly who loves his friends and football, whether it is watching it, playing Madden on Xbox or being at the Pilot Point games.

“The more he is around his friends and all that, the happier he is,” Lori said.

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