Players from the Christopher High School football team pause for a photo after their South team won the Feb. 3 Wedemeyer Game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad

Football, fun, rain and more competition than usual in an all-star game. That was the story for many local gridiron seniors on Feb. 3, in the 49th annual Charlie Wedemeyer Game at Los Gatos High. 

Athletes from Gilroy, Christopher, Live Oak and Sobrato filled out a major portion of the South roster, the squad that triumphed 28-6 over the North in a battle of the best of Santa Clara County.

Christopher players in the game included cornerback/wide receiver Amari Bluford, running back/linebacker William Rizqallah, guard/tackle/running back Zeke Begines and defensive tackle Danny Camilleri. Gilroy players included running back/linebacker Tyler Hodges and wide receiver Nathaniel Neander.

Sobrato all-stars included running back/linebacker Noah Taylor, guard/defensive end Jorge Mendoza and defensive end/guard Lucas Leisure. From Live Oak, football stars were running back/linebacker Josh Gagni, outside linebacker/wide receiver Keaton Dietz, center Dariano Garcia and defensive end/wide receiver Luke Richey.

In the contest, Bluford starred with two interceptions, Taylor had one touchdown and 10 tackles, Gagni scored a touchdown and Richey shined with two sacks.

Wedemeyer was born in Honolulu and was a star quarterback at Punahou School. He was named Hawaii Prep Athlete of the 1960s and advanced to play football at Michigan State under coach Duffy Daugherty. After receiving a Master’s Degree from Central Michigan, Wedemeyer became a teacher and football coach at Los Gatos High.

In 1977, Wedemeyer was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He continued to coach and led the Wildcats to a Central Coast Section title in 1985. 

As the disease took its toll, he would sit in his wheelchair at the Los Gatos games, with wife Lucy Wedemeyer reading his lips for play calls and relaying them on to the team. Wedemeyer passed away in June 2010. The All-Star game honors him and proceeds are donated to the ALS Foundation and Coaches Against Cancer.

Sobrato players were coming off a 6-4 season, highlighted by a dynamic offense under coach Joel Rueda. Taylor led the way with 2,548 yards and 27 touchdowns on 213 carries.

Live Oak finished 9-1, capturing the Blossom Valley Athletic League, Mt. Hamilton Division title under the direction of coach Mike Gemo. The Acorns’ season highlights included a 35-27 victory over the rival Bulldogs in the El Toro Bowl and a thrilling last-second win over Christopher 28-24 for the league title. Live Oak advanced into the CCS Division II playoffs.

Christopher had a milestone season. The Cougars finished 11-2, highlighted by an amazing playoff run in coach Darren Yafai’s final season, as he announced his retirement. Christopher shocked West Catholic Athletic League powerhouse Archbishop Mitty 28-24 with a late rally, then came from behind in the semifinals to top Menlo School 21-17. The magic ran out in the CCS Division II final against Soquel, which went on to win NorCal and CIF State titles.

Yafai coached in the game last Saturday and has roots in coaching at both Gilroy High and Christopher High. Yafai also played football and coincidentally, his last game on the gridiron as a player was a CCS final against Wedemeyer and Los Gatos High.

On the night, the Coaches Against Cancer Spirit Award was given to Gilroy’s Hodges. The Mustang athlete was diagnosed with cancer last month and will be undergoing chemotherapy. He was honored as the BVAL Santa Teresa-Foothill Division Senior of the Year at the conclusion of the fall football season.

William Rizqallah runs the ball in the Feb. 3 Wedemeyer Game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
Gilroy High’s Nathaniel Neander plays wide receiver in the rain during the Feb. 3 Wedemeyer Game. Photo: Jonathan Natividad
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