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News » Football rivals connected by special friendship

Football rivals connected by special friendship

Football rivals connected by special friendship

JOE LEWIS had a very big day for Pittsburg High on Saturday, throwing four touchdown passes in a 42-0 victory over rival Antioch in his final tuneup for the North Coast Section playoffs.

Across the field, Joe's lifelong buddy Simon Quesada also had a big day, even though his standout moment was bursting through the cheerleaders' paper banner.

That Simon successfully completed his Football career at Antioch was worthy of a standing ovation. Quesada suffers from myotonic muscular dystrophy, an affliction that kept him off the field for all but a few plays during his three years in the program. But he was one of the Panthers' most dedicated and hardest-working players, never missing practice and always expressing a great attitude.

That's not the only amazing aspect of Simon's story: Pittsburg fans may want to give Quesada a standing ovation, too, if for no other reason than he helped persuade the Pirates' star quarterback to play Football this year after he skipped his junior season.

"I told him, 'Man, you're so good you shouldn't end it,'" Quesada recalled. "You saw today how good Joe is playing Football."

The Lewis and Quesada families have been close friends since before Joe and Simon were born, and the two boys grew up together playing, swimming and hanging out together in Pittsburg. Just before high school, the Quesadas moved to Antioch, but while the two boys were separated by distance, their special kinship remained intact.

Joe made the Pitt varsity team as a sophomore but rode the bench and quit Football to focus on baseball, a sport he dreams of one day playing at the major-league level. Simon, on the other hand, had watched Joe play youth Football and with the encouragement of Antioch junior varsity coach James Boots, decided to give the sport a try himself.

"Coach Boots told him he could do anything if he put his mind to it," said Simon's mother, Debra Quesada. "Once he told him that, he was all for it. I don't think anybody believed he would do it but him."

Special medical clearances were needed for Simon to suit up, but once he did, he could not be deterred.

"Due to his medical condition, it was very difficult to put him into the games very much, so for him to come out and do everything that was asked of him, well, that's the kind of kid we'd like to see more of," said Boots. "Simon ended up being a leader to the guys and an inspiration."

Myotonic dystrophy adversely impacts muscle control and generally becomes more problematic in adulthood. In Simon's case, it has also occasionally brought on Tourette syndrome, a neurological affliction that produces nervous tics. But playing Football has been good for calming that condition, according to his mother.

"It's incredible," said Debra. "And because of Football, Simon really opened up. He will talk a lot more now where he was so quiet before."

But wasn't she concerned about him playing?

"Every mother gets nervous when their son wants to play Football," she said. "But if it was going to make him happy, why not?"

Quesada loved every minute of playing for Antioch. "I like the fact that you make friends and your teammates become like a family," he said. "We work together, we work hard and you never forget what happens. I'm just a little sad now that I can't do it again next year."

Simon will attend Los Medanos College next year and keep a close eye on Joe, wherever Lewis' athletic skills lead him. His only regret was that the Panthers had such a rough time stopping his buddy.

"The thing is, even though Joe is a good friend, we're still out to try and beat each other," Quesada said.

Joe and Simon met after the game for a handshake. Their parents couldn't have been more pleased.

"Our son inspired Simon to play Football, and their son inspired my son to start playing Football again," said Joe's father, Robert Lewis. "It's kind of a neat thing."

Joe admitted he was hoping Simon could have gotten onto the field for his last game. Even though it didn't happen, he hoped Quesada got something special out of his own performance.

"It's the greatest thing I've ever done, coming back to play Football," Joe said. "And Simon definitely had an iNFLuence on my decision. He liked playing so much, he just kept saying, 'You've got to come back. It's such a great game to play.' So I came back and played."

It turned out to be one of the best games of Simon Says anyone has ever seen.

Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or csteward@bayareanewsgroup.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 18, 2008

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