MANHATTAN — Two weeks ago, the Manhattan football team etched its name in the history books forever by winning its first-ever Class B state championship game. The Tigers finished the year with an undefeated 12-0 record, and, to celebrate their perfect season, the Tigers got to take a joy ride around town on firetrucks.
“It was pretty great to see our community come out and kind of rally around us after everything that’s went on this year," said senior captain Cayl DeBoer. "They were really supportive and right there with us the whole way.”
It was all smiles as the Tigers road around town celebrating their most successful year in school history, but Friday's joy ride signified much more than their Class B state title. It was a chance to observe everything the Tigers have overcome this season.
"I just can’t speak enough about these kids’ characters," said head coach Chris Grabowska. "They’re resilient. They’re determined. They didn’t let anything get them down.”
Halfway through their season, the Tigers had to sideline one of the hearts and souls of their team after DeBoer suffered a life-threatening injury during a game.
“When I woke up in the hospital bed the next morning after surgery, there was a lot of stuff connected to me and running into me," said DeBoer. "I just wasn’t sure what was going on and how serious everything was. I think at that moment I realized it can all be taken away very, very quickly. I’ve always appreciated it, but I just wonder what it would've been like to be with them the whole way.”
The Tigers instilled the motto 'Doing it for Cayl’ and made it their mission to bring home a state title for him.
"For them to rally behind me and all the support they gave me, it meant the world to me," said DeBoer as he started choking up. "I didn’t know I meant that much to them. It was good, and I was happy to be their captain.”
DeBoer was able to return to the sidelines the final few weeks and be a part of the Tigers' championship run.
“For them calling out my name to go get the trophy, it meant a lot to me," added DeBoer. "I’m just glad I could make an impact on their life and be a positive leader for them. I was just happy they accepted me, and I got to do that with them.”
It’s a moment Grabowska will never forget.
“He’s an inspiration to us every day," said Grabowska. "As a coach, you hate to see one of your players go through that. It just really hurt me to not be able to see him finish the season, and to see him hoist that trophy was really special.”