When recent Westhampton grad Juan Cardenas died coming home from his girlfriend's house in a motorcycle crash last Tuesday night, his soccer teammates and coach were slow to get the news. Many didn't learn about his death until after Saturday's funeral, and fewer still were able to pay their respects.
"I told the family people weren't here because they didn't know," coach Don O'Brien said. "I told his stepdad, 'you don't know how many people loved your son' . . . He is among the finest and nicest people I've ever had in 21 years at Westhampton."
Though much of the community wasn't able to be there then, O'Brien said he and his boys were determined to give their teammate a proper tribute. On Wednesday, the graduated seniors, along with family, classmates and teammates, will take on Hampton Bays in a scrimmage meant to honor Cardenas' memory. The game, which will be at 6 p.m. at Westhampton High School, will include a moment of silence, and will be attended by all of Cardenas' immediate family, including his father, who lives in Colombia.
The family will be presented with the 19-year-old's No. 10 jersey, signed by classmates, as well as the game ball. Though the team's graduated seniors will start, all are welcome to participate in the game, O'Brien said. They simply have to wear a white shirt with "10" on the back. The family will also receive a poster signed by Cardenas' classmates.
Cardenas wasn't able to play much of his senior year because of a torn ACL and MCL, but the center midfielder was planning to play this year at Suffolk CC before eventually transferring to another program, O'Brien said.
"The team is devastated, devastated," O'Brien said. "When I talked to his stepdad on Saturday, he said, 'we thought no one cared.' I told him he was wrong. He knew his son was awesome, but he needed to hear that from us."