By Bryanna Winner
For The Signal
The Saugus High School campus Wednesday was bustling as the Freshman/JV boys basketball team finished its game. The “S” on the hill behind the gym was lit up yellow with a red heart in the middle.
Following the events that took place on Nov. 14, the alumni game was still played and was the third major athletic event to happen on campus since that tragic day. There were many friends and family in the Saugus gym for the Alumni Game Wednesday night.
Current Centurion basketball players wearing white uniforms played against former players, who wore light blue “Saugus Strong” shirts.
In a game that was all fun with a little bit of seriousness during play, the current varsity players defeated the alumni 73-49. The audience could be heard cheering for the students but booing the alumni throughout the game.
Between the third and fourth quarters, a raffle took place auctioning off gift cards and tickets to Saturday’s Cal and UCLA game at the Rose Bowl.
In the fourth quarter, the players were laughing and joking around as music was playing and some could be seen dancing to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” The crowd went nuts when some of the current players tried for an alley-oop dunk.
Gilbert Tobon has three sons who are current or former athletes at Saugus. One of them, Micah Tobon, goes to college at Ohio University and graduated from Saugus in 2017.
“He bought a plane ticket on his own and surprised us at the door of our house,” said Gilbert. “We didn’t know he was coming until we saw him standing there.”
Micah didn’t realize there was an alumni game at Saugus until he found out that his brothers Jacob and Caleb were playing. Caleb is a current member of the team who will be graduating in 2020 while Jacob graduated in 2014 and is currently an assistant coach for the Centurions boys basketball team.
“It’s crazy, I’ve been out of state so I haven’t been able to play for a long time so I flew back. I didn’t even know there was an alumni game but then all my brothers are playing so I had to play,” said Micah.
Just like Micah, there were other alumni who recently graduated and came back for the game. Dylan Spring is currently a student at Grand Canyon University in Arizona and graduated from Saugus in 2018.
“I think when you come back here after you haven’t been here for a while, it feels pretty good, especially going off to college. It’s really nice to come back and play with these guys, see how good they got,” said Spring.
“It feels good to reunite with the guys we knew back in high school and it’s just good to get together,” said 2018 graduate Nick Wertz.
Spring and Wertz were both in class when they heard about what had occurred at their alma mater just a few weeks prior.
“When I heard about it, I was at College of the Canyons in the middle of class,” said Wertz.
“I was in Arizona, I was in school and I heard about it,” said Spring. “I couldn’t believe it but we will get back stronger. It’s what we do, it’s what Saugus is all about, is being strong, it’s why we wear ‘Saugus Strong.’”
About 2,000 miles away in Ohio, Micah couldn’t bring himself to go to class after hearing about the shooting.
“I woke up to a bunch of calls and it was awful,” said Tobon. “I took off class the entire day and I was trying to support from 2,000 miles away.”
Even though West Ranch and Saugus are rivals, the Wildcats showed their support in a big way on Nov. 15 during the West Ranch playoff game at Valencia High School. The student body changed their theme from tie-dye to blue in support of the Saugus students and families. Everyone was wearing blue, the student section was called “The District” and there were blue ribbons on the players’ helmets.
“When you see a community come together, West Ranch especially, everybody doesn’t like each other in league but seeing that kind of support from a rival team is really nice to get around and support everyone,” said Spring.
The alumni game was one of the many ways that former Saugus students and their families could show their support for their alma mater, the current families and the community just by coming together to have fun for a night.
“I think it just shows how strong our community is,” said Tobon. “People show up and all the alumni are supporting and I think it’s just good for everyone here.”
Outside of the alumni game, all three have done what they could to support their school in the wake of the shooting, whether it be in a different state or in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Wertz has put Saugus stickers on his car and wears “Saugus Strong” as often as he can. Tobon has found solace in listening to people who need help or need to talk.
Spring said that social media has been a major role in helping people recover and support others.
“Social media is a big thing. Everyone is posting “Saugus Strong,” pray for Saugus, all that stuff,” said Spring. “With a lot of social media aspects in today’s world, I think we have a lot more bonding and everyone can see what happens and kind be with everybody at once is kind of a special place. It’s really nice to see the community come together outside of sports, you don’t see that often.”
Whether it’s outside of sports or within sports, like the alumni basketball game, the Saugus community is finding support in each other.