Palm Harbor University (Fla.) senior Esther Breitling didn't expect to score a varsity touchdown on Friday night. Her head football coach, Mike Mullaney, had installed a play for Esther in the week leading up to Friday — but coaches install plays all the time. That doesn't mean it'll actually be implemented.
In a 47-0 win by PHU over nearby Dunedin, on the first drive of the second half in what already had turned into a blowout, junior running back Jaxson Wilson — who had played sparingly for two seasons as a backup RB but had the game of his career already vs. Dunedin on Friday — broke what looked like a long touchdown run. The only problem with that description? He seemed to decide not to make it a scoring play. He didn't make it all the way. For those watching, the first thought was — what's his intent?
Shortly afterward, a rarity occurred.
THE HOMECOMING QUEEN STORY: Esther Breitling is Queen, but Moments Later She's Back in the Huddle
Breitling — who back in September had made Tampa Bay headlines as she'd been honored by her school, coaches, and teammates when she was crowned Homecoming Queen at PHU while in full pads — plunged in from the 1-yard line. Wilson could have wrapped up the play moments earlier with one of the longest-scoring runs in recent PHU memory. But he chose not to. He deferred — to a teammate. Which in many ways? Personifies what is becoming a record-breaking year for this 27-year-old school and it's football program.
Moments after Wilson did what he did, Esther's boyfriend — featured tailback and 2023 Homecoming King Mykehl Boebert (two TD runs already) turned into a fullback, and as Esther puts it, joined with PHU teammates like Walker Danneman, Emory Tipton, and Alex Malyszko to clear a path to give her a shot to do something no Palm Harbor University female student has ever done — she scored a touchdown with a large-school football team. For that matter, has any young lady in Tampa Bay history done it? Or Florida? We're working on that but will get an answer by the end of this weekend.
None of us were expecting to have to dig up that record coming into Friday night.
"It's surreal, but that's just the power of God and being patient," Esther told FanBuzz after the game. "It wasn't easy, but it was the right season. I could have quit a long time ago. But ultimately good things come to those who wait. I know I waited for the right time, and our coaches and my teammates made it happen. I think it's awesome ... They are all really special."
Mullaney — who has been at PHU since 2018 and was an assistant the last time PHU found postseason success around a decade ago, is the school's all-time winningest coach. He explained the idea.
"We put in the play for Esther (Thursday) at practice," Mullaney told FanBuzz. "Jaxson did an extremely unselfish thing. We had no clue what he was doing."
Yes, it was a blowout. But there were a lot of Palm Harbor kids on the sideline who'd never scored a touchdown, as well as on the Dunedin side. Yet the reaction — for those who watched it — was the biggest in years. As Mullaney pointed out — this wasn't a mandate coming down from the staff, it was a decision made by Esther's teammate — Wilson. By that point in the game, with a running clock against a respected rival with respected coaches at Dunedin — the players did something they knew would be respected by everybody in attendance, and maybe even beyond that.
"That's the kind of unselfishness PHU has," Breitling told FanBuzz. "A lot of people may think that it was cute and all, but that's what we are at PHU. This was the fruits of our labor."
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