READFIELD — Betsy Harwood and her daughter Lauren stood in the last row of the bleachers at Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, and took pictures of the 50-yard line. There, the initials “TH” were painted, black with gold trim, the colors of the Maranacook Community High School football team.
The initials belonged to Betsy’s son, Talon Harwood. In 2006, Talon died of an acute asthma attack. He was 11 years old.
“He would have been a senior this year,” Betsy said. “I think it’s great they’re recognizing him.”
Friday night’s game against Poland would have been Talon’s Senior Night game. The Maranacook senior class made sure Talon was included.
“Jesse (Evans), me and Caleb (Castonguay) played with him up through,” Maranacook co-captain Andrew Lachance said.
Talon was the first senior introduced in the pre-game ceremony. Lachance stepped forward, and presented a rose to Talon’s parents, Julian and Betsy Harwood, his brother Travis, and sister Lauren.
“I remember Andrew saying, ‘Dad, Talon deserves to be on the field,’ ” Dave Lachance, Andrew’s father, said.
It was the Maranacook seniors’ request that Talon’s initials be painted on the field for the Senior Night game. Lachance has honored Talon for four years by wearing his number. When he was a freshman, Lachance asked the Maranacook coaches for number 86. When he found out Maranacook didn’t have a number 86, Lachance bought it himself.
“He played the same position as me on our rec team. We were champions. It was a really good team. I grew up with him, and it was such an honor, and obviously a terrible loss. I’m glad his parents could come out tonight. That meant a lot,” Andrew Lachance said. Lachance stood in the mud and rain, and his voice cracked.
Talon was big for his age, and he loved playing football and ice hockey.
“He was a brute,” Betsy said. “He’d just stand there and people would just fall off of him.”
Now an assistant coach with the Maranacook varsity team, Rick Stephens was Talon’s youth football coach. Julian Harwood said Stephens was a big influence on Talon.
“It’s hard, you wonder if a kid is dogging, but Rick understood Talon’s asthma,” Julian said. “Talon really felt accepted. He loved the outdoors. It was a big deal to be with his buddies.”
Talon was prankster and a joker, who wanted everybody to laugh, Julian said.
“He was a good kid. He was really goofy and funny. Everyone liked having him around. He had so much life in him,” Andrew Lachance said. “When you’re in sixth grade, you don’t really appreciate it as much, but as you grow older, it’s tough.”
The Maranacook senior class asked the Harwood family for a picture of Talon to include in the yearbook. Betsy and Julian shook their heads, amazed by the love and friendship Talon still receives from his classmates.
“These boys are still thinking about him,” Julian said. “It was a traumatic experience, but at the same time, it brought a lot of people together.”
Late in the first quarter, Lachance caught a short pass from Castonguay, and took it 57 yards for a touchdown. On his night, No. 86 found the end zone.
“I’m always thinking of him out here,” Andrew Lachance said. “He would have loved to be out here.”
Ten yards from the end zone, a Poland defender jumped on Lachance’s back. The big tight end never broke stride, and dragged his passenger into the end zone.
The heavy heart Lachance carried on to the football field every game for six years weighed plenty. To pay tribute to a lost friend with a touchdown, a few more pounds was nothing.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242