HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Hickory and Sharon are two better teams and two of the biggest rivals in Western Pennsylvania, but when the Hornets and Tigers meet Friday night, they will have a common bond.
One Hickory senior’s struggles have become inspiration to his team and their neighboring community. For Kendall Brest, football holds a special place in his heart.
“It’s one of the most important things in my life behind religion and family,” he said.
Brest has had the unique opportunity to play tight end and defensive end for his dad, Hornets head coach Bill Brest.
When asked why football was so important to him, Brest answered, “Because it’s the best sport in the world. It’s that simple.”
During Brest’s junior season at Hickory in the fall of 2015, that simplicity became far more complicated.
“He stood up, getting ready for school and basically, it ended up being a stroke,” Bill explained.
Days later, doctors diagnosed Kendall with a heart disorder, left ventricular non-compaction, and said he could no longer play the sport he loves.
“That was my main sport, my favorite sport. But in September when it changed, I had to take a different perspective on it,” Brest said.
“Number one, it’s a joy to coach your kid and that was taken away, but we found something different,” Bill said.
Later in the season, Kendall returned to his teammates who coined the term “Kendall-strong” to honor him. This fall, there’s now another Coach Brest on the staff; the senior has joined his father as a student assistant.
“It still feels the same to me. I’m still around the team for all the meetings, practices, games. Nothing’s changed. I’m just not getting bruises on my body anymore,” Brest said.
“He’s putting the time and effort in, he’s very talented. He has the health setback, but he’s attacking it and he sees the big picture in life,” Bill said, getting emotional.
Coach Kendall will be back to work on the Hornet sideline Friday night as Hickory renews its rivalry with Sharon, but he’ll also be the guest of honor.
Both schools are partnering to raise money to send children with similar heart problems to the Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids. There will plenty of fundraising opportunities at the game, including raffling off gift baskets, t-shirts, sideline seats and autographed helmets from both teams.
“It’s not for me at all. It’s for the kids that have it harder than me and that need the money to go to the camp so they can have a healthy life just like me,” Brest added.
Bill’s Hickory Hornets have won five of the past six meetings with Sharon, but there’s far more than football at the forefront of his mind.
“Yes, we want to win Friday night just like our opponent wants to win Friday night. Yes, we’re working hard. After the game, no matter what happens, who’s gonna be there but your family?” he said.