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Lost for season, Avila helps out at practice, games
It's been a difficult few months for Brandon Avila.

The Ceres High senior suffered a concussion during a varsity football scrimmage at Patterson on Sept. 4.

He was supposed to return to the team after a two-week break, but his playing career ended prematurely after further testing revealed a non-cancerous cyst on his brain.

"I was willing to go out there and play even knowing the consequences," he said. "My family and doctors didn't think it was worth it. This is one of the hardest things I've ever gone through."

Avila would have started at receiver and free safety for the Bulldogs.

"It's a devastating blow for him and us," head coach Brett Johnson said. "He's a great kid. He would have been a major contributor."

Avila continues to practice with Ceres High. He plays on the scout teams on both offense and defense.

"I help out as much as I can," Brandon said. "I just can't hit."

Avila also attends home and away games, where he can be spotted warming up quarterback Josh Edwards on the sidelines.

"I'm just happy to be out there," he said. "I'm the biggest cheerleader."

The Bulldogs ended their 15-game losing streak with an emotional 21-6 victory at Weston Ranch on Oct. 17.

Ceres High finished 0-10 in 2007 and dropped its first five contests this year.

"I was crying because I was so happy," said Avila, who was a member of last season's winless team. "I've never won a game at the varsity level. It was a relief."

Family, friends and teammates have all played a role in Brandon's emotional recovery.

"They helped me stay positive," he said.

Brandon wasn't himself while waiting for test results. The fear of not knowing was unbearable.

"It scared me because they (doctors) didn't give me any details at first," he said. "I couldn't sleep more than 2-3 hours a night for a month. It took six weeks before I knew anything."

Avila won't have surgery due to possible complications.

"I'll have checkups regularly to make sure it doesn't grow," he said.

A late addition to Ceres High's cross country team this fall, Avila finished in 135th place on Saturday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Sub-Section championships in Angels Camp. It was just his second race of the year.

"He did good," Bulldogs coach Natalie Alvarez said.

As for the future, Brandon said he plans to try out for basketball in the winter.

He'll focus on distance running in the spring.

"Since football's gone, I'm already training for track," he said. "I want to make it past sections. I'm not going to let this (health issue) hold me back anymore."