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Cougars stand together for Bellecomo

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Cougars stand together for Bellecomo

The VHHS Varsity Football Team supported Bellecomo by wearing red socks at Highland Park High School on Sept. 21.

The VHHS Varsity Football Team supported Bellecomo by wearing red socks at Highland Park High School on Sept. 21.

Aaron Getlin

The VHHS Varsity Football Team supported Bellecomo by wearing red socks at Highland Park High School on Sept. 21.

Aaron Getlin

Aaron Getlin

The VHHS Varsity Football Team supported Bellecomo by wearing red socks at Highland Park High School on Sept. 21.

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The Vernon Hills Cougars traveled to Highland Park on Sept. 21 to face the Highland Park Giants with more than just the game on their minds.

Head coach Bill Bellecomo took a leave of absence as he underwent heart surgery. The unexpected heart valve replacement surgery kept Bellecomo out of school until Nov. 19, a few weeks earlier than expected, he said.

Across from the home team’s bleachers, a good portion of the away team bleachers were covered in red. The original theme of the game was Hawaiian. Once CRU got the news of Bellecomo’s surgery, the theme of the game was immediately changed to red out.

CRU member Fred Sides (12) felt the energy of the fan section that night.

“There were highs and lows as far as energy in the fan section like any other football game, but you could definitely feel the strong presence of what [the Highland Park game] was for,” Sides said.

Throughout the game, fans for the Cougars knew how hard it was for the team to lose the coach, and the support from the fan section was evident.

The motto for that week was “Do it for Bellecomo.” Highland Park was the team’s first game without him due to his surgery. Quarterback Derek Jarrell (12), had to be more of an on- the- field leader than ever before due to the absence of the coach.

“It was our first conference game, and not having Como there was really hard, but we went into it thinking we were going to play the game for him,” Jarrell said.

The team took this game to heart by honoring Bellecomo in their own way. Every player on the team wore red socks instead of white socks. Jarrell said another moment the team shared was in their late game comeback. They were down and scored four touchdowns in three minutes.

Finishing the season was a challenge for everybody, including the coach that filled in for Bellecomo, Coach Czarnecki. The team banded together and supported each other to get through the challenge of losing Bellecomo.

“It was challenging for all of us, but in the end, I think the fact everyone was willing to step up and do a little bit more made things as seamless as possible,” Czarnecki said.

Bellecomo was never left in the dark, though. He said the players sent him texts through Remind, and they emailed him to check in. Coach Czarnecki and the other coaches sent him constant updates about the team, as well.

Although he had constant updates coming in from his team, his role decreased a ton. He said that when he left, Coach Czarnecki took over completely. Bellecomo didn’t have a say in anything, nor did he want to. He was focused on his surgery and recovery.

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