Lakeview High School football player overcoming obstacles, inspiring others

It's playoff time for high school football in southwestern Minnesota and the Lakeview Lakers are hoping to make a splash.

The Lakers went 7-1 in the regular season and in this game, they are taking on Minneota in the section championship. 

Sitting on the sideline is the team's good luck charm, who helped inspire their winning ways.

"I'm kind of happy we made it to sections because actually being a part of that and being on the field at SMSU," said Terrek Jenniges.

The 15-year-old freshman football player is used to defying expectations.

"It was just really fun hanging out with other people and I made a lot of new friends," said Jenniges.

Jenniges has Caudal Regression Syndrome, which impedes the development of his lower body. He uses a wheelchair to get around, but that hasn't stopped him from proving people wrong.

Jenniges is a placeholder for the kickers on the team, making sure the ball is ready to split the uprights on field goals and extra points. He had already competed in the shotput and discus throw in track and field, but for his freshman year, he decided to add football to his resume.

"No, I never thought I'd play football until last year when I asked," said Jenniges.

"It was last spring and Terrek came into my office and he said 'Do you think I could play football?' I said 'Absolutely' without hesitation. He said 'what do you think I could do?'. I said why don't we teach you how to hold the kicks and get your upper body stronger," said Lakeview Lakers football coach Scott Hanson.

Terrek has been giving his upper body a workout since FOX 9 first introduced you to him seven years ago, when a biker club out of Minneapolis, the Order of Ronin, gave him a specialized handcycle.

It was the first time he had a bike to call his own and it gave him a chance at freedom and to be like other kids his age.

"He can go ride a bike with his friends and be more independent. Be the little boy he's always wanted to be," Terrek's mother, Skye Jenniges, told Fox 9 back in 2015.

For Terrek, football is a chance at freedom too, from the complicated challenges of his disability.

And his teammates welcomed him with open arms, his positive attitude having an equally positive effect on the team.

"The kids will say 'You know what I can push through anything in life. Look at what he's doing. He's doing the same thing I'm doing with all my physical abilities and he doesn't have all those. but he's pushing me to be better as an athlete and a human'," said Hanson.

"It's just really cool seeing someone you don't think could have done it. I think its cool. He's defying the odds. That he can do it. He can do anything he puts his mind to," said football captain Clayton Kosel.

Most of the time, Terrek used his placeholding skills during practice for the junior varsity squad.
But when Hanson put him in an actual varsity game against Lac Qui Parle, it turned into the highlight of the season for the entire team.

"When Hanson told me I was going to play, I got tears in my eyes because I actually got to play in a football game. It was kind of easy because all I had to do was catch the ball and set it on the tee but I kind of did forget to put my fingers up and the kicker hit my fingers," said Jenniges.

"It was a little situation. They weren't going to rush us. I had no idea and he took the ball. It was good and held it. I was a little thrown so I missed the kick but it happened. It was a good experience for him and me too," said kicker Matheus Ekblom Olsson. 

"The moment he got out into that game, the moment of that game was pretty surreal. Our whole sideline, the opposing team's sideline, everybody was cheering for Terrek to get on that field and hold that ball," said Hanson.

Ultimately the Lakers lost in the playoffs and fell short of their goal of going to state, but they did learn some valuable lessons during their special season that could pay off for the rest of their lives.

"Just put your mind to it and say to yourself 'never give up' and stuff. That's what my dad would tell me," said Jenniges.

'Coach Grandpa' suffers stroke, now recovering

This Lakeview Football team has come together in other ways as well this season.

On October 13, during pre-game warm-ups, coaching staff member Ray Pederson suffered a stroke.

Pederson, who is affectionately known as "Coach Grandpa" is now recovering at the VA Hospital.

He continued to watch the games from the hospital and the team included him by calling him before practices and by sending videos.

Ray is really fortunate he was with the team the night of the stroke to get immediate medical attention.

One of the players, Taiven Isaackson, noticed something was wrong and called for help.

"He was standing up talking to me.   I knew something wasn’t right because the whole left side of his face was droopy.   He didn’t look like himself.  Then he started stumbling backwards.  He had a backpack with a string on it and I grabbed the string and sat him down and called the other coaches over.  One coach knew what was happening right away."

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