Jehuu Caulcrick was an assistant coach on the Westfield/Brocton football team in 2012 and remembers fondly the time he spent with Damon Janes.
''He was a great kid who loved football,'' Caulcrick said Tuesday night via cellphone from California where he now makes his home. ''He was always excited no matter what you asked him to do. I really took a liking to him. It's a sad, unfortunate thing that he passed away doing something he absolutely loved.''
Janes, 16, died Monday from injuries he suffered during the third quarter of last Friday night's game at Portville.
The Portville Panther wore a green T-shirt on Tuesday in front of Portville Central School. Several Portville students wore green — the Brocton school color — in memory of Brocton High School junior Damon W. Janes, who passed away Monday after suffering a severe head injury during a football game between the combined Brocton/Westfield team and Portville.
Photos courtesy of Portville Central School
Caulcrick, the former Clymer Central School All-American and Michigan State University running back, said that Damon started last year on the junior varsity, but was called up to the varsity at
the end of the season, including the playoffs.
''He was a very elusive runner,'' Caulcrick said, ''and no matter what you asked him to do, he did it.''
Caulcrick acknowledged that it's difficult to come up with the right words in the aftermath of such a horrific event, but he's comforted in knowing that Damon's family and friends will be surrounded with support.
''It's a very strong, compassionate community,'' Caulcrick said. ''Everybody cares for each other. That's what it's going to take to get over this.''
Dick Gallagher, editor & publisher of Western New York High School Sports and a lifelong follower of WNY football, called Damon's death a ''tragedy.''
''We have to keep the family and the communities in our prayers to help them in their journey of grief and loss,'' he said. ''That's not only for Westfield and Brocton, but also for the Western New York football community, including Portville.
''So many people are banding together, doing things for the family and the community, and praying for them. It's the least we can do. In all the years I've been involved in sports, I've never encountered the death of a high school player while playing football. I pray to God that I don't encounter that again.''
Jamestown High School coach Tom Langworthy said his team has ordered 100 helmet decals, which will be affixed to the back of the Red Raiders' helmets in Damon's memory. The decals, Langworthy said, were the idea of Mike Masters of Cross Training Football, whose vision is ''to develop the hearts of coaches and athletes to be men of character for others.''
''Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,'' Langworthy said. ''Not only Damon's family, but the football family of Westfield and Brocton. We feel horrible about (Damon's passing). ... I would hope the family knows we're thinking about them and that they're in our thoughts and prayers, and that will be the case for the rest of the season.''
Langworthy spoke to his team yesterday before practice and he said he and his staff were going to be available after practice to talk to the players if needed.
''They need to know life is fragile,'' Langworthy said. '' ... You just have to make sure you're thankful for everything you've got, work as hard as you can every day and try and be as good to each other every day, because there are no guarantees in life.''
Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni struggled to come up with words when contacted last night.
''These are the things that aren't supposed to happen and they're not supposed to happen here,'' he said.
Ironically, almost exactly a year ago, Westfield/Brocton posted one of the biggest victories in the history of either northern Chautauqua County school when it defeated Southwestern at Charles A. Lawson Field.
''Our thoughts and prayers are with them,'' Sirianni said. ''Even though these kids compete against each other, they have a bond as football players. I think all the teams in the county are feeling that with the Westfield-Brocton kids right now.''