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By Scott Kindberg

September 8, 2016
Westfield Republican

CLYMER - The Wolfpack, the nickname given to the combined team representing Clymer, Sherman and Panama high schools, will open their Class D football season Friday night against Franklinville-Ellicottville.

Pardon, the pun, but you do remember the Titans, don't you?

Coached by Chad Bartoszek, Franklinville-Ellicottville captured a Section VI Class D championship a year ago before falling in the Far West Regional. It was a magical season for the kids from Cattaraugus County.

Article Photos

Photo by Scott Kindberg
In this June 2016 file photo above, Clymer-Sherman-Panama senior quarterback Justin Svetz delivers a pass during a 7-on-7 scrimmage at the Sirianni Sports Complex at Southwestern Central School.

"When you look back on it after you settle down and time takes its course,'' Bartoszek is quoted as saying in The Post-Journal's Gridiron magazine, which is included in today's edition, "you look back and it was a great season.''

Clymer/Sherman/Panama coach Ty Harper concurs. In fact, he admitted earlier this week that the Titans "will be tough'' to beat.

But then Harper, standing on an empty practice field at Clymer Central School earlier this week, looked to his left at his starting senior quarterback, Justin Svetz, and offered another opinion:

"I wouldn't bet against this kid,'' Harper said.

- - -

Last summer, Svetz was gearing up for his favorite sport - football. As a sophomore in 2014, he took most of the snaps at running back and receiver, and that's likely where Harper planned to put him when Clymer-Sherman-Panama opened its 2015 campaign.

Unfortunately, Svetz was unable to play a single down all season. That's because just weeks before the start of practice, Svetz suffered a seizure in the middle of the night.

Tests revealed the teenager had a cavernous malformation in his brain. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' website, cavernous malformations are "clusters of abnormal, tiny blood vessels, and larger stretched-out, thin-walled blood vessels filled with blood in the brain."

Surgery was performed at a Pittsburgh hospital where Svetz stayed for just over a week. Fortunately, only a couple weeks after that, he was feeling better. In fact, he was informed by his doctor that he would no restrictions once he was fully recovered.

The problem was a complete recovery wouldn't happen for months, long after the football season was over.

"It was terrible (news), just because I'd been working really hard,'' Svetz recalled. "I'd been going to summer passing league. Realizing I couldn't play was pretty hard.''

Added Harper: "When you get news like that, obviously, your first concern is the health of the kid and you're just hoping he's going to be OK. From a football standpoint, saying it was a huge loss would be an understatement.''

Still, Svetz cheered his teammates on from the sideline where he also served as the best water boy in program history.

"It was terrible watching the team, especially because I felt well enough,'' Svetz said. "I felt ready, but I just wasn't physically healed. I just had to remember that God is always in control. I prayed a lot, and having others praying for you helps a lot and gives you comfort.''

Fast-forward to early spring. Nearing the end of his required six-month sports hiatus, Svetz was debating whether to play baseball or join the track team. To reach that decision, he asked one of the track coaches to flip a coin. As it turned out, the Clymer-Sherman-Panama thinclads were the winners. And by the end of May, Svetz had parlayed an impressive dual-meet season into a Section VI championship in the pentathlon, which earned him a trip to the states.

The night in August 2015 when a seizure literally knocked him out of bed was only a distant memory.

- - -

At the beginning of the first practice for the 2016 football season, Harper had a meeting with his players, who were asked to write down the name of the one person who they felt was "all in.''

"What we meant by 'all in' was someone who you could trust, someone who you believed in and someone who would be a leader on the field,'' Harper said. "Justin got more votes than anyone on the team. I think that gives you an idea how his teammates view him.''

With the interview just about complete, Harper was asked what kind of legacy Svetz will leave to those who follow.

"(The next guy) is going to have some pretty big shoes to fill,'' Harper said, "because (Svetz is) everything you want in a leader, in a teammate, and I think people around the (area) who know him for being a state pentathlete, will also see he's a pretty talented football player, too.''



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