A Seat in the Bleachers: To carry a tribute on his back
CLIFTON PARK You can wear your heart on your sleeve.
Dan Maynard wore it on his back Saturday night.
His jersey number all season was 11, but in the middle of the afternoon, it occurred to him that somebody who hadn’t been on the field for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team all season needed to be out there against Queensbury.
So the junior fullback texted his buddy, senior Dan Porter, and asked for permission to switch to No. 4 for the Class A Super Bowl at Steuerwald Stadium.
That’s Porter’s number, and it was supposed to be prominently on display in the Spartans’ backfield all season.
Instead, the Burnt Hills star was forced to wear it with a pair of jeans on the sideline for every game, including Saturday’s, after tearing the ACL in his right knee while playing basketball on July 12.
Seeking some extra inspiration, people sometimes get creative, and in this case it seemed natural to Maynard, heading into a big game, to show how much Porter has come to symbolize the Burnt Hills program.
“He’s been one of my best friends forever,” Maynard said. “I know that he wanted to play in this game more than anything, more than anyone else did, and I wanted to make sure that he had a part of it. This is part of him. No. 4 is part of him. I wore his jersey so he could be out here tonight.”
“It meant a lot to me,” Porter said. “He’s one of my best friends, and there’s not many other people out there that would try to carry it on while I can’t be out there.”
Physically, Maynard will never be mistaken for Porter, who is four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier.
Still, it took us media types a few plays to figure out exactly who that was scooting around out there with the ball in the No. 4 jersey.
In a strange twist, Maynard indirectly inherited Porter’s job through Maynard’s own injury early in the season.
Maynard started the season at quarterback, but was moved to fullback full-time after getting hurt in the fourth game, which shifted John Clayton to quarterback.
When Maynard was ready to come back, head coach Matt Shell simply left him at fullback, because the sophomore Clayton was playing well enough to take all the snaps at QB.
All the while, Porter had been a vocal spiritual presence and steadying influence for Burnt Hills, never moreso than on Saturday night.
He was there to offer encouragement to everyone, especially Maynard, as they came off the field.
“Dan texted me and asked if he could wear my number, and I said he could as long as he destroys someone,” Porter said with a hint of a grin. “He did that a few times, so that worked out.”
“Dan and I talk daily about everything,” Maynard said. “Fullback has been his position forever. He’s always helping me out, and I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without Dan.”
Dan for Dan, Maynard finished with 97 yards on 21 carries and was in the middle of two of the three touchdowns in the game, each involving a fumble.
On the first play of the second quarter, a sloppy exchange between Maynard and Clayton was scooped up by Queensbury defensive end Christopher Johnson and returned 83 yards for the only score of a 6-0 first half.
Maynard gave Burnt Hills a 7-6 lead with a 26-yard run midway through the third quarter, getting stripped of the ball at the two-yard line, but scooping it right back up and scoring.
“My first fumble all year,” he said.
This was supposed to be a monster season for Porter.
Maynard was there playing hoops at the Y when his friend came down awkwardly and hurt his knee, ruining everything.
“I can’t imagine. I was about from me to you away,” he said, taking three steps backward. “The look on his face was …”
“The hardest part is not being out there and being able to help these guys,” Porter said. “There’s not much I wouldn’t give to be out there.”
The perfect ending for Burnt Hills would have been the Spartans’ sixth straight Section II championship, but Queensbury didn’t get the script and refused to cooperate, as championship teams tend to do.
After the game, the bigger No. 4 in the white jersey smothered the smaller one in the burgundy jersey, the No. 4 with the streaked-up eye black, in a bearhug.
He had his back, and vice versa.