Leonard awaits final Julie Leonard Night

Carter Kangas, Staff Writer

Ryan Leonard (12) receives the ball and begins to run in a game against Del Norte, Oct. 22. He feels a sense of pressure to perform well in his last game at Westview, especially because it is in honor of his mother. Photo by Katie Lew.

The final football game of the regular season is tonight, with Westview facing off against its district rival Mt. Carmel.

For many of the younger players on the team, it’s just another game to play, another game to work their hardest, another game to come together and win.

 And for the seniors, it is the last regular season game they have to give it all they’ve got. It’s the last time they’ll have a chance to perform on the Westview field, under the glare of the home lights, and accompanied by the cheers of Westview fans. 

But for Ryan Leonard (12), this final game is especially significant. Because the final game of his high school football career is the breast cancer awareness pink out game and Julie Leonard Night. 

Named for his mother, the pink out has been a shared Wolverine and Sun Devil tradition for nearly a decade. The fans, players, and coaches from both teams wear pink, with the winner of the game taking home a trophy named for and honoring the legacy of Julie Leonard, an aid at both schools. She passed away from an unexpected brain aneurysm in 2014, when Leonard was only in fifth grade. 

Leonard remembers his mother as a proponent of football and the competition between the two schools, who loved to see the two schools go head-to-head and compete in a friendly atmosphere. Her favorite color was pink.

“She worked at both Mt. Carmel and Westview, and the pink game really began when my brother came to Westview,“ Leonard said. “She knew pretty much everyone and was always involved with every event that was here or at MC. And we started this game to show her that we thank her. And we’re pretty much friends versus friends, because she would love to watch us duke it out on the field, and after the game, we’ll still remain friends. So pretty much we started this pink out game to show her that we all still love the game and to compete with that friendly competition.”

Leonard said he feels some extra pressure to perform in the game, but he tries to focus on doing his best and supporting his team as much as he can.

“I feel some of the pressure because, of course, she’s gonna be watching down,” he said. “It’s going to be emotional. Last game. Last dedicated game. Last home game. It’s going to be difficult. I will be playing as hard as I can always. And just like the quote is, play it like your last. And yeah, I’m gonna play hard and treat it like it’s just a regular game. That’s what I have to keep my mentality as and not get over myself.”

Even though Leonard feels a special connection to the pink out game, he and the team know that this is still another game to play to win.

“I would say it really doesn’t matter about the record we end up with, or even the result of this game,” he said. “It’s about how you felt during the season, how much fun you had during the games. I pretty much changed and shaped my focus around that. Trying to have good individual games throughout the season and everything is important to me. But I always remember that it’s a team sport, and I try to do the best I can for the team.”

With Leonard finishing out his senior year, and his brother Anthony Joseph already graduated, the future of the pink out game, or at least the title of the Julie Leonard trophy, is uncertain.

Leonard said he hopes that the tradition of the pink out game will continue after he graduates, even if the trophy doesn’t serve as a remembrance to his mother.

“I would understand if they cancel it or this could be the last pink out game because I’m the last person in my family to go to Westview,”  he said. “And I could see why they might not do it anymore. Because no one here will know who she is after I leave. But, I really do hope they rename it and continue it. That’d be pretty cool. I’m probably going to be going to college here [in San Diego]. I’m not going to continue playing football, but if they continue it, I will always be at this game. It just means something to me, and I love it, so I will be here.”