BOWLING GREEN, Ky., Nov. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Russell Athletic announced today that Huntington High School is the 2016 "Fight Like Dylan Award" recipient. In its sixth year, the award honors high school sports teams that have used inspiring perseverance to overcome odds and achieve success through teamwork. A panel of judges, led by Pro Football Hall of Famer, Tony Dungy, selected the recipient after reviewing submissions from across the nation. Through this initiative, Russell Athletic will present Huntington High School with a $50,000 grant for sports apparel and equipment in a celebratory event hosted at the high school. The Huntington football team took inspiration from an honorary teammate battling a terminal disease to turn their season around and become a stronger, more inspired team that made the playoffs.
Huntington football's inspiration and honorary teammate was Eli Mollineaux. The Blue Devils struggled early in the season and were a longshot to make the playoffs, but Eli, who suffered from Pearson Syndrome - a mitochondrial disease - was defying his own odds at age fourteen after doctors told his parents that he would not live past kindergarten. Eli's infectious personality, charisma and bravery were the motivation for the Huntington football team, adopting the mantra "#bELIeve" this season in his honor. The turning point for the Blue Devils' season came in September during a game recognizing Eli. After losing their first three games, Huntington was scheduled to face their rival, Smithtown West. As a tribute to Eli and his courageousness, players invited the young man onto the field to score his first touchdown with 1,500 fans chanting #bELIeve. Players from both teams ran alongside him and cheered him across the goal line. The opposing team even wore Eli's #40 jersey with his name on back, while fans held #bELIeve signs. Motivated by Eli, the team went on to win the game 42-20 and then proceeded to win five of their next six games securing their spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, in late October, Eli passed away, but the team and community still draw from the memory of Eli's bravery and courage displayed during his short life.