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​​​​​​​Coach’s Heart of Gold Wins the November Gold Star 
Posted 11/21/19

Coach Stowell is hugging a studentIt would have been hard to find a dry eye in the stands or on the football field at the last eighth grade game between Benton and Rusheon Middle Schools. Talk about the true spirit of the game. But first, the story of how it came about. 

Benton Middle Football Coach Jared Stowell beamed as he told how his and Landon Sandifer’s paths first crossed. While Sandifer was in P.E. class, he would see Stowell and his players practicing and watching football film. And though Sandifer was non-verbal, he had a way of expressing his dream of playing the game. 

“He would point at the screen and pound his chest and go get a football, wanting me to throw it to him,” Stowell explained. 

As a father himself of a son with special needs, Stowell got an idea and called Rusheon’s Coach Quarvay Winbush to see if he would help make it a reality. What played out in the final moments of that game will be forever etched in hearts and minds. 

Sandifer was not expecting to be called onto the field and given the chance to put on a football helmet and run the ball. Not only did he run it, but both teams helped him get it across the end zone to score the final touchdown and lead his Benton Tigers to a win. The crowd went wild. 

“For a few moments, our whole community was focused on something much bigger than a score, being the best athlete, the prettiest cheerleader or whatever,” wrote Shelly Malone, who was a spectator in the stands. “Hundreds of kids celebrated together selflessly.”  

“It was awesome and everything I could do to hold it back,” Stowell admitted. “His (Landon) family was in the stands, his sister is a cheerleader and was on the field, the band was in on it … it was awesome!”  

“He gave me, a father of a special needs son, a special moment that I will always remember,” Brad Sandifer wrote. “I’ve always thought when I have a son, he would play all the sports I did when I was a kid. I realized the older that Landon got that there’s some things that he would never be able to do. I never thought I would ever see Landon play football and Coach let him make the last play of the game of the season. Seeing him out on the field doing that made me so proud!” 

“It was definitely one of the best days of Landon’s life and one of ours to see him get to experience that,” added Racheal Sandifer. 

That moving moment is not where this story ends. Hearts were stirred and the community, football players and educators rallied together to recognize the coach. More than 90 people nominated him for Bossier Schools’ Gold Star award, a record number, praising Stowell not only for what he did that magical night, but for what he does every day. He was chosen hands down, and surprised with the honor in front of his athletes. Again, the crowd went wild.  

“He has an eye for the underdog and effortlessly finds ways to help celebrate all boys and girls, not just the athletic and academic stars,” read one nomination. 

Michelle Prewitt said, “When you think of what a coach should be, Jared Stowell is one-hundred percent ‘that guy.’ Motivator, encourager, leader; he expects the best and shows you how to do it. He’s real, a great confidant, a mentor, he leads his kids to work hard and loves to have fun with them, too. He leads his guys with his whole heart and there is no doubt he loves what does.” 

Natalie Pope, mother to one of Stowell’s football players, added “Tyler was recently asked to write a letter about leadership and those that have made an impact on his life thus far. Without hesitation, Coach Stowell was one of those who he wrote about. The words he wrote were so impactful and made me realize just how lucky we are that Tyler is in the presence of Coach Stowell on a daily basis … One of my fondest thoughts of Coach Stowell is how he instills in the boys how to love and respect their parents, especially their mommas. The lifelong lessons that he is providing the future is something that is unmatched.”

Stowell responded, “I just want to be behind the scenes and help raise these young men to be successful in life and make good decisions.”   

He has definitely done that during his 18 years spent coaching at Benton Middle, and won thousands of people’s hearts along the way. One of them belongs to Landon Sandifer, who scored the greatest touchdown of them all. 


Editor’s note: Know someone who works for Bossier Schools that is deserving of recognition for going above and beyond? Nominate them for the Gold Star award, sponsored by Bossier Federal Credit Union. Just go to https://www.bossierschools.org/goldstarnews and tell us what sets them apart. They may be next month’s winner!