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Exhibition for a Cause

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Lobo Soccer Program’s Varsity-Alumni Game Honors Grange

There were no yellow cards, no red cards, no sympathy cards. Sympathy? No, it wasn’t that kind of evening.

Saturday’s Lobo varsity-alumni men’s soccer game was more a celebration and a tribute — not to whom Pat Grange used to be, but to whom he is: a courageous young man with a whole lot of friends.

Pat Grange Fund
Dept. of Athletics/Maloof Administration Bldg., Attn. Brandon Moss (Men’s Soccer), MWC 04 2680, 1 University of NM, Albuquerque NM 87131-00-1. Make checks payable to Mike Grange.

Grange, who played soccer for the Lobos in 2003-04, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease. The annual varsity-alumni game became a benefit for Grange and ALS research as well as a fundraiser for the soccer program.

“I think we would have done this for any one of our teammates (in a similar situation),” said former Lobo Lance Watson, who played with Grange for two seasons. “But Pat was a guy that everybody liked. There wasn’t anybody on our team that would have had any ill words for him.

“He was a guy that always made everybody smile and everybody loved to be around.”

An estimated 3,000 attended. No admission was charged, but donations were accepted at the gate. A silent auction and a raffle were conducted.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Grange said before the game, as friends, acquaintances, well-wishers and just plain soccer fans filed in.

Lobo men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein was feeling similar emotions.

“We had a banquet last night, more of an intimate deal, and it was pretty amazing, just the emotions,” Fishbein said.

“The biggest thing is how special this community is. And it’s not just the soccer community, it’s the Albuquerque community — just the outpouring of emotion and support. So many people wanted to help.”

A few minutes later, as the former Lobo and Albuquerque High School Bulldog was introduced to the crowd, some tears were shed by fans and former teammates. Grange shed tears of his own as he watched video of himself at his goal-scoring best on the scoreboard at the UNM Soccer Complex. As a senior in 2004, he scored two game-winning goals and scored three times in NCAA Tournament play.

In a situation such is this, it’s customary to say the game doesn’t matter. But it really did, because soccer is the game that Grange played and still loves.

As one might expect, the Lobo varsity was better organized than the alums and created far more chances. Varsity forward Devon Sandoval blasted a shot off the far post about six minutes in; Blake Smith headed a shot off the side of the net at around the 20-minute mark.

But, as Grange watched the action from the alumni bench, his former teammates struck first. Watson took a pass from current Lobo volunteer assistant coach Brandon Moss and, from a sharp angle, beat the varsity goalkeeper to the near post in the 26th minute.

After the goal, Watson sprinted to the alumni bench and gave Grange a hug.

“I just wanted to let him know that we were thinking about him out there and we wish he were out there with us, and he was the big reason that we were here,” Watson said afterward. “Our inspiration was for him.”

Grange was more than appreciative.

“It was a good moment,” he said. “I love Lance; I loved playing with him.”

Dan and Sherry Pearce love soccer. They might have been at the Soccer Complex Saturday night in any case; they’re Lobo fans, they coach junior-varsity soccer at Eldorado High School and have been involved in the game for some 30 years.

“But (the benefit for Grange) was a big incentive,” Dan Pearce said.

The Pearces don’t know Grange personally, Sherry Pearce said, “but we love the kids and we love the sport.”

The current Lobos down, a goal at halftime, kept the pressure on. Finally, in the 66th minute, Sandoval chested in the equalizer. Fittingly, the game ended in a 1-1 tie. It was a gentlemanly played contest, though no soccer match is without its spills and collisions, and both teams clearly played to win.

Afterward, as Fishbein and Moss again thanked the fans for coming, Grange said he was honored to have so many friends —and to have made so many more.

“I’m very proud and very overwhelmed by all the support,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Amazed? Perhaps he shouldn’t be. For a friend in need, this was what friends do.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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