There’s a big game in Waverly on Friday night.
The York football team, ranked sixth in Class B, takes on the fifth-ranked Vikings. It’s a critical district matchup. An important ratings matchup.
And something that, in the grand scheme of things, won’t mean all that much to two of York’s key figures.
Dalton Snodgrass, a senior linebacker and tight end, and his father, Dukes coach Glen Snodgrass, will be ready for the game, sure, but they’ll also celebrate the chance to simply be on the field and spend time together, as they have for most of Dalton’s life.
When Dalton was a kid, about 3 years old, doctors discovered a malignant melanoma on his face — the most serious type of skin cancer. What started as a spot Dalton’s parents noticed on his face and had removed without thinking much of it was suddenly a life-threatening issue that had to be dealt with.
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And dealt with quickly if Dalton was to have the best chance to survive.
“They told my parents if it were to get to a certain lymph node, there was a good chance that I probably wouldn’t be here anymore,” Dalton says now, matter-of-factly. “So we caught it at the right time.”
But catching it quickly and dealing with the emotions of your young child facing cancer are two different things entirely.
“I was kind of flipping through my Rolodex in my brain of what exactly that was, and I realized, ‘Holy cow, that’s not good,'” Glen said. “So it was pretty devastating at the time.”
Once test results confirmed the malignant melanoma, it took about a week for doctors to determine surgery was needed.
All this was going on, Glen said, as he was preparing for two-a-days while still coaching an Overton program he had built into an eight-man powerhouse.
“We got all that information, and it was pretty rough, trying to sort through all those emotions, and how we were going to attack it, and all those things,” he said. “And, oh, yeah, I had football practice coming up here in a couple days.”
Soon enough, the Snodgrass family — Glen, wife Allison, older brother Garrett and Dalton, were off to Omaha for Dalton’s surgery.
Everything was set up. It was the morning set for it to take place. And then another hurdle.
“Our family doctor, who we trusted, advised us that morning not to do the surgery; to put it off,” Glen said. “Then the oncologist, who was an expert, said, ‘No, you have to do the surgery.'”
Glen and Allison had about 90 minutes to decide whether to go through with the surgery or to go with their family doctor’s recommendation.
“Talk about a difficult decision for my wife and I,” Glen said. “We had about an hour and a half to make that decision whether we were going to put our son through a major surgery.”
They decided to go through with the surgery, a “five- or six-hour surgery,” Glen said, to remove a large portion of skin on the left side of Dalton’s face, as well as several lymph nodes.
A scar is still visible on Dalton’s left cheek from the procedure.
“I remember before the surgery they gave me these pills, and it was just for me to fall asleep (for the surgery),” Dalton said of his memories from that day. “But I remember it was just me and my whole family. I was in a wheelchair. Our whole family was in the room talking, laughing, having a good time, and I remember trying to stay awake because I wanted to be a part of it so bad.
“Then I fell asleep, and I woke up, and I didn’t have cancer anymore.”
Now, Dalton is entering the second half of his senior season. He hopes to play football at the next level — he’s heard from several FCS and NCAA Division II schools, and participated in camps at Nebraska and Iowa State.
There was a time when even playing football was a question mark, as the cancer surgery affected Dalton’s depth perception to the point that he struggled to catch a football thrown by his dad as he grew older.
But about halfway through his freshman year, the depth perception issue finally began to go away. And Dalton matured into an all-state-caliber player.
Watching older brother Garrett go through the recruiting process before signing with Nebraska gave Dalton an idea of what to expect, and some big dreams to go with it.
“We got to experience that with my brother, and I always thought, ‘Oh, man, it’ll be just the same with me,'” Dalton said “But I probably am not as gifted as my brother is, athletically. I mean, I’ve had to work pretty hard to get even the DIIs to notice me, which is nice. I just like to see my hard work pay off like that.”
That’s pretty good perspective from a teenager that has a better idea than many of what the word means.
“I’ll be honest with you: even today (the cancer scare) makes me appreciate every day that I get to watch Garrett play football and then I get to coach Dalton,” Glen said.
“His senior year is already running down to the second half of the regular season, and so I’m really trying hard to hold onto it as long as I can, just appreciate every second of it. Because I’ll never be able to coach a son again after this.”
Contact the writer at email@example.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.