GALAX, Va. – The 2023 Trophy Tour made a special stop in Galax to present a special award to a freshman kicker that pulled off an amazing feat.
Yandel Vera kicked the game-winning field goal in the VHSL Class 1 state championship game for Galax--giving the Maroon Tide the 7-6 victory over Essex. The field goal came with some anxiety as the ball “doinked” off the crossbar on its way in.
For his display of courage to step up in that moment and his season-long commitment to his craft, Vera was awarded the Josh Leonard Character, Courage and Commitment award.
The award is named after Josh Leonard, a young man with autism who successfully went out for high school football a decade ago at Lord Botetourt. Josh taught us all a lesson or two about those three words!”
Vera grew up playing soccer, and only started kicking in the summer before the season. He credits Galax assistant coach Eddie Ayers with teaching him how to kick a football.
“So I’ve just been working since since summer workouts and stuff like that and just a lot of progress when I first started, I couldn’t even kick it or properly properly kick it or nothing like that --so I mean yeah great work and stuff with Coach Ayers, Coach (Eddie) Ayers right here. He’s a good coach!
Galax coach Shane Allen explained how he came to the decision in state finals game pressure to go with the freshman kicker to try and win the title.
“We struggled to move the ball offensively you know, He put his time in just like every other player and we tell our kids all the time about you know everybody has a role from starters on the offense,defense, special teams to the scout team guys, everybody plays in a important role and everybody’s gonna get an opportunity. He had his opportunity and he earned it, and successful things come to people who work hard so,” Allen explained.