BENNINGTON -- It was a simple gesture, something that took no more than 20 seconds to start and finish.
But for Mount Anthony Union High School senior girls soccer player Cheyanne Woodward, it meant so much.
Woodward broke her left foot earlier this season, not allowing the midfielder to finish the year on the field, but in a walking boot on the sidelines.
On Senior Night last week against Burr and Burton Academy, a text message between the senior and Patriots coach Mark Boudreau that Woodward would start went from a joke to serious over a two-day period.
"I thought about it a couple of days ago, but logistically on the crutches and things like that, i wasn't planning [on it]," Boudreau said.
Before the game in the locker room, Woodward, as she's done many times before in her four years on the soccer team, got dressed in her shorts and No. 12 jersey, unsure of what would happen next.
"I wasn't sure if it was happening, after the text, I said, ‘OK, whatever happens, happens," Woodward said.
But Boudreau and assistant coach Brooke Rice knew what was going to happen, especially as Rice saw Woodward putting on her uniform.
"I went into the team room at 5 p.m., and Brooke said, ‘She's putting her uniform on.' Well, then we have to do it. She forced the hand by [putting on] the uniform," said Boudreau, the second-year Patriots coach, jokingly.
Then there were the logistical nightmares -- how to play the ball, how to allow Woodward to get a touch -- that was the point after all. Another concern would be if Burr and Burton coach Dan DeForest would approve of the move.
But that concern was immediately squashed when Boudreau and Rice spoke with DeForest.
"Brooke said another player did it a couple of years ago, so Dan's a great guy, we mentioned it to him and he said sure," Boudreau said.
DeForest has seen a lot of high school soccer games in his time as coach for the Bulldogs for 31 seasons.
"Certainly a kid who has played in high school for 4 years, she's doing a great job and gets an injury, and she doesn't get a chance to finish the season," DeForest said. "It's her senior home game, we want her to get on the field and anything we can do to accommodate something like that, of course we're going to do it."
So MAU won the toss, and after all the introductions and seniors being honored, Woodward stood next to the sidelines, waiting to see what would happen.
The referee's whistle blew, and classmate Kate Goodell dribbled the ball over to Woodward, who played the ball a couple of times with her right foot and booted it out of bounds.
"We were going to dribble over, give it to her, and knock it out and give [BBA] the ball. But Dan said, ‘No, you won the toss, we'll do an illegal throw, you have the ball,'" Boudreau said. "We needed to make a legal substitution to get her out. Seriously, it was thought up right before we started."
"It went flawlessly," DeForest said. "It's not easy because you have to have all the kids, we told our kids that now you have to throw it out so they can sub in for her. Mark has a classy program and we're happy to oblige."
Through it all, the smile never left the diminutive senior's face.
"It was really special to me, it's a big year for me, I've grown up with these guys since middle school," Woodward said, standing on crutches after the game. "[My teammates are] like my family and it was really nice for them to do it for me. They were also hoping i would start, they hoped i'd get a chance. It was nice of them to do that."
Boudreau said the gesture was all part of what his team, 7-7 heading into the Division I playoffs next week, is all about.
"One of the best parts of coaching this group ... I have a good relationship [with them], I coached them in the youth leagues too," Boudreau said. "We've seen them develop, they do anything for each other. It was emotional for everyone."