A glorious win has been followed by a devastating loss.
Andre Sloan-El Sr., an assistant coach for the newly crowned Catholic Red football champ, Roman Catholic, and the adoptive father of star rusher Balial Lewis Sloan-El, died Saturday after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 51.
Sloan-El, the wide receivers coach, was a member of coach Jim Murphy's staff for six seasons. Failing health this season had limited his input to only a few games and practices.
He was able to watch CN8's live telecast of Roman's 10-9, title-game success Dec. 1 over St. Joseph's Prep, in which Balial rushed for 118 yards while completing a 2007 campaign that saw him become the sixth most productive one-season rusher in city history (2,141).
"I called him on the bus ride back to Roman and told him, 'We just won the championship, champ!' " Murphy said. "His voice was very weak. That got me worried . . . This is so tough. He was a salt-of-the-earth guy."
Miriam Sloan-El said her husband left a position in the corporate world about 15 years ago to become a teacher. He most recently taught special ed in the Cramer Elementary School, in Camden, and was a long-time coach with the Pennsauken (N.J) Youth Athletic Association.
"He loved teaching, but really, love of kids was his passion," Mrs. Sloan-El said. "He touched a lot of lives as a mentor. He was so proud of the way Balial blossomed once he had a strong male figure in his life."
Said Murphy: "There was something special about the bond between 'Dre and kids. We all saw it again and again. Our players loved him.
"When I had to yell at a player, 'Dre was always the guy I chose to help me out. Either to go to the kid beforehand, so maybe I would not have to jump down his throat, or afterward to soften the blow. Things would always get better. He'd always get through to them."