Armando Huerta has coached in two state championship games as an assistant but even those nerves could not compare to the butterflies he felt Friday night.
Huerta, the Odem head football coach, was playing Banquete in a district game but the extra nerves came when he told 5-year old Logan Newkirk-Martinez’s grandmother they were going to take the opening drive and score. Then after the score hand Logan the game-used ball.
“I was never as nervous as I was this past Friday night because of that,” Huerta said. “I told them you all know we are fighting for Logan and everything we are doing is to make that little boy proud.”
Logan’s presence at the game was a bit of a surprise for the Owls coaches and players even though they built a relationship over the last few weeks as Logan’s life and that of his family’s changed forever.
Logan had been complaining of pain in his left side in early October and was running a slight fever, but his grandmother, Carla Newkirk, was thinking it was from being back at school. On Oct. 12, his grandmother took him to a doctor on the advice of a school nurse in Odem. In less than 24 hours, Logan was in Driscoll Children’s Hospital after surgery to remove his left kidney because a large tumor was attached.
Logan was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, a common kidney cancer among children, but there was a complication in that some of the cancer cells had spread to Logan’s lungs. He is listed as being at Stage 4 and began radiation and chemotherapy treatments the following week. That same week he received a visit from the Odem football team’s captains.
“It was kind of sad, I guess, seeing him there but when he actually saw us and he was smiling and glad we were there that was cool,” said Odem quarterback Tevin Moreno. “It means a lot that we are supporting him.”
The players had their jerseys on and brought him a “goody basket” that included blankets and a stuffed animal Logan rarely parts with, his grandmother said.
The outpouring of support and help for Logan and the family increased in the weeks after his initial diagnosis. Newkirk, who also has two granddaughters who attend school in Odem, said she had kept family and friends informed on his condition through Facebook, and it was through social media where Logan’s story began to pick up steam.
Meanwhile, on the way home from the hospital, Huerta said his players told him they were dedicating the season to him.