It’s an event not ever seen or imagined around these parts. Not among rival East Bay football teams. Not this close to the season.
But members of four East Bay Athletic League squads along with Freedom-Oakley will gather at 5 p.m. Saturday at San Ramon Valley-Danville not to scrimmage, but to partake in family-reunion-type games like tug of war and three-legged races.
All of is it to honor and support Jake Javier, a former San Ramon Valley football player who is paralyzed from the chest down following a 2016 graduation pool-party diving accident.
Javier, an All-Metro two-way tackle bound for Cal Poly on a football scholarship, endured life-threatening injuries, severe trauma to his vertebrae and nine months of extensive surgeries and rehabilitation before returning home in April.
He’s planning to pursue his dream to earn an engineering degree at Cal Poly with a special interest in stem-cell research. Javier had 10 million embryonic stem cells injected into his spine during one of the surgeries.
“He’s a real special kid with a powerful message and he could use our help,” said longtime De La Salle-Concord coach Bob Ladouceur, a San Ramon Valley graduate.
Ladouceur, who won 399 games as head coach at De La Salle (he’s now an assistant) and is an NFHS Hall of Fame member, organized Saturday’s “Day of Games” event that also includes the Spartans, Monte Vista-Danville and California-San Ramon.
Over a nearly 40-year career, Ladouceur felt very fortunate that none of his players endured catastrophic injury on the field. Javier’s injury hit “close to home,” and affected Ladouceur deeply. When he read a Diablo magazine article detailing Javier’s plight, Ladouceur felt compelled to do something about it.
He hopes to raise $100,000 through the Javi Strong Foundation to defray the huge medical and caregiving costs Javier and his family face.
“He’s a remarkable young man, he really is,” Ladouceur said. “He’s optimistic, determined and motivated. We can all invest in his future.”
The coaches and communities of all the teams are all in, which has touched Javier deeply.
“I’m just extremely grateful for the people in these communities who want to support me, over a year later,” Javier told Prep2Prep’s Nate Smith. “Coach Lad came out of nowhere with his idea to do something for me, so I’m just really grateful for that support and generosity.”
New coach: One of those coaches, Monte Vista’s Matt Russi, is the new head coach of the Mustangs, replacing Craig Bergman, who resigned to spend more time with his children, who play at California. Russi, a Monte Vista and Cal alum, was the team’s defensive coordinator last season. Bergman, who just finished his 20th season with the school’s sixth North Coast Section title, will continue to help with the offense and teach at the school.
“Matt brings tremendous energy and a great mind to the table,” said longtime assistant Chris Babcock. “We’re lucky to have him in the program. It’s great to have a former Mustang take over for the reins.”
Soldiers marching: After a surprising championship at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam final, the Oakland Soldiers lost 78-72 to Team Takeover (Washington D.C.) in the final of the 8 AAU boys basketball championship Friday in Las Vegas.
Led by Salesian-Richmond guard James Akinjo, the Soldiers defeated Team Takeover in the final of the Peach Jam earlier in the month.
In a stunning 62-61 semifinal win Thursday over Team CP3, incoming St. Ignatius senior Darrion Trammell hit two free throws with two seconds left for the winning margin. Trammell came into the game for the first time only five seconds earlier after Akinjo fouled out. Team CP3, coached by NBA guard Chris Paul, led by as many as 14.
Thanks largely because of his stellar summer play for the Soldiers, Akinjo, a 6-foot point guard, has 13 college offers including from Cal, Connecticut and Indiana.
Briefly: De La Salle, led by 2,000-yard rusher Kairee Robinson, USC-bound lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa and preseason junior All-America linebacker Henry To’oto’o, is ranked 16th nationally by MaxPreps heading into the 2017 season. … Menlo School-Atherton incoming 5-11 junior Selina Xu is one of 20 players selected to play for USA Volleyball’s U18 training team. … Menlo’s Jack Bowen was named as the National High School Coach of the Year by USA Water Polo.
MaxPreps senior writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The San Francisco Chronicle.