FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (WHDH) - They are warriors both in name and in spirit this week.
The Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School team played in the Division II Super Bowl Friday night at Gillette Stadium with heavy hearts — remembering the school’s longtime athletic trainer Yoshitaka Ando, who died on Tuesday.
Ando, the beloved father of four, was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer just a few weeks ago.
“Ando was a lynchpin at the LS community and everyone is playing with him in our hearts,” said Luess Sampson-Lizotte, mother of the team’s captain. “We just hope that the family knows how much we love them.”
Ando’s 16-year-old son, Kyle, suited up and took the field with his team to compete for the state title just three days after losing his father.
Kyle and all of his teammates are in mourning. Donning “YA” stickers on their helmets in memory of a man who wore many hats in their lives.
Ando was the athletic trainer at the school but in the 33-years he worked at Lincoln-Sudbury he performed the tasks of coach, mentor, and counselor to anyone who needed him.
“The impact, the stories I’ve heard, how far-reaching his effect is on people. It’s been pretty amazing,” Head Coach Jim Girard said.
Despite the grief, the team knew there was a game to be played.
“It’s certainly a grieving process. I’m really proud of our guys for staying focused and being tight,” Girard said.
“It’s been a really hard week. We’re really excited for the boys and we’re very proud of them. I don’t think anyone expected this team to get this far,” Sampson-Lizotte said. “We all are heartbroken.”
Difficult weeks like this one serve as a reminder to parents and athletes alike that football is only a game.
The outcome is a big deal but, wins and losses come and go.
Ando’s legacy in the school and the community is what will endure long after the final whistle blows.
A GoFundMe has been created in support of Ando’s family.
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