Teen football player with autism scores his very first touchdown

There were few dry eyes in the bleachers Saturday as a 16-year-old boy with autism was handed the football and sprinted across the field to score his very first touchdown after years of supporting his Sackville, N.B. high school team from the sidelines.

Tom Lafford has been a member of the Tantramar Regional High School Titans for several years, but has mostly opted to stay on the bench. That changed this year, according to his older brother Jeffrey.

“This year, he wanted to get in gear. He wanted to dress for games. And he’s actually been talking about trying to get in the game,” Jeffrey, who is also on the team, told CTV Atlantic.

To make that wish come true, the Titans’ coach chatted with the head of the Harrison Trimble Trojans to arrange a play on the last game of the season. Head coach Mark Teed said the team didn’t hesitate to help out.

“I’ve been around football for a long time and … stories like that don’t happen every day,” Teed said.

The plan came together during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s match. With both brothers on the field, Jeffrey passed the ball to Tom, who ran into the Trojans’ end-zone to score the touchdown. His family watched from the sidelines as the crowd roared.

Titans assistant coach Ben Brown said most spectators – including himself – were brought to tears.

“We saw it in the practice plan the day before and we knew it was coming at some point, and to see it happen and to see the excitement in the crowd was truly incredible. It was a great moment,” Brown said.

Jeffrey said he’s proud of his brother and how far he’s come since joining the team. After the touchdown, Jeffrey recalled, Tom was beaming.

“He was smiling, he was laughing and he was going around telling people he got in and asking if they saw him,” Jeffrey recalled.

With files from CTV Atlantic

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