Click photo to enlarge
Piedmont Hills' Joseph Romero celebrates his touchdown against Bellarmine with Isaiah Arnold-Stewart in the fourth quarter at Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose, Calif. on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. (Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE -- Forty years ago, the Rotarians of Almaden Valley wanted to put on an all-star high school football game but weren't quite sure how to do it.

So they called on a group that did.

"You came to the right place," Jim Guido, then director of the Police Activities League, told them. "That's all we do here is sports for young people."

Forty years later, the PAL is no longer affiliated with the game now named in honor of Charlie Wedemeyer, a former Los Gatos High coach who died four years ago after a lengthy battle with ALS.

But Guido -- and the Rotarians -- still are.

"I don't know where the years went," Guido said Tuesday, on the eve of the 40th Silicon Valley Youth Classic, a.k.a. the Wedemeyer game, which will be played Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at San Jose City College.

The memories, naturally, are everlasting for Guido and two of his colleagues who have worked behind the scenes for the game's entire run, vice chairman Paul Consentino and administrative assistant Jane Tolentino.

"The main thing I've appreciated is the volunteers," Guido said. "We've had volunteer game officials, volunteer police, volunteer doctors, volunteer trainers. Where else can you go and have a game like that with all volunteers who believe in the same cause of helping the young people?"

Proceeds from the game have helped various charities, including Superstorm Sandy relief efforts in 2012.

"Wherever the need is," Guido said.


Advertisement

The undertaking is not lost on the participants, nor is the uplifting presence of Wedemeyer's widow, Lucy, who provides words of wisdom to the players and regularly greets them during pregame introductions.

"It's been mind-blowing, to be honest, to see what happens behind the scenes with the rotary club and everything that Lucy does, Mrs. Wedemeyer," said Los Altos' Trevor Pruitt, who will coach the North on Wednesday. "Just what this game means, that's huge."

Christopher's Tim Pierleoni, who will coach the South, noted the impact the game has had on him.

"I grew up in Gilroy, went to Gilroy High School, so I have seen the game since I was in high school," he said. "I've seen how much it means, the type of players that have played in the game and how much it means to the kids.

"Some of these kids have been waiting their whole lives for a chance to play in this game. The day that we handed out the jerseys, you could really see that in their faces, the things that they were saying and the pictures that they were taking and how excited they were."

One only needs to look at this year's game program cover to see the caliber of players who have participated through the years. The cover features the likes of Pat Tillman (Leland), Jeff Garcia (Gilroy) and Trent Edwards (Los Gatos).

Millard Hampton, another player highlighted on the cover, is best known for his accomplishments on the track as an Olympian. But the former Silver Creek star made a difference in the first of the 40 all-star games, back in 1974, returning a kickoff for a touchdown in a South victory.

Pruitt and Pierleoni spoke highly of their rosters, which include All-Mercury News players such as linebacker Sione Finefeuiaki (Wilcox) and safety Drew Mount (Archbishop Mitty) of the North and receiver Joseph Romero (Piedmont Hills) and defensive back/kicker Grant Bush (Bellarmine College Prep) of the South.

"Their focus is playing well on Wednesday night," Pierleoni said.