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THE LIONHEART

Despite physical setback, Dotinga won't be denied

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THE LIONHEART

Ryan Case Dotinga, a third grader at Ripon Christian School, hasn't let the affects of an in-utero stroke stop him from playing the game he loves.

BRANDON PETERSEN/The Bulletin


POSTED August 19, 2009 11:11 p.m.
It was a typical late summer evening Wednesday at Ripon Christian School, where the Ripon Knights youth football organization was hard at work in preparation for the first contest of the season Saturday in Delhi.

Hundreds of players were spread out across the massive field, participating in agility drills, tackling practice, wind sprints and offensive and defensive practice.

The youngest of the Ripon’s four teams, the Junior Novice squad, was at the far end of the field stretching before head coach Jason Barnett blew his whistle and instructed the team to take a lap.

As the mighty mites of the Knights organization sprinted to the other end of the field and back, one player, Ryan Case Dotinga, had a hitch in his giddy up and a brace wrapped around his right ankle.

Despite the fact that Dotinga had to work a little harder than most to finish his lap, the young Knight wasn’t the last to return, nor was he among the few voices asking for a water break upon arrival.

Instead, Dotinga returned in silence, looked to his coaches and readied himself to continue practice.

This season, and throughout Dotinga’s life, the young man’s silent strength has spoken volumes.

After suffering an in-utero stroke that left him unable to control the right side of his body, Dotinga, an intelligent and highly competitive third grader at Ripon Christian School, decided this season that he was going to follow both of his brothers onto the gridiron.

“He has no grasp or use of his right hand,” Dotinga’s mother, Carrie, said at practice Wednesday. “He walks like he’s had a stroke, but mentally, he’s perfect.

“He’s never qualified for a special preschool or anything like that. He was in physical therapy, but they let him go because he was doing so well just by being a boy and running around. I’ve got two older sons, and he would just do what they do.”

Dotinga says he loves football because he loves to tackle and carry the football, and he did a little bit of both Wednesday at practice. Besides hauling down a teammate with one arm in a tackling drill, Dotinga also toted the rock for a touchdown during an Oklahoma drill.

Last weekend during the Knights’ Munchie scrimmages, Dotinga recorded the first tackle during the first game, and it was for loss.

“It was awesome,” Carrie said. “My husband (Michael) was grinning from ear to ear. Ryan definitely knows what he needs to do (on the field), and he does not like to lose.”

Dotinga’s father is a coach for Ripon Christian High’s junior varsity football team, and Dotinga’s oldest brother, Brandon, plays on that team.

Derek, the Dotinga’s middle child, plays for the Ripon Knights junior varsity squad.

All three were on the field Wednesday, as well as Knights Novice coach John Petlansky, who works for Pacific Medical Center.

Petlansky has played a pivotal role in Dotinga’s success. During the first practice of the season, Dotinga’s ankle continually rolled over, so much so that Dotinga had to play without a shoe so that he could run.

Because Pacific Medical sells equipment to the San Francisco 49ers, Petlansky was able to obtain a specialized brace for Dotinga that has worked like a charm ever since.

“We’re very thankful for John. In the brace, Ryan’s ankle doesn’t roll anymore.” Carrie said. “He’s been very encouraging to Ryan. He’s just so glad to see Ryan out here.”

Barnett is also happy to see Dotinga on the field on a daily basis.

While players often complain about conditioning, or voice other various gripes to the coaching staff, Dotinga is always ready to do whatever is asked of him without a second thought.

“In a word: Inspirational,” Barnett said. “For someone who is at a slight disadvantage compared to some of the other kids, he never complains. He’s out here hitting hard. On more than one occasion, he has given more than some of the players who don’t have the disadvantage.

“I’m impressed by him.”

Barnett attests to Dotinga’s competitive fire, which Dotinga says comes from his relationship with his brothers.

Although this is his first year in pads, Dotinga also plays T-ball and soccer, and is, not so surprisingly, a whiz at Playstation games despite having to play one-handed.

“He plays everything his brothers do,” Carrie said. “He’s smart and very persistent. He’ll figure out a way to do whatever he wants to do.”

Dotinga will line up at center and along the defensive line when the Knights head to Delhi Saturday.

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