They played for Jake


by Omar Ureña

The heart beats once again in the players of La Porte, Indiana, a city just 20 minutes from Notre Dame. It was time to go to war, the heroes of La Porte were dressed in black, the color of punishment, today was the night the team dedicates the game in honor to Jake West, he collapsed on the practice field on September 25th, 2013 due to an undetected heart condition, the story moved the community of Indiana, including teams from other schools dedicated their games to Jake.

Jake West (26)
Jake West (26)

Tonight was no exception and the Pirates of Merrillville were carrying on their helmets an orange sticker with the number 26, also delivered a check to the “Play for Jake Foundation”,

Slicers and Pirates, together they honor Jake West...
Slicers and Pirates, together they honor Jake West…

the story of a boy who was an example to follow, his best friend, number 37, Noah Boardman, was ready to enter the gridiron, his hand touched the 26-yard line painted in orange on the new astro-grass turf field at La Porte High School.


Jake’s departure was a visceral impact that saddens, into the bowels, but that energy moves as a whirlwind of hope through the spirit of Jake that lives now and will live forever thanks to his mother Julie, an heroic warrior who now fights a grief of agony and emotions because today is Senior night, Jake’s photo and his smile shine bright as the electric lights, standing tall in the stadium, contrasting with the sky, Jake has his place in the La Porte 2015 senior class. These seniors miss him and came to give their hearts for the unforgettable warrior: WEST # 26.


The battle begins and the Pirates strike first on a first down the RB breaks the line and goes to the right side to score the first TD. The Slicers have the ball and Charles Salary (20) is stopped in 4th and goal at the Pirates 2 yard line. These Pirates did not come on a friendly plan and in a 3rd and 9 their RB runs a dive down the middle, Noah Boardman can not reach him and suddenly Noah and the Slicers are losing 14-0 in the beginning of the 1st quarter. The courage of the Slicers emerge and on 1st and 10 in Merriville’s 30 yard line Ben Dermody (14) throws a short pass to the left to Charles Salary (20) to score LaPorte first touchdown. Juan Villa with the extra point. LaPorte 7 Merriville 14, 1st quarter (2:48).

The symbolic jersey with the number 26 is worn by students of La Porte, whom remember us that the spirit of Jake is here tonight, present, exuding pride in his eyes showed in his poster, in his mother’s heart when at the Senior ceremony before the game, these boys paid tribute to Jake’s mom by standing behind her and her husband, giving support, trying to take away part of that heavy pain of a mother who lost her beloved son, a proud warrior on the football and lacrosse fields.

An act of generosity: Merrillville Pirates giving support to Julie Schroeder and the 'Play for Jake Foundation'
An act of generosity: Merrillville Pirates giving support to Julie Schroeder and the ‘Play for Jake Foundation’

His football friends honor him today and therefore need to shake the fear and play with passion and spirit of a defensive rage. Defensive players Noah Boardman, Jose Salinas (98), Joel Hines (97), Jake Payne (95) break Pirates plays before the end of the 1st Quarter. Sam Doig (7) makes an heroic tackle injecting adrenaline to the Slicers.

The intensity on the field increases. The Slicers offense devore yards and on 4th and goal they score in a 4 yard run. Villa makes the extra. Laporte 14 Merriville 14.

The Slicers play with the same momentum as the ‘Play for Jake’ foundation created by Julie honoring her son. The foundation was created in 2014. Jake West was 17 years old when he died of right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

They played for Jake

Jake will make the Slicers hearts to beat forever because he is in the spirit of these players, the mission of the foundation is to prevent sudden cardiac arrest among young people, the mission of these players tonight is to pay tribute to Jake. It won’t be easy and hard work needs to be done.

The foundation implemented cardiac checkups to detect heart disease. Jake’s mother, Julie Schroeder is the voice of the ‘Play for Jake Foundation’, her sorrow became a passionate inspiration to help others.

She wrote a letter to the boys prior to senior night because she wanted them to know that “no matter what we go through in life, we are here for a reason and we need to reach out to others, be kind and live our lives with passion and purpose”.

Tonight was a ceremony of emotions, of pride, of grief and anger, the same anger and rage that makes Boardman to furiously sack the Pirates QB 6 at the end of the 2nd quarter.

Heart and Soul: The 'Play For Jake Foundation'
Heart and Soul: The ‘Play For Jake Foundation’

The Slicers are determined to succeed in adverse times, they are facing their enemies with fortitude as Jake intimidated opponents, tonight the people of La Porte community are devoted to a spiritual night in the name of Jake West. Nate Warnock (74) blocks furious as the train passing by the stadium with its strident presence. The battle grows into a night of hard knocks. Hits of warriors, the speed of the orange and black defense, traveling as fast as the spirit of Jake. The Pirates stop Slicers offense. It is Halftime.

Ben Dermody motivated by the halftime speech goes on a run on the right side by the off tackle and scores a TD, tonight he and his teammates are inspired by Jake and his family. Coach told them “It’s all for them”. La Porte 21 Merriville 17, 4th quarter (8:00).

The student section yells “We believe We will win!” and “Play for Jake! Play for Jake!”. They screamed for victory. Noah Boardman and the Slicers defense stop the Pirates.

"Play For Jake!"
“Play For Jake!”

The LaPorte offense hits and pushes, they are sweeping Pirates. The Slicers at the Pirates 22 yard line. In 2nd and 10 on double tight end formation, Dermody throws a pass to TE Scott Cooper (88) who catches the ball brilliantly scoring a TD for the Slicers. LaPorte 28 Merriville 17.

The LaPorte players have the initials JW inscribed in their hearts and helmets, colliding in an ethereal infinity to honor under the lights at Kiwanis Field Jake’s life, his spirit spoke and the Pirates are being smashed by the Slicers offense, there’s no way to stop Gino Francesconi (6), a brave running back who scores touchdown. The La Porte defense stays focused and on a quick and decisive reaction they block a pass to Merriville WR. The Slicers are winning 35-23.

The heart and spirit of the LaPorte Slicers in Senior Day

The Foundation and its campaign are alive “Big or small, every act of kindness changes those who receive it. Pass it on and begin to give!” With that same mystical heart, these young warriors, struggling at times, represent the voice of the Play for Jake foundation, the goal is to prevent cardiac arrests in middle school and high school kids. La Porte’s defense recovers the ball.

LaPorte Slicers fighting for Jake West
LaPorte Slicers fighting for Jake West

On 3rd and 8 Dermody throws a pass to the left side and finding Gino Francesconi (6) who scores his 2nd touchdown of the night. Villa scores the extra point and the black and orange team beats the Pirates. La Porte 42 Merriville 23 is the final score. Explosions in the sky.

Ben Dermody described it as a great game: “It was all for Jake, this game means a lot to his mom, his parents and the rest of the team. It’s all for them and they deserve it”. The kids are happy because they paid tribute to their beloved teammate No. 26.

Jake West is a spirit-minded warrior , a love inspiring creator, as a son, as an artist and as an athlete, who embraced his path to transcend. For Senior Charles Salary this was a special night: “We played for Jake, this is a great team and it means a lot…playing for my brother”.

Pain is part of football. It is a game of emotions, exploding. Suffering a constellation calvary within missing, the loved ones must be tackled, and thus will heal to improve and to save other kids like the One whom tonight brought the majesty of the stars.

Shining tonight, they were wearing armour of courage in orange and black uniforms and Jake West had one more great chance to make his spirit shine bringing light to other souls! The hearts of the Slicers keep beating on the field to keep Jake’s memory alive.

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