‘A moment really worth getting caught up in …’

By Jim Muir

Dakota Young, a reserve basketball player at Fairfield High School, hit a long three-pointer in the closing seconds of a 72-43 victory over Johnston City on Saturday night.

That fact in itself might not raise an eyebrow to the casual observer looking over the box score of the lopsided Fairfield victory in the Black Diamond Conference match up, however those who know the details of the past three months of Young’s life understand that what they witnessed was nothing short of miraculous.

A senior at Fairfield and a three-sport athlete, Young’s life changed forever on Sept. 21 – four weeks into his high school football season where he was a starting tight end for the then undefeated Mules.

Dakota Young pictured on the bench during a Fairfield Mules game.

Dakota Young pictured on the bench during a Fairfield Mules game.

Young recalls every detail of that fateful day.

“I was driving a Razer (four-wheel all-terrain vehicle) and I was going way too fast,” Young said. “I turned too sharp and it rolled and I came out on the first rotation and when it came back it landed on my right leg and broke my leg.”

Young said in the early hours after the accident doctors thought that they would be able to save his leg but a potentially deadly infection set in the open wound on the severely injured limb.

“They (doctors) did everything that they could to save my leg, but the infection just kept spreading,” said Young. “They basically gave me the option that they had to take the leg off or it could potentially kill me.”

Young’s leg was amputated on Sept. 30 – nine days after the accident – and he began the long and difficult rehabilitation process less than six weeks into his senior season. Young said his family, faith and friends from the tight-knit community of Fairfield helped strengthen him through the difficult mental process.

“I had a tremendous amount of support through my family and friends, I can’t say enough about how much they helped me,” said Young. “I understood what had to happen and everybody rallied around me and helped me get through it.”

Young spent 18 days in the hospital and underwent seven surgeries and extensive physical therapy and occupational therapy. Showing the resiliency of youth, Young wasted no time in getting acclimated back into his high school routine, which of course included sports.

“I was in a wheel chair and I was on the sidelines during football supporting my team,” said Young. “It was tough at first … but I was still there at practice and games and that was important to me.”

Young was fitted for a prosthetic on Dec. 9 and dressed for a game that night. He walked through warm up drills but did not play in any games – that is until Coach Scott McElravy came up with an idea about Saturday night’s game against Johnston City.

Knowing it was Young’s 18th birthday McElravy came up with a plan to try and get Young back on the floor. Knowing that his team was playing a rebuilding Johnston City team, McElravy hoped the Mules would have a sizable lead so he could give Young a special birthday present – some playing time in the waning moments of the game. McElravy shared his idea with Young’s parents and his assistant coach and nobody else, including Young.

Everything fell into place for McElravy’s plan but not even Hollywood could have written a script like the one that played out.

“I was really surprised when coach came up and told me I was going in the game,” Young said. “My first thought was, ‘holy crap.’ I was nervous and I was just concerned with getting up and down the floor.”

"The Shot"

“The Shot”

McElravy, a veteran of more than 20 years in the coaching ranks, said with about three minutes remaining he walked to the end of the bench and told Young he was going in the game. He said the expression on Young’s face was priceless.

“His eyes just literally lit up,” said McElravy. “I asked him how many trips up and down the floor he could make. His first comment back was that he was worried how good he would be on defense.”

So, with 90 seconds remaining Young entered the game and walked on to the floor to a standing ovation — on a prosthetic leg he had been fitted for 11 days earlier. But, that emotion-filled entrance was nothing to what would take place in the coming moments, In fact, what took place next might forever be known as ‘The Shot’ in the legend and lore of Fairfield Mules basketball history. It was also a moment that left those in attendance with tears in their eyes and searching for adjectives to describe what they witnessed.

“First, I didn’t even think I was going to get in the game and for sure didn’t think I would be shooting the ball,” said Young. “We were just passing the ball around running out the clock and I got the ball four or five feet behind the three-point line and everybody was yelling for me to shoot. So, I just took two dribbles and shot.”

Young said given his usual style of play – he’s 6-foot-3 and an inside player — he believes there was definitely divine intervention with the shot.

“I am not a three-point shooter,” said Young. “My game was to beat and bang under the basket and try to score in the paint. Everybody that saw the shot said it was the most perfect shot that they had ever seen. I felt better about the shot than I do about shooting a layup. I just knew it was going to go in.”

McElravy gave high marks to the Johnston City coaching staff and team.

“The Johnston City player just sort of backed off a little,” said McElravy. “And he shot it from about 22 feet and it was nothing but the bottom of the net. I looked over and one of the refs was crying, all my players were crying, the opposing players and coaches were crying, fans were crying. It was just an unbelievably special moment, one I will never forget.”

With one arm around the game ball and the other around his girlfriend Kylar Slover, Dakota Young savors the moment after the game.

With one arm around the game ball and the other around his girlfriend Kylar Slover, Dakota Young savors the moment after the game.

The referee that McElravy referred to is longtime official Bobby Blondi, who has officiated nearly 40 years.

“In all the years I’ve officiated and gone to basketball games I have never seen anything like it,” said Blondi. “When he came in the game and then when he made the shot it was like a chill went through the gym. It was like something out of a movie, it made you ask yourself, ‘is this really happening?’ I really think it was meant to happen just like it did.”

Watch the video here.

McElravy said the moment certainly put high school sports in perspective.

“We’ve won regionals and we won the Eldorado Holiday Tournament and that is great,” said the longtime Fairfield coach. “But, something like this touched so many people. We gave him the game ball and it happened on his 18th birthday. This really deserves to be a national story, it was just really emotional for everybody. Sometimes in sports we get caught up in the moment … but this was a moment really worth getting caught up in.”

Even the day after his remarkable shot Young was still searching for words to describe what took place.

“It was a great feeling when the shot went in, I was just at a loss for words and I really still am,” said Young. “Again, I can’t thank my coaches, my family and my teammates enough for all the support they have given me. It wasn’t enough but all I knew to say was ‘thank you … thank you.’ I will never, ever forget my 18th birthday, it was a moment that will be forever in my mind”

Young said after graduating high school he plans to go to a four-year university and major in athletic training and become a certified athletic trainer.

Given what Young has accomplished in the past three months, that’s a hill that he will easily climb.

 

 

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