Homecoming is supposed to be a happy, exciting time. At , Friday night’s big home game against Union Mine High School will even be televised on Comcast.
But the atmosphere at Cosumnes Oaks is anything but festive this week as students cope with the death of a popular football player and a traffic accident Wednesday that left another classmate critically injured.
Friday’s game will serve in part as a memorial for Jurelle Davis, 15, a sophomore defensive back on the junior varsity team. Davis suffered an asthma attack and then a heart attack while at home on Monday, school district officials said, and passed away at U.C. Davis Medical Center early Thursday morning. His coach said that while Davis had long struggled with asthma and other health problems, including Crohn’s disease, his death still came as a shock.
“He was an undersized kid who played with a lot of heart,” said head football coach Ryan Gomes. “They cleared him medically to play and he was ecstatic because he loved the game.”
Gomes said he had been bombarded with email messages from teachers, parents and students about how the quiet, studious young man had touched their lives. Members of the team have signed two footballs that will be presented to Davis’s family at Friday’s game, along with his jersey. Weeks of meals have been organized for the family, Gomes said, and a Facebook memorial page already had close to 1,200 fans Thursday afternoon.
The death has affected not only Davis’s teammates and friends, but a wide swathe of the student body at the tight-knit high school, one of the smaller ones in the .
On Thursday, many students wore white ribbons to school in honor of Davis and a 14-year-old classmate who was struck by an SUV while biking near the school Wednesday.
Authorities did not release the name of the other student, but notices on Facebook and at the school identified him as freshman Thomas Mutz. He was listed in critical condition Thursday, and Elk Grove police said they were still trying to determine what caused the SUV to knock him off his bike, then run him over near the intersection of Laguna Springs Drive and Civic Center Drive.
Police said the cyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and the driver, a woman, was cooperating with the investigation and didn’t show any signs of impairment from drugs or alcohol.
Sophomore Timmy Winslow, 15, didn’t know either student well but was sporting a white ribbon Thursday.
“We’re trying to be like a family as a school and we’re all going to wear them to the game tomorrow,” he said.
“A lot of the football players are really taking it hard, ‘cause they’re like brothers,” he added.
In the school library, students scribbled messages on giant displays decorated with photos of both students. Counselors stood by with Kleenex and comforting words.
“We’re trying to provide an outlet for some of the emotions,” said head counselor Dorie Baker. “We talk to them about how to take what they’re feeling and give back to these families that are hurting.
“They do want to give back, and they’re ready to act. That speaks to the type of students we have here.”