Lebanon High School might have ended its 2017 season Friday night, but the team’s final score of the season is one of the most memorable in the program’s history.
Lebanon, which earned a playoff appearance in traditional fashion for the first time since 2007, lost to top-ranked Oakland, 42-6.
Lebanon quarterback Chandler Crite took the final snap of the game with six seconds left and gave the ball to senior Ashton Fidler. Fidler received the handoff and scampered 48 yards for the score.
A glance at the stat book does not tell the whole story about the Blue Devils’ biggest score of the season, which has brought national attention to the program during its most successful season in a decade.
Fidler, who was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old, is a special needs student player, and Lebanon and Oakland coaches, staff and players coordinated the final play of the game to allow Fidler to get his first score of his Blue Devil career.
Lebanon head coach Chuck Gentry said Fidler’s score was not a simple “charity” touchdown.
“He has been as dedicated, committed and hardworking as any player we’ve had on our team,” Gentry said. “Everything that happened on Friday night was well deserved, because he worked and earned it.”
Friday marked the end of the Gentry’s first year at the head of the Blue Devil program. He held an interest meeting for potential players in January and said Fidler showed up and voiced his desire to play for the Blue Devils.
“I said, ‘I don’t know any reason you can’t if you can show up and do what you’re asked to do.’ He fulfilled every obligation he had – never missed a practice or workout,” said Gentry, who added Fidler would text every coach possible if he needed a ride to a team function.
“He made football important, and he was definitely a part in changing our culture, because he would show up every day and work hard, and it meant something for him to be on the football team. The other players saw that,” he said.
Gentry said the coaching staff searched for opportunities to give Fidler playing time during the regular season, but the chances slimmed when Lebanon found itself in a playoff hunt.
Gentry said he talked with Oakland head coach Kevin Creasy prior to kickoff about the possible opportunity if the game ever reached running-clock status. He described Fidler and his commitment to the program.
Gentry left the decision up to Creasy and his staff, and they ultimately agreed to the play.
“We didn’t script it to be the last play. It just so happened to be the last play that he scored,” Gentry said.
Players from both schools greeted and congratulated Filder once he scored, which Gentry said showed the classiness of the Patriots program.
“They have a senior offensive lineman whose parents work with special needs kids, and he is one of the leaders of their football team. He was one of the first ones who ran out, and his team followed him. It wasn’t scripted, but they all met in the end zone and celebrated with Ashton. It was just a class act by Creasy and his football team,” he said.
Fidler enjoyed the moment Friday and subsequent attention, according to Gentry.
“He wrote in an article to one his teachers [Monday] that it was his lifelong dream to score a touchdown,” Gentry said. “He was very happy Sports Illustrated and Sunday Night Football tweeted about him. He gained a lot of followers on his social media because of it. He was just ecstatic.”
Gentry said although he was disappointed with Friday’s loss, he knew it served a purpose.
“We’re happy to be able to take a negative and make a positive. Football teaches us a lot of things, and that was just another lesson to be learned – you don’t always have to be selfish or worried about you,” Gentry said. “Ashton was very deserving of the moment he got Friday night.”