FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KTXL) — It’s another successful game in the books for the Vanden High School Vikings — but this one was more special than most.
The team is now the section champion for the fourth time in the school’s history. It’s been 26 years since they’ve gotten to this point, beating Merced High School 49-21 for the Division 4 title Saturday afternoon.
The team was inspired to win by Daniel Hughes, their teammate who died suddenly just before the season started. The star student-athlete was shot on Easter Sunday while in a car with two other teens.
Jamai East knew what this game meant for him, his teammates and someone else who was there in spirit.
“Daniel Hughes was one of my brothers,” East said. “We spent every day together, our families are tied to each other. When that happened was tragic. Having the game, I had and doing what we did was amazing.”
As if the death of a teammate wasn’t difficult enough, the team also dedicated the season and title to two beloved coaches who passed away: Michael Belk and Dan Garner.
“For our student athletes to overcome so much adversity the last year and a half, the team really came together as a family this year,” said Head Coach Sean Murphy.
Together, as a family, Vanden High School is victorious in more ways than one.
The team is headed next for the northern California playoffs. They’ll find out who their opponent will be on Sunday.