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Amherst defensive coordinator named Packers High School Coach of the Week

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Doug Spadoni

Doug Spadoni talking with News 9 at the Harleigh Games in June of 2019. 

AMHERST, Wis. (WAOW)-- Amherst High School football team defensive coordinator Doug Spadoni has been named as the Packers High School Coach of the Week. 

Spadoni just finished his twelfth year as the Falcons' defensive coordinator, and he's made an impact with both players on the team and students as a special education teacher at the high school. 

Harleigh Firkus, a high school athlete went to Spadoni with a desire to lift weights and get involved in CrossFit after her recovering from two ACL surgeries. 

In 2015 she was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome(VEDS), which is a rare genetic disorder that affects a person's collagen. 

He invited Harleigh to join the whole football team in the weight room and coached her on different lifts and exercises to achieve her CrossFit goals. 

In 2019, Harleigh Furkus passed away. 

“Despite her illness, if you will, Harleigh was absolutely fearless,” Spadoni said. “It’s been close to three years now, but I wish more people could know her. Her indominable spirit was something to behold.… When she got to high school, that’s when she wanted to get involved in the weight training class that we have here at school. She was a little nervous, in a class full of 40 football players, she would be the only female, but you know she came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to join.’ So, I showed her some basic lifts and [head football coach] Mark Lusic did, and she started in the weight training class. That just lit a spark with her, and she was just totally dedicated.”

After Harleigh's passing, several off her classmates approached Spadoni with the idea creating a CrossFit completion in her honor. 

The Harleigh Games become a reality in June of 2019 with many people in the community buying in. 

“It was just awesome,” said Spadoni. “The amount of people that donated their time and equipment, and the turnout was tremendous. The coronavirus this past year put the stop to it, but we’re going to do it again this June.”

Being able to make an impact is why Doug Spadoni decided to become a teacher.

“It’s nice to know you make an impact. That’s why I went into teaching,” Spadoni said in a press release sent out by the Packers. “That’s why I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I feel very lucky that 20 years later I still love my job, and coaching is an extension of that. Coaching is teaching. It’s great because often the feedback you get is years later when you hear from former students and athletes that you helped them out, but you don’t always get immediate feedback as a teacher all the time, so [winning this award] is really nice.”

Spadoni plans to donate the $1,000 funds from Coach of the Week to the Harleigh A. Firkus Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund was started by Harleigh's mom Stacy to honor her legacy as well as help provide students with further educational opportunities. 

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