BETHANY — One Friday night last October, Bethany's John Page found himself in a violent collision trying to tackle Kingfisher running back Landon Nault.
It was the type of pad-popping hit Page endures multiple times in any given football game, thanks to his physical playing style and despite his diminutive 5-foot-6, 130-pound build.
Just like every other collision he winds up in, Page popped up off the ground and lined up for the next play. He didn't know it at the time, but the pain he was feeling in his shoulder was actually a broken bone — yet he kept playing, even trying to catch a pass using only his good arm before coaches realized something was wrong.
“I never lay on the field,” said Page, who has been a two-way starter since his freshman year. “Always get up, no matter what. When you're injured, it's tough, but that's always been my motto. Always get up and keep going.”
It's a philosophy that has benefitted him far beyond the football field. It helped keep him from being a drug addict. Or in jail. Or dead.
The first eight years of Page's life were engulfed in a family environment that put him on a path to one — if not all three — of those options.
By the time he was age 8, Page had lived in five different states with his drug-addicted mother, Sherry. His father was out of his life within a month of his birth.
“I saw a lot of things I shouldn't have seen at 8 years old,” Page said.
Consider that a drastic understatement.
Page watched his mother snort cocaine. She once made him smoke marijuana with her. And he wasn't old enough to know what other types of drugs she might have been on.
One day in March 2003, Page came in from playing and found his mother unconscious. His half-sister, Roxanne, and her father lived next door in Munford, Tenn., a tiny town not far outside Memphis. Page brought them to the house and they got Sherry to the hospital.
She died a week later, a result of 24 years of drug use, and other unrelated medical problems. Sherry was on the transplant list for a heart and lungs.
Not until after her death was Sherry's family in Oklahoma contacted about the situation. Almost immediately, Sherry's sister, Laurie Cochran, and her husband, Chad, began packing for a trip to Tennessee.
That 8-year-old boy needed a family, and they were prepared to offer him one. They had only seen him once since he was an infant, having visited Munford a couple months before Sherry's death.
But there was no question that they needed to bring John back to Oklahoma.
“We actually wanted to get both of them,” Chad said. “But Roxanne was with her biological father and that prevented us from getting her.”
When they arrived, they found they'd have to fight for Page, too. Roxanne's father, Phil, who had been Sherry's boyfriend, wanted to keep him — even hid him in the trunk of a car to keep him away from the Cochrans.
But after six weeks and two court appearances, the Cochrans were given legal guardianship.
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Bethany (2-1) at Chandler (1-2)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Chandler High School
Scouting report: Both teams are coming off big Week 3 wins. Bethany knocked off Washington 40-7, while Chandler got its first win under new coach Scott Myers, 33-17 over Harrah. Both teams could use a winning start in the opening week of play in District 3A-2, which looks to be competitive.