South blanks North in 48th Wedemeyer game
The 48th edition of the Charlie Wedemeyer Santa Clara County all-star football game was the epitome of a defensive struggle.
In a game drenched by rain, beset by walls of wind that knocked back punts for negative yardage, and which featured more fumbles than completed passes, Xavier Catano's touchdown reception felt like it was worth far more than six points on Feb. 4.
The Live Oak player somehow handled the short pitch from Lincoln-san Jose quarterback Tayden Philips, cut upfield without slipping, followed his blocks, and broke the plane for the only touchdown with 11:55 left in the second quarter of the South's 9-0 win over the North.
“I think it was just meant for me and I had to push that through, and we came out with the touchdown,” Catano said about his 3-yard run across the goal line. “We had it sinking in that it was our last game.”
Despite the miserable weather, hundreds came out to Los Gatos High — where Wedemeyer coached for years — to support the seniors from Santa Clara County schools.
After being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1977, Wedemeyer battled the disease for 32 years before he died in 2010.
Proceeds from the game were donated to the ALS Foundation and Coaches Against Cancer.
The South now holds a 2519-4 lead in the series.
Defense rules the day
In a game that saw the first five possessions end in a punt, consecutive lost fumbles, a missed field goal and a negative 3-yard punt, it became apparent fairly early
on that defense was going to play a starring role in the game.
On one play, Del Mar's Josh Villareal sacked the quarterback. In the second half, South defensive back Josh Reyes of Santa Teresa knocked away a pass that seemed destined for a 30-yard completion. On one of many special teams plays, Pioneer's Ryan Given blocked a punt.
Among the best defenders on the South team was Overfelt linebacker Quinton Togia'i, who consistently plugged holes in the run game.
One of the biggest plays
of Togia'i's night came late in the first quarter when he tackled a North ballcarrier for a loss on second-andshort.
After the third-down play went nowhere, the North's punt went backward and set up the South's five-play, 14yard touchdown drive.
Once Christopher kicker Alan Canales nailed a 22yard field goal to make it 9-0 midway through the second period, Togia'i and his teammates' confidence was high, with his opponent completing only three passes for 14 yards all night.
“We were just having fun,” Togia'i said.
After Catano's touchdown, neither team had a drive longer than seven plays and 25 yards. The longest play was the weaving 27-yard scramble by Nate Escalada, a Bellarmine quarterback,
that got the ball to the 5-yard line and set up Canales' kick. Neither team got inside the opposing 30yard line in the second half.
Charlie's legacy at Los Gatos
During pregame introductions, Charlie's wife Lucy Wedemeyer greeted each of the game's 87 players at midfield. She, along with former Los Gatos star and NFL linebacker Kiko Alonso and 49ers legend Ronnie Lott, spoke to the players at a banquet earlier in the week about her late husband and what the sport meant to Charlie.
“Charlie didn't give up, and that's such a beautiful lesson for these kids,” Lucy Wedemeyer said.
Decades after he coached his last varsity game, Wedemeyer's
legacy still looms large.
“From our freshman year, we learn about Charlie and his story,” Los Gatos offensive lineman Will Cohen said. “To be invited out to play, it's just truly an honor.”
How to play in the rain
Although a few fans in the stands grinned and celebrated the idea of playing a game “in real football weather,” the unique conditions made even the most routine actions seem risky and turned the game into a slow battle for field position.
While his teammates (and opponents) struggled to hold onto the ball, Catano's touchdown was in many ways the byproduct of some quick thinking.
“I had to keep my gloves dry,” Catano said while gesturing with both gloved-up hands stretched out. “I got my towel out here too, but now it's soaking wet.”
A slew of talented runners, including but not limited to Lincoln-san Jose's Sal Espinosa, Westmont's Jacob Lang, Live Oak's Jordan Fuentes and Mt. Pleasant's Skyden Shugen had to fight for every yard they gained.
As offenses slogged through the waterlogged conditions, the defensive players thrived.
“It was just fun, like being a kid again and playing at recess,” Togia'i said.