David Adam

Monroe City senior enjoys day fit for a king

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 30, 2017 9:50 pm Updated: Oct. 2, 2017 7:35 am

MONROE CITY, Mo. -- Is it possible to have a better day than Chase Buckman?

The Monroe City senior was selected to the homecoming court and rode in the parade on Friday. He got his first start for the Panthers' football team during Friday night's game against Paris. At halftime, he found out he had been named homecoming king.

To top it off, he scored the first touchdown of his high school career during the fourth quarter, scoring from 39 yards to cap Monroe City's 54-0 victory.

"It was his dream," said Shelley Buhlig, Chase's mother. "Most of us have wild dreams we never reach. But that was his dream."

After being mobbed by his teammates in the end zone (and after the Panthers took a knee on the 2-point conversion), Chase trotted off the field and was embraced by Monroe City coach David Kirby.

"He looked at me, and he had a big grin with those big eyes," Kirby said. "He said, 'I scored.' And I said, 'Yes, you did.' And then he said, 'Coach, I'm fast.'

"Man, I tear up every time I think of that moment. It was pretty special."

Chase, who has Down syndrome, had been a manager for the football team since his freshman season, but he approached Kirby in the spring and asked if he could join the team.

"I sat down with his mom and talked about expectations," Kirby said. "I knew there would be things he could do and things he couldn't do, but I wasn't going to be easy on him. He jumped right into the mix. We coached him up like we do every other kid."

Chase went to every 7-on-7 passing camp over the summer, never missed a day of preseason weightlifting and hasn't missed a day of practice. He had played a couple of downs in games earlier this season.

Kirby and Paris coach Gary Crusha met before Friday's game and discussed the possibility of allowing Chase to score if an opportunity arose.

"(Crusha) told me, 'I want my kids to experience something like that, too,'" Kirby said.

When Monroe City took possession of the ball with 3:33 remaining, Kirby told Chase it was time to go back in.

"He takes football pretty serious, but he had this grin on his face," Kirby said.

In the stands, Chase's mother saw what was happening and started shaking.

"I saw the starters and Chase lining up on the sideline, and (Kirby) was talking to them," Buhlig said. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, they're going to put Chase in to do something.' When he went out there, I was holding my breath. I just wasn't breathing.

"Then he just ran his heart out, and everybody in the stands was going crazy."

"Once he got that ball in his hands," Kirby said, "he hammered down on the gas pedal."

After the game, Chase posed for pictures with friends, was hugged by dozens of people and accepted congratulations.

"He's usually pretty serious after a game," said Mark Buckman, Chase's father. "He was pretty short. He gave everybody a hug and thanked them for being there. We told him how proud we were of him, but he didn't really say much."

The adulation didn't stop Friday night. Chase's parents say they were inundated with congratulatory phone calls and texts on Saturday.

"It's all over Facebook," Mark said. "He's pretty excited. He loves the attention. He's still reveling in the moment. It's all he's talked about today."

It's a moment that Kirby will never forget.

"Sometimes, I believe people with special needs are closer to God," he said. "They don't value things like we value things, but they do stuff like last night that brings everybody together. Just to be a part of that was special."

Buhlig said the moment that touched her most was when Chase's teammates didn't go into the locker room at halftime, instead staying on the field to watch him be crowned king.

"When they cheered for him, I started crying," she said. "Those boys really love him."

Mark said Friday night even surprised him.

"I'd have never thought he would be able to play football like his older brother (Dylan) did," he said. "Last night proved me wrong. He can accomplish anything he wants to do."