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Terminally ill mom watches son with Down syndrome live his football dream

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Robby Heil

It seemed like a typical high school football game, but it turned out to be a magical night one Michigan mother - and all others who were there -- will never forget.

Robby Heil, wearing No. 24, led his Novi High School team onto the field against South Lyon East.

Robby, a senior at Novi, a school just outside Detroit, had never scored a touchdown. Understandable since Robby, who has Down syndrome, usually handles the water bottles for the Wildcats.

But he'd always dreamed of scoring a touchdown. And on Friday night, his dream came true.

In the second quarter against South Lyon East, play was stopped so Robby could enter the game. Just like the team had practiced, Robby got the handoff, got a clear path and ran 20 yards into the end zone for a Wildcats touchdown, ending his dream jaunt with an emphatic spike of the ball.

If that's not touching enough, his mom, Debbie Heil, who stood on the sidelines, did not know any of this was going to happen.

Debbie Heil was overcome by emotion.

Debbie Heil, who is terminally ill with bone cancer, got to see her little boy live his dream. Overwhelmed by the joy and surprise of the moment, she dropped to her knees in tears.

Even the opposing team honored Robby, presenting him with a No. 1 jersey on their behalf.

"This is his time," his emotional mother said. "Take it, Robby.

"It takes a village to raise my son, Debbie Heil added. "And this village has really been outstanding."

Novi head coach Jeff Burnside said Robby always has a smile no matter what kind of day he's having.

"The opportunity to put that helmet on tonight," Burnside said, "it brought tears to my eyes tonight, and I'm pretty sure tears all over the place."

More on this story from ABC affiliate WXYZ in Detroit.

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