BROOKSVILLE — Rob Szatkowski knew the police were coming after him. So with a little head fake, the 13-year-old weaved his way through his pursuers.
Five yards. Ten yards. Fifteen yards. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't outrun them all. Before he knew he was surrounded by a half-dozen Hernando County deputies.
"I really thought I was going to make it," a dejected Szatkowski said later.
Still, his spectacular catch from quarterback Larry Chavez helped march the football for his Fox Chapel Middle School team in the annual Kids vs. Cops game Thursday night at Central High School.
No matter the outcome of the game (Cops won, 54-14), the participants, which included players from Fox Chapel Middle School, West Hernando Middle School and Central High School, could take pride in knowing they raised $1,084 to help families of children whose lives were touched by recent tragedy.
"We've had a wonderful turnout," said Fox Chapel Middle school resource officer Wendy Tolbert, who organized the event that pitted a team built largely of Sheriff's Office employees against teams made up mostly of young football players.
Tolbert has led the athletic gathering for the past three years as a way of raising money for a character-building program her school sponsors called Project Wisdom. Through it, kids who are seen making positive choices in their lives are treated to field trips at the end of the school year.
However, according to Tolbert, this year's game had some special meaning behind it in that a portion of the proceeds would also go toward the families of three special children.
Summer Moll, a 4-year-old girl, was severely injured in October in a DUI car crash in Tampa that claimed the life of her mother, Jennifer O'Boyle.
Shortly after reading about the little girl in the newspaper, several Fox Chapel Middle students organized a bake sale and other fundraising activities to help with the family's medical expenses.
The other two recipients of Thursday's charity football game proceeds were the families of two students whose tragic deaths early in the school year hit closer to home.
Jenna Moran, 16, died Sept. 25 when the car she was driving collided head-on with another vehicle on Hexam Road. West Hernando Middle School student Kaitlyn Harper, 13, died Sept. 9 after she was struck by a pickup truck as she walked to a bus stop on California Street.
Several West Hernando Middle players on the field said Kaitlyn's sudden death was a big shock and that they were glad to be able to do something worthwhile in her memory.
"She was a really nice person," said classmate Nick Cherubino, who used to ride the bus with Kaitlyn. "Everyone misses her a lot."
Tolbert said about a quarter of the money raised from the event, which also included $1,000 from an unknown donor, will go to Kaitlyn's family in Weeki Wachee.
Played in four eight-minute quarters, the game proved to be fast-paced and full of action. By the middle of the second quarter, many on the Cops squad showed their ages as they tried to keep up with players a third their age.
"We're holding our own," said a huffing Abraham Dowdell as he watched his fellow Cops team hold off the charge from the Central High squad.
"But the score doesn't matter anyway,'' he said. "As far as I'm concerned it's the community that will win this game."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.