In the emotional evening of September 27, 2019, the Quakertown Community High School football team won 55-7, a landmark 500th victory for the program.
After the game, as players took a knee and eagerly listened to head coach George Banas’s words, 500 wins was no match for the inspirational message brought by Childhood Cancer Awareness Night. “We played for a better cause, a bigger cause,” the coach said.
Shawn Newswanger exemplified that meaning. The captain and senior lineman understands the impact cancer can have on a family. His mom, Strayer Middle School teacher Kendra Mushrush, has battled breast cancer. “She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met,” he said, showing someone the pink mouthpiece attached to his helmet.
Shawn also had yellow tape on each wrist. Written on his left wrist was the name “Harrison.” On the right was the word “Strong.” It was his way to honor the life of Harrison Willing, who died on March 20, 2018. Shawn gave Harrison’s mom Danielle a big hug on the team’s sideline before the game. He stood side-by-side with Maddie Willing, Harrison’s sister, during the coin toss when each captain walked to midfield with the little heroes.
“We’ve gotten really close,” Shawn said of his relationship with the Willings. “They’re family to me.”
The football team began holding this magical evening seven years ago. Coach Banas lost his nephew, Parker Lutz, 11 years ago from neuroblastoma. Parker and Banas’s son Logan, a senior on the football team, were best friends.
“It changes everybody,” he said. “There’s no way it can’t. We have six kids in our district battling this. Think about that. We’re just one district.
“This is so much bigger than just football,” Coach Banas said. “You have the cheerleaders, the student section, the band, our community. They’re awesome. They really get this.”