Tonight's Burlington Williams-Western Alamance football game was about more than county rivals doing battle on the field.
Both teams honored Western senior player Mark Wheeler, who was diagnosed with leukemia just days before the season started.
Western coach Jeff Snuffer said Wheeler was slated to be a starting defensive end for the last year of his high school career. The Monday before the first game, Wheeler was struggling to breathe and experiencing chest pains during practice. After a visit to Alamance Regional Medical Center, more clarification was needed on what was wrong. Wheeler and his mom went to Duke Hospital Wednesday where they learned how serious his situation was.
It was hard for teammates and coaches to accept the 'happy, cheery young man' according to Snuffer was hospitalized.
"Within a day, his life changed," Snuffer said. "It tears up your heart. One day, he's getting ready for his senior season, the next he's fighting for his life."
Both teams' fans wore orange on game day in support of Wheeler and others affected by the disease. Orange wristbands were sold with the proceeds going to Wheeler's family.
Snuffer painted the field Friday morning in preparation for the game -- a big 6-2, Mark's number, right in the middle.
"The community does a great job rallying around families that suffer hardships like this," Snuffer said. "Many players and coaches have gone to see him. Some days he's doing real well and some days it's real tough."
Western/Williams was the September 16th WFMY News 2 Friday Football Fever Game of the Week. Western took the win 40-7 over Williams, and it's safe to say, they put it all on the field for Mark.
Students at East Davidson High School also wore orange for Friday night football. The students are also raising awareness about Connor, a recent high school graduate who is also battling Leukemia.
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