Outgoing, personable, charismatic.
These were some words that the Holy Cross High School Boy’s Soccer team used to describe Jamie Kotula, a student who passed away last January in an automobile accident on his way to school.
The tragedy shook-up the entire school community. Jamie, according to captains Gary Cristiano, Bryan Cogliser, Aaron Matis, and Anthony Mordente, was the heart, life, and soul of the school.
“Jamie was friends with everyone,” said Aaron Matis. “In high school, there are cliques and groups. With Jamie, there weren’t any. He was the one to bring everyone together.”
Kotula was heavily involved in the Holy Cross community, serving in various clubs, while participating in three-sports, track, swimming, and soccer. The boys said that every event at Holy Cross was fun once they saw Jamie’s red hair from a distance. His untimely death may have torn a hole through the hearts of the students of Holy Cross, but now, the school is closer than ever.
On the morning of this tragedy nearly one year ago, Matis and Cristiano were brought together, sharing a moment that turned the close acquaintances into brothers.
“I was in the hallway when I found out about Jamie,” Matis said. “I had to tell someone about what happened and Gary was in the hallway. Ever since, we have been so close.”
While Kotula was alive, he was a three-sport athlete for the Crusaders. However, his heart was on the pitch with his teammates.
“Jamie always talked about soccer,” said Bryan Cogliser. “Even though he played other sports, his fa-vorite was definitely soccer.”
“Once school was over, Jamie was in soccer mode, constantly talking about it,” Matis said. “He was probably one of the hardest workers on the team. Even though he isn’t here in person, we have him here in spirit to help us out.”
The captains stated that Jamie would have started this season. When the team began training in the summer, they had one goal: win it all for Jamie.
“He knew that this upcoming season was going to be something special,” said Anthony Mordente. “It was almost fitting to dedicate the season to him.”
The Crusaders kept their promise, sporting a 12-0 undefeated record going into the playoffs. It was championship or bust, all in the memory of their fallen friend and teammate. Before each game, the team would break their pregame, half-time, and post-game huddle with the cry: “Jamie!”
The Crusaders flew through the District playoffs, defeating opponents. On November 3rd, they faced their biggest opponent, the Eagles of Mountain View. Unfortunately, the Eagles soared over the Crusaders 6-3.
However, the Crusaders did not fail. Instead of winning the gold, they took home the silver, along with a second straight berth to the state playoffs, still fulfilling their goals of winning for Jamie.
Although Jamie is gone, he is not forgotten. The captains took The Wood Word on a walk to a memorial site on the side of the school, built in Jamie’s memory. The memorial has freshly planted flowers with two stones carved into a “JK,” Jamie’s initials.
To these young men, this place of tranquility and relaxation reminds them that Jamie is still here with them, driving them to victory this season. Although they came one game shy of fulfilling their season goal, the team played every game with Jamie’s heart and soul, proving that he is still there in spirit.