Mark Kaanapu knows all about the history of the Charlie Wedemeyer Santa Clara County all-star football game and not just because he coached one of the teams in the 2018 rendition.
As the Westmont High coach noted this week, his dad, Sam, played high school football against Wedemeyer while growing up in Hawaii.
“I knew Charlie when I was a 14-year-old kid,” Kaanapu said. “That’s why there is a little bit more of a connection on that end.”
Wedemeyer played at Michigan State in the late 1960s and went on to become the head coach at Los Gatos High. He was diagnosed with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1978 and fought the debilitating condition for 32 years before dying in 2010.
His story was told in a 1988 made-for-TV movie and a PBS documentary.
The all-star game named in his honor is in its 48th year. It moved from summer to winter in 2020 and has been played annually except for a one-year hiatus in 2021 because of the pandemic.
This year’s game will be held Saturday at Los Gatos High. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
The participants are senior all-stars from Santa Clara County schools.
Kaanapu is coaching the North.
Gilroy’s Tim Pierleoni is the head coach of the South.
Branham’s William Augenstein prepares to pass in a game against Leigh on Sept. 16, 2022. (Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)
The rosters include many players from the 2022 all-Bay Area News Group team, including quarterbacks Will Augenstein of Branham, Wills Towers of Archbishop Mitty, Armand Johnson of Wilcox and Tayden Phillips of Lincoln.
Augenstein, Johnson and Towers will suit up for the North, Phillips for the South.
The teams have been practicing for the past couple of weeks in preparation for a game that typically draws a large crowd.
Proceeds go toward the ALS Foundation and Coaches Against Cancer.
Both coaches said they have enjoyed working with their teams.
“Really good kids who love playing football,” Pierleoni said. “It’s been a lot of fun for us.”
“It’s nice to see just the top talent coming together,” he said. “You can talk football and they’ll translate it and there’s less coaching and you get to go play. That’s been kind of nice instead of trying to teach freshmen how to put on (equipment). It’s refreshing.”
Last year, the North won 15-14 when a 42-yard field-goal attempt for the South fell short in the closing seconds.
The South holds the series edge 24-19-4.
Lucy Wedemeyer greets Bryce Johnson of Pioneer before the Charlie Wedemeyer Santa Clara County all-star football game at Los Gatos High School on Feb. 5, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
Lucy Wedemeyer, Charlie’s widow, remains a presence before and on game day. She and her family greet the players during pregame introductions.
“She’ll be out there with her clan, holding court,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “Lucy is still really involved. She helps run the game program. She helps with the banquet. She is all in on this thing, which is great. It helps us out.”
Rosters and ticket information can be found on the all-star game’s website here.