AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Austintown Fitch Falcons versus Boardman Spartans football game is always a big rivalry for the high school teams.
But on Friday, the schools put aside the competitive edge of the game and came together in support of one Austintown student.
Joey Shushok, a senior at Austintown Fitch High School, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last month — a cancer which has spread into his lymph nodes.
Paul Poules, a school resource officer at Boardman High School, said the diagnosis has been tough on Shushok and his family.
“His parents are really good friends of ours, and it’s been tough on them, because a 17-year-old, this is not how they are supposed to remember their senior year.”
Poules said it is amazing to see Joey’s strength through his battle and how his classmates have stepped up to support him.
“Even though this a field of friendly strife, and we are going to try and win tonight, but at the end of the day, we all are one team, everybody — the students, the players, the fans, Boardman police, everybody working the game,” he said.
Addison Menosky, a student at Boardman High School, decorated the student section purple — the color representing testicular cancer awareness.
“We just made a sign that kind of like brings the two school together, even though it’s a big rivalry game,” she said. “So it’s just nice that we can come together as two different schools to show support for him.”
Joey said he appreciates the support, but he said he usually likes to stay under the radar.
“It’s just overwhelming, I guess,” he said. “It’s all a big shock to me, because I didn’t want to make this a big deal, because I don’t like the attention.”
The recognition included a big surprise during the half-time show at the game. Both schools teamed up to create a video to send encouraging messages to Joey, and that video was played on the scoreboard at half time.
Joey said he comes to every high school football game, and he will continue to attend, especially after receiving all of the support from his classmates.
“A little more of a reason to come now, I guess,” he said. “Just knowing that they are actually supporting me, so I should come out to support them and thank them.”
Joey will continue his battle with cancer, but he’s got a huge team behind him, supporting him, every step of the way.