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DECATUR -- Rick Scholl felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw a face that sent him down memory lane.

The man standing in front of Scholl was 44 years old. But Scholl could still see the boy who was in one of his first adaptive physical education class and playing in an early form of the Life Skills basketball games at Sunnyside School nearly 30 years ago.

"Congratulations on your retirement," Bill Simpson said.

Simpson was at Eisenhower High School on Friday to celebrate the final Life Skills basketball game of Scholl's 35-year teaching career, 29 of them in Decatur. He's retiring at the end of the year, but Simpson was also there to watch his son, Joseph Arreara-Muyuz, play in the game.

Scholl was honored between games with some balloons and a group hug/handshake session from anyone in the crowd who wanted to. The crowd included many Life Skills alumni.

"My wife helped put this together; we usually have a lot of alumni, but there were more than ever today," Scholl said. "There's a lot of memories. I had a lot of these kids from the time they were 3 years old until they graduate at 22."

Eisenhower swept Friday's games, coming from behind to win the junior varsity game 27-25 and holding off Generals guard Shannon Roberts in the varsity game behind the all-around play of point guard Jeremy Rodgers and small forward G'Von Goodman.

"This was a lot of fun -- I like being able to do things with my friends and my crew," said 15-year-old G'Von.

The players -- and cheerleaders -- begin preparing for the four Life Skills basketball games in the fall.

"They live for it. The first day of school, they ask when the first game is," Scholl said. "We practice in PE class all fall. Then we play two games at MacArthur and two at Eisenhower."

The games are competitive -- the varsity game was physical -- but sportsmanship is stressed, and Scholl makes sure every player gets the chance to shoot.

Scholl said he was glad to be the one who started the program in the Decatur School District and is sure it will go on in the future.

"I have plenty of help from other staff, so I'm sure it will go smoothly," Scholl said.

When the school year ends, Scholl will begin the next part of his life. He already has plans.

"I'm bicycling across the United States with a group of people," Scholl said. "But I'll still be around. I'll be in the stands next year."

Goodman said he wishes Scholl wasn't retiring.

"It's not good, because I've been with him my whole life, a lot of years," G'Von said. "I've done a lot of stuff with him, but now he's retiring."

G'Von the paused and said, "I guess that's good for him, though," and laughed hard.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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