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Cascade Christian boys earn state honor for efforts

Javier De La Mora is a man of action.

In only his first year leading the Cascade Christian boys soccer program, it didn’t take long for him to realize that his players were men of action as well.

That’s why he was so quick to send out a text message blast to his Challengers in the immediate aftermath of the Almeda fire in September suggesting a call to serve in Phoenix, and why he wasn’t surprised at all by the collective response of the teenagers.

“Any possibility for me to get my guys together was a big bonus for me,” said De La Mora, “so when these fires came, I thought quickly and said that we need to be a part of helping. I’ve got a group of strong young men and I knew that I wanted to get together real quick and suggest being part of something bigger. These guys, they all jumped at the chance to serve.”

“It’s just been an extremely wonderful time to come together and to do great things,” he added, “and bring a light to these dark times we’re in.”

While it was never a reason to volunteer their services, the Cascade Christian boys soccer program was recognized recently as the Oregon School Activities Association’s October Team of the Month at the Class 3A level.

The honor is sponsored by Les Schwab Tires, with teams chosen at all classifications based on their performance, dedication in the classroom and service to the community. Each winning program receives a commemorative trophy and a $100 donation to their program.

Other October honors went to Bend softball (6A), Pendleton cheerleading (5A), Woodburn girls soccer (4A) and Santiam High (2A) and Powder Valley volleyball (1A).

“I didn’t realize we were going to get any exposure to an award or anything,” said De La Mora, “it was just about getting together and doing the right thing, I felt. It’s been pretty amazing to help bring life back into a devastated community.”

Cascade Christian senior captain Jonny McCoy was among the Challengers who stepped up and worked diligently to help a Phoenix family, who wished to go unnamed, move into a temporary dwelling after its five-person home was lost in the fires that engulfed that community.

“I’ve never really been part of something like this before because obviously the Rogue Valley hasn’t really experienced a disaster like this for a long time,” said the 18-year-old McCoy, “but really having an opportunity to get in there and to really serve someone that was in a position that you weren’t in was incredible.”

“Especially with Javier being the guy that he is and the great server that he is,” added the first-team all-state standout, “he really jumped on this opportunity to get our team to go out and help these guys. Not just me but for all of us, it was really breathtaking to feel what it’s like to serve others.”

Over a four-day span in the initial days after the area was cleared for people to safely return, De La Mora and his Challengers helped their displaced family in every way possible. The temporary home had been disbanded for two years, according to De La Mora, and required considerable labor in order to make it liveable for the time being.

“I didn’t think twice to sit and lay back while people are without a home,” said the coach, who had used his community ties to connect with a family in need. “Wonderful strong men can do a lot, and many hands make light work. The family had tears in their eyes, they were so grateful. I checked every day with them and I still keep in contact. They’re just so grateful that we went over and helped them. They said they couldn’t live in the housing development without us, and it’s just so fulfilling to hear that we made a difference in their lives.”

Working in shifts for whatever best fit each player’s schedule, the group hauled furniture, cleared out yard debris, made countless trash dumps and tirelessly worked to clean and sanitize the family’s temporary house so it could move in safely.

“It just became something where these guys were getting a workout and, again, I was very, very proud of them,” said De La Mora. “I know they made CCHS very proud and the community very proud. They did it with such jovial attitudes, it even brought a light sense of humor if you will and made the environment for the family less stressful. It was really a special time. It had a special meaning and I think it’s something that extends beyond the field for all of them.”

McCoy certainly agreed.

“I think the best part was getting together as a group,” he said. “Our Cascade community, we’re all about helping other communities and I think just given the nature and disaster of the fire, it was a great opportunity for us as a community to go and help out somebody who was part of a disaster and really lost a lot of what they had.”

“A lot of what I saw,” added McCoy, “was our team getting together and really doing the work of Christ in helping out these guys.”

McCoy said De La Mora definitely deserved a lot of praise for initiating this opportunity to serve others, and spoke highly of the impression the first-year coach has already made on him and his teammates as they’ve immersed themselves into local fall league games and training for their official season in the spring.

“Javier’s a really enthusiastic guy and he’s always looking for opportunities to serve the community,” said McCoy. “Him having the connection with the family we were helping out, it took no time in rallying our guys together to help them out.”

“Javier’s a really special guy,” he added. “He’s all about taking the team and making it a family. Whether it be going on a hike or helping out people most affected by the fires, he’s always finding ways to get our guys together and really create a special bond that I don’t think our team has had in the four years that I’ve been there.”

De La Mora previously served as girls soccer coach in Eagle Point (2008-11) and Phoenix (2012-13) before helping start the soccer programs at Rogue Community College. He lived in Phoenix for about eight years until moving to Central Point three years ago, and he’s still stunned that the townhouse where he previously lived was one of the many structures ravaged by the fires.

One of the two daughters from the family the Challengers assisted played for De La Mora in his time at Phoenix High, with their brother part of the boys program at the time. He didn’t initially think of contacting that family at the time of the fires, it’s just all his inquiries to help in the immediate aftermath led him to such familiar faces to make it that much more special for all involved.

As to why he acted so decisively in stepping forward with his soccer team, De La Mora simply points to the standard he and his Challengers are hoping to establish.

“For me, I like to say that life can be like soccer: You need goals,” said the coach. “And one of my goals as a coach is definitely unifying these guys but also showing them what true service looks like, exposing them to the good that a team can do when they come together and how much more they can do when they come together.”

“This gave a really good opportunity for me to show that and these guys definitely did it,” added De La Mora. “They really impressed me with how they came together. My guys take on every challenge head on with enthusiasm. There’s no quit in these guys, I absolutely love it.“

Getting some statewide recognition on top of all their efforts, well that’s just been the cherry on top for the Challengers.

“It’s really special that our boys are getting recognized for not just the work on the field but the work off the field,” said McCoy. “Obviously as a Christian school and as believers, we’re not always looking for attention or recognition, but now that the state and the media has picked up on this, it’s really encouraging for our guys to know that they’re work isn’t going unnoticed.”

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Javier De La Mora
Cascade Christian boys soccer players, spearheaded by head coach Javier De La Mora, pitch in to help in the aftermath of the Almeda fire in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Javier De La Mora