Oh, that goofy laugh and smile of Yahir Cancino.
Hat on backwards. Always the funny one in the group. That kid you felt awesome being around in Dalhart because of his positive ways.
And, that smile breaking out on Yahir’s face whenever he said something funny – which, was often – or saw you for the first time at school that day.
This evening when the funeral service for Dalhart High football player sophomore Yahir Cancino is held on the Memorial Stadium football field in Dalhart, tears will be shed, and many wonderful things will be said.
For those who really knew Yahir, they know this.
“Oh gosh, he had the goofiest laugh,” said his best friend and fellow sophomore Dalhart football player Kyler Read. “And he always had a smile on his face. It didn’t matter what circumstance it was, he was always there to bring you up. I just loved how happy he was. His energy. I miss going to church with him and I miss playing football with him.”
On Sept. 1 in Dimmitt the Dalhart junior varsity was playing a neutral site game against Sundown. In the fourth quarter, No. 22 running back Yahir dropped to one knee during a timeout. He then passed out.
Yahir was rushed to a local hospital, eventually airlifted to the University Medical Center in Lubbock. He passed away about a day later.
Yahir’s death shook to the core the worlds of the Dalhart community.
Now, 12 days later, Yahir’s passing has set off an outpouring of love throughout Dalhart and the Texas Panhandle that was on full display when the Spearman Lynx rolled into Dalhart last Friday night for the Golden Wolves first game since Yahir’s tragic death.
Dalhart cancelled its game Sept. 2 with Sundown.
Last Thursday, students throughout the Texas Panhandle wore purple (Dalhart High’s school colors are purple and gold) to classes honoring Yahir a week after his passing.
Last Friday night emotions were high, and the color purple was everywhere at Memorial Stadium in Dalhart.
Incredibly, 95 percent of Spearman fans in attendance wore a t-shirt with “Pray for Dalhart” on the front and No. 22 with the name Yahir on the back.
Those shirts, made by a generous lady and her store in Spearman, were also worn by many Dalhart fans meaning the No. 22 was everywhere.
Those t-shirts raised more than $10,000 for the Yahir’s family. Already, a go fund me project had hoped to raise $10,000 for Yahir’s family and the number raised had eclipsed $50,000.
“Those 22 shirts were everything to me,” said Kyler Read. “This community and so many communities are awesome. It’s incredible to see how loving and caring everybody is. They don’t understand how much it means to us. It’s everything.”
Dalhart started fast against favored Spearman jumping out to a three-touchdown lead, then held on for the win 43-35.
Yahir’s best friend Kyler Read, who wears No. 34 and plays quarterback, contributed to the win in a big with his running and passing.
“We played for Yahir,” Kyler Read said. “There was no way we were going to lose.”
The number 22 was everywhere before, during and after the game.
Many of the cars parked near the stadium had their windows painted with “No. 22 Yahir.”
During the game a train running next to the field slowed and the engineer tooted his horn 22 times.
Purple and gold balloons were let go after the game, along with a No. 22 balloon that ascended out of sight to the heavens.
Leading up the game the Dalhart 7th grade scored 22 points in winning its game and the – Dalhart JV scored 22 unanswered points in its game.
Every time a Dalhart player made a good play or things were getting tough, they would raise both their hands toward the sky and flashing two fingers on each hand signaling 22.
“They were giving God and Yahir the glory,” Dalhart head football coach Joey Read said. “Oh, yes we felt his vibe. We wanted to this one so much for Yahir.”
Coaches have a special bond with players. Life just runs that way.
Everybody who knows Joey Read knows how much Yahir’s death devastated him. His son, QB Kyler, and Yahir were tight. Shared a lot. Lived a lot. Laughed a lot. Like all teenagers ate A LOT.
“Gawly, Yahir was like a son to me,” Joey Read said. “He was my son Kyler’s best buddy. He stayed at our house quite often. Hung out. Ate our food. Said he loved me, hugged me all the time. ‘Hey, Coach Read, I love you. I said I love you too, Yahir.’ He was just one of my own. That’s the special thing about having your own kid you coach. You get to get close to his friends who are the kids you coach. I’m just heartbroken.”
Joey Read is also amazed when it comes to his profession. He knew all along the coaching fraternity is a unique bond of brothers and sisters, owning hearts of gold. But now he really knows the truth about coaches.
“Coaches all over Texas have called me,” Joey Read said. “Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire called me. The Texas-San Antonio coach (Jeff Traylor) called or texted me. I’ll tell you all over the state I have had coaches who are retired call and tell me stories. This group of coaches we are in is amazing and the way we treat each other is amazing.
“We definitely want to beat each other up on Friday nights. But when it’s all said and done we really love each other.”
Joey Read already knew the love of the town of Dalhart. And he’s proud to be their coach.
“The community has been unbelievable,” Joey Read said. “And all over, like Amarillo. If I start naming schools, I will forget one and that’s not fair and it will hurt my feelings. My sister-in-law lives in McKinney and they did things there honoring Yahir. It’s been that way.
“I’m very proud of this community. Our community went above and way beyond. I have to hand it to Spearman and the other communities who reached out as well. And there are several.”
Joey Read would give anything today to not have to talk about a community mourning over the death of a teen-ager. Especially, the nightmare of any coach seeing a young man fall on the field of play.
And the way Yahir was doing it? He had been a lineman all his football career but like 99.9 percent of young brothers, wanted to be like his big brother. Yahir wanted to play running back like his older brother. Even wear No. 22, like big bro.
“Yahir was already turning into one heck of a running back for us,” Joey Read said. “He started as an offensive lineman. Coach, I want to be a running back. I’m like ‘No. you are going to stay at line I’m not losing one of my best lineman. And my offensive coordinator, Coach (Kiel) Kitchens came to me and said, “You better find a replacement he’s coming with me.’
“He worked so hard in the off-season and lost some weight and looked like a running back. He did a tremendous job running and he was going to have a major role next year on varsity running the ball.”
Said Yahir’s best bud Kyler: “He loved football. It was his favorite sport, and he was awesome. He was a center and was told he was going to be a lineman all his life and he didn’t like it. He wanted to be like his brother and wear No. 22 and be a running back. He worked his tail off every off-season and finally got there.”
The game of football isn’t life or death. It’s a game. But it’s a game Yahir Cancino loved.
Those who played the game of football with Yahir are hurting these days. But when the tears finally stop, they know they were the lucky ones, the blessed ones, to have known Yahir in his short life.
“I miss Yahir every day,” Joey Read said. “He loved life, and he loved his friends. He wanted to be the center of attention and he wanted to make his friends laugh. He was the guy in the group who tried to make the loudest joke and make everybody laugh. And he did. He made me laugh.”
Kyler Read was standing in his Golden Wolves No. 34 uniform shortly after the win over Spearman. Kyler had brought people tears a few days earlier with his eloquent words honoring Yahir at a memorial on this same field.
“I miss him, man,” Kyler Read said. “I miss him, and I miss playing football with him. We always dreamed about playing under the Friday Night Lights together. I know one day I will get to do it with him up in heaven.”
No doubt, Yahir will bring the goofy laugh.