Team manager Kauffman gets a real kick out of playing for Stevenson men's soccer

At game's end, Kyle Kauffman scooped up the soccer ball at his feet at midfield, trotted over to the grandstand and, with a stage actor's aplomb, bowed to the crowd.

Five hundred people, including Kauffman's parents, stood and cheered the college senior, who had fought through a lifelong neurological and physical disability — cerebral palsy — to play 18 long minutes in Stevenson's 2-0 victory over visiting Hood (3-10-2, 0-8 Middle Atlantic Conference) on Tuesday night.

"This is something I will always remember," Kauffman said. "I'll never forget this night. It was amazing."

Kauffman got the opportunity to play as a tribute to his work as Stevenson's team manager for four years. Named team captain for the contest, he started at center forward and immediately dribbled downfield. As if on cue, both sides cleared out as Kauffman went one-on-one with Ryan Deuber, Hood's goalie. The shot was on goal, but Deuber made the save.

It was Kauffman's only scoring chance, though he played the first 11 minutes and returned in the second half, with seven minutes remaining and the Mustangs up by two. The game ended as it had begun, with the ball in his possession.

"It was a pretty magical night," said Stevenson coach John Plevak, whose team improved to 8-9-1 and 3-4-1 in the conference. "In 19 years of coaching, no one on the field has brought me as much joy as Kyle has. This was the highlight of my career.

"He's in the [NCAA] record book now, with a shot on goal — God bless him."

Kauffman scored in pregame introductions when, charging out of the Mustangs' tunnel, he raised his right hand, waggling the index finger. The crowd roared. Hood players then presented him with a jersey and autographed team ball.

Even on the sideline, he never sat, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, watching intently, shouting, "C'mon boys!" and fist-bumping teammates in the second half when Stevenson scored both goals. Christopher Panian got the first, Chris Contino the second.

"At halftime, Kyle told us, 'I want four [goals] in the second half, boys,' " Contino said. "When I came off the field after scoring, I told him, 'I can't get you four, but I can give you one.' Then I gave him a big hug.

"We did this for Kyle, just for being who he is."

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