NORTH LIBERTY — It’s just a game.
A couple of hundred yards rushing, a 71-yard touchdown reception, and a team win pales in comparison to the struggles of a cousin with cancer.
Iowa City Liberty junior Kaleb Williams battled emotion and the Mid-Prairie defense en route to a 27-22 win Friday night.
The second effort runs and juke moves were all powered by his cousin, who was able to make it to the game.
“Preparation for this week has been like no other,” Williams said. “I worked my butt off and my team worked really hard.
“When gametime came, I just sat there in silence thinking about how great it is that God gave me the ability to play football.”
What made it even more special was the school hosted its first “Purple Out” to raise funds and awareness for childhood diseases. Iowa City Liberty used a drone to wave via webcast to children at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, a practice started by the University of Iowa in 2017.
“We’ve been planning for them to come for about two weeks,” Williams said. “When I found out that my cousins were coming, I broke down in tears.”
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Williams was able to make an impact immediately. The junior hauled in a 71-yard touchdown pass on the game’s second play to put the Lightning on the board.
“For Kaleb, it was an emotional night,” Liberty Coach Jeff Gordon said. “I think he found some extra juice in his body tonight.”
Mid-Prairie had a powerhouse difference-maker of its own in the backfield. Down 13-0, Justin Schwartz led the call for the Golden Hawks, marching them 74 yards in 17 plays to get Mid-Prairie on the board.
“We just didn’t have an answer for (Schwartz),” Gordon said. “It very easily could have been Mid-Prairie winning this game.”
The Lightning found an extra gear when Williams scored his third touchdown of the night.