In 2012, Scott Sebel was a junior at Valencia High School and a third-string offensive lineman. He had also recently received some of the worst news of his life – his younger brother was diagnosed with cancer.
One practice, Jake Solley, who was a team captain and a stud at multiple positions, approached a worn-down Sebel. Solley tossed Sebel a water bottle, put his arm around him and told him he loved him.
“Don’t forget, this is your family, too, and we will always be here for you,” Solley said.
Now, that family is supporting each other once again, but without their team captain. Solley died two weeks ago while on active duty as a sergeant with the U.S. Marine Corps according to an Armed Forces spokesperson. He was 23.
Cole Murphy, a kicker who transferred to Valencia from West Ranch for his senior season, remembers Solley as one of the first players to befriend him when he joined the team.
“Jake was the first person who came up to me and he said ‘Hi, my name is Jake,’ and he’s kind of walking around introducing me to a bunch of guys … You could tell when you met him he takes a big initiative. You could tell he was invested in the entire program.”
Solley was powerful on the field, finishing his senior campaign with 28 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery. At running back, he rushed for 25 yards on three carries with one touchdown.
One of Solley’s biggest on-field highlights was against Hart in 2012. Quarterback Sean Murphy pitched to Solley, who ran 23 yards – just short of a touchdown.
“I just remember how excited he was,” Sean Murphy said. “Just planning it throughout the week and doing it in practice. It finally came to his time and he was so ready to go but he was just one yard short.”
On Friday against Hart, Valencia ran the identical play, except this time the quarterback was Davis Cop and he was pitching to linebacker Ben Seymour.
Seymour went 25 yards and scored the touchdown that Solley wasn’t able to.
Solley liked to goof around – sometimes practicing with shorts rolled so short they looked like a diaper – but he also took football very seriously, giving inspirational pregame speeches and pumping up the sidelines when things were looking grim in a game.
“He wanted us to understand how much everybody here and the coaches were sacrificing just for the greater success for each of us,” said Nick Jones, a former teammate of Solley’s who played receiver. “I think that opened me up and made me a little more mature.”’
Valencia High School will be hosting a vigil in Solley’s honor on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the school’s theater. The public is invited to attend and support each other, just as Solley had once supported them.
“The most important thing is he had heart,” Sebel said. “I’ve never seen someone have heart like him.”