Mavs’ Moon shines days after learning mother has cancer

PUEBLO — Virnel Moon couldn’t hold back his tears any longer.

The Colorado Mesa senior wide receiver, like the rest of his teammates, was hurting after the Mavericks’ 30-24 loss Saturday to CSU-Pueblo. His tears, though, were for his mother, Clessa Jones, who told her son Friday that she’s been diagnosed with cancer.

“Just trying to hold up,” Moon said after the game, tears streaming down his face. “(Friday) when we got to the stadium for practice she told me she’s got cancer. She’s all the way in California and I can’t really go home. I mean, she didn’t want to talk to me about it, she didn’t even want to tell me.

“She’s (had) cancer since the first game of the season, but I’ve had so much success from the first game of the season, she didn’t want to tell me.”

Moon scored two electrifying touchdowns for the No. 8 Mavericks (4-1, 4-1 RMAC), first on a 97-yard kickoff return to break a 3-3 tie in the second quarter. He caught the kickoff at the 3, went straight upfield, got a couple of blocks, and when he got to the 30, he was pretty much all alone.

One cut to his left to evade the kicker and he was gone, his first return for a touchdown — that wasn’t called back by a penalty — this season.

Late in the third quarter, his 56-yard catch and run gave CMU the lead, 24-20. Backpedaling, he caught Eystin Salum’s pass, turned and dragged a couple of defenders into the end zone.

“Perfect pull,” he said of the throw. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

His teammates rallied around him this weekend and will continue to help him however they can, running back and team captain David Tann said.

“It’s tough; we’re his brothers,” Tann said. “We’re going to be behind him and support him. He had a great day today. He’s got to continue to do that for his mom and we’ll keep winning for his mom and try to support him as much as possible.”

Moon had a breakout game last week against Fort Lewis, scoring a pair of touchdowns, and continued to show he’s yet another big-play threat. He caught only two passes for 68 yards, but his three kickoff returns netted 138 yards, including the 97-yard score, for 208 all-purpose yards.

“He made a couple of really big plays,” CMU coach Russ Martin said. “The kickoff return was huge and then he beat the guy deep. He is a big-time and a big-play type of kid. We weren’t able to get it to him enough, I guess.

“The young man is going through a whole lot of challenges right now and I think he was playing a lot ... reaching inside himself a lot more than what people realize. He plays with great passion; I love the kid.”

Moon said it was hard to stay focused at times, but he wanted to play well for his mother and his teammates.

“We’re all fighting for each other,” he said. “The guys knew what I was going through (Friday). We wanted this game, we all wanted this game. Unfortunately we came up short. Stuff happens. We have to get back to work tomorrow.”


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