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The Sports Report: Two stories that remind us to be thankful

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Paradise High School’s Brenden Moon intercepts a pass for a touchdown.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. On this special day, let’s take a look at two important sports stories you may have missed. Two stories that involve things to be thankful for. If you would rather see who won what games, please click here for all those results.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Times columnist Bill Plaschke continues his outstanding series of columns on the Paradise High football team. You can read the latest one by clicking here. Here’s an excerpt:

As Brenden Moon sprinted across an empty stretch of dying grass with an intercepted pass last Friday night, the miracle of the unbeaten Paradise High Bobcats firmly in his grasp, his eyes drifted to the oddest of places.

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“I know it sounds weird, but I wasn’t looking at the end zone or at the guy chasing me,” Moon said. “I was looking at the sidelines.”

He was looking at his teammates who, as they have done for the past year, were churning and sweating and running alongside him.

They waved their hands as if pushing him forward. They shouted his name as he gasped for breath. They matched him stride for stride as he raced toward a touchdown that was the clinching blow in the Bobcats’ 28-13 sectional semifinal victory over top-ranked West Valley High.

Brenden Moon saw them and flew.

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“It was so cool,” he said. “It was so perfect.”

He saw the teammate who drove him out of last year’s devastating fire that decimated the Paradise community and claimed 86 lives.

He saw the teammates who let him sleep on air mattresses and spare beds for two months while he waited to return to his foster parents’ partially burned home.

The 17-year-old senior saw the football family that supported him not only during the last year’s shared tragedies but also during a recent unspeakable private one.

He saw the people who literally held him up after the Sept. 9 death of his mother, Sarah Lytle, who hung herself in a Butte County Jail cell.

He saw the strong safety who offered a strong shoulder when he confided in him the horrors of seeing his mother, burn marks on her neck and on life support, handcuffed to a hospital bed.

“Nobody should ever have to see something like that,” teammate Dylan Blood said. “I told him, ‘You are one tough kid.’ ”

He saw one of the assistant coaches who embraced and empowered him when he showed up for practice just days after her death.

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“I told him, ‘If you need a break, anything, just ask,’” defensive assistant Nino Pinocchio said. “He said, ‘Coach, I want to be here. I want to be here.’”

He saw the head coach who called an audible during a game against Sparks (Nev.) just one day after Moon gave his mother’s body a final hug. The coach ordered that the offense give the backup running back the football until he scored. Moon ran for 18 yards. He ran for another yard. He scored. He cried.

“We were going to spend the rest of the game giving him the ball if necessary,” Coach Rick Prinz said. “He hugged me and thanked me and I’m like, ‘No, thank you.’”

Finally, he also saw the running back who recently left school during lunch period to drive him to the memorial service for his mother, who had long been plagued by drug addiction and bipolar disorder and died at the age of 43.

“Brenden Moon has gone through hell this year,” teammate Lukas Hartley said. “Like all of us, this team is his temple and this season is his savior.”

Like all of them, Moon was reminded during that sprint to the end zone that he has not been running alone.

Read the rest of this column by clicking here.

ANGELS

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This story is by Angels reporter Maria Torres, and is about how new manager Joe Maddon tries to give back to the community. You can read the whole thing by clicking here. Here’s an excerpt:

Joe Maddon is entrusted with the future of the Angels. Hired last month as manager, he will be counted on to end the team’s five-year-long playoff drought. But his reach goes beyond the baseball field and into the homes of sick teenagers, into a once controversial community center he helped erect in his fractured Pennsylvania hometown, and into homeless shelters in Tampa Bay and Chicago.

They are disparate causes. Yet Maddon, 65, has bundled them under a universal goal.

“You never know how it’s really going to stick, or make an impression, or help somebody,” Maddon said. “It’s the proverbial line: If you can help one person, and that one person is motivated in a way to act … it’s worth it.”

People pushed shopping carts full of personal belongings down boardwalks in Orange County. Others slept on the filthy floors of public beach restrooms.

Maddon caught that peek into the plight of the homeless 16 years ago riding bicycles along Sunset Beach with his wife, Jaye. The pervasiveness of the issue had escaped his notice before. He was stunned. He said to Jaye: “I can’t believe that somebody has their whole life in a shopping cart. There it is right there. That’s their whole life.”

Jaye suggested he find a way to make a difference. Maddon promised he would, but added a caveat. At the time, he was an Angels coach on track to become a major league manager. He wanted to advocate for people in need when he acquired a larger platform.

Maddon followed through. He and Jaye immersed themselves in the Tampa Bay community upon relocating there for Maddon’s first managerial job in 2006 with the Rays. They created an extended holiday they called “Thanksmas” to serve the needy. They began with homemade meals, Maddon cooking family recipes for hundreds throughout the holiday season.

Their efforts evolved and expanded, but Maddon never strayed from his initial pledge.

Through their Respect 90 Foundation — named for the distance to first base Maddon requires his players to run full speed — he and Jaye have donated services to and raised money for outposts of the Salvation Army, the Homeless Empowerment Program in Clearwater, Fla., and Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa, Fla. The charity also sponsors youth boxing programs in Chicago and Maddon’s altruistic efforts during spring training in Arizona. And it is tied to a community center in Maddon’s hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

Before long, Respect 90 will host the first “Thanksmas” event in the Anaheim area. Maybe Maddon will find a locale near the old Harpoon Harry’s restaurant in Sunset Beach. It was there, many years ago, that Maddon worked on a much smaller scale to help the homeless, passing out clothes and supplies to whoever wandered by.

Read the rest of this story by clicking here.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

USC (basketball) vs. Fairfield (at Orlando, Fla.), 1 p.m., ESPNU

BORN ON THIS DATE

1906: Golfer Henry Picard (d. 1977)

1942: Football player Paul Warfield

1953: Baseball player Sixto Lezcano

1958: Baseball player Dave Righetti

1960: Former Dodger Ken Howell (d. 2018)

1963: Baseball player Walt Weiss

1965: Baseball player Matt Williams

1969: Former Dodger Pedro Astacio

1969: Baseball player Robb Nen

1982: Basketball player Leandro Barbosa

1984: Basketball player Andrew Bogut

1984: Hockey player Marc-Andre Fleury

DIED ON THIS DATE

1939: Inventor of basketball James Naismith, 78

1996: Tennis player Don McNeill, 78

AND FINALLY

No video today. I just want to use this space to say Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers, and my thanks to all of you who have subscribed and made this newsletter successful. I hope everyone has a holiday filled with friends and family, and if any of you are feeling alone out there today, believe me, I’ve been there. But you aren’t alone. There are people who care. And if you need reminding, just email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and I’ll tell you that I care.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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