Southridge, Beaverton high schools join forces for Memorial Game

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Southridge High School retired the No. 13 jersey worn by both Pfc. Andrew Keller and his younger brother, Derek, last year after the 2008 graduate was killed in action while serving with the U.S. Army.Southridge and Beaverton high schools are joining forces Friday night for a patriotic salute to military veterans, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, and their families.

Prior to squaring off for the first football game of Metro League play, the cross-town rivals will stand united to pay tribute to two fallen soldiers of their own who emerged as leaders on their respective teams.

Southridge players will honor their legendary No. 13, U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Keller, a 2008 graduate who served as captain of the Skyhawks team in the fall of 2007 and was selected as the Most Valuable Player during his senior year. The 22-year-old Tigard soldier was killed in action on Aug. 15, 2012, while leading his Army unit in Afghanistan.

Beaverton players will stand up for Sgt. Damien T. Ficek, a 1996 Beaverton graduate who was killed in combat at the age of 26 on Dec. 30, 2004, while serving near Baghdad in Iraq. He also spent a great deal of his time on the football field of his alma mater, battling for the Beavers. Ficek was selected as co-captain for both the football and wrestling teams during his time at SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sgt. Damien T. Ficek, a 1996 Beaverton High School graduate, served as co-captain for both the football and wrestling teams during his time at BHS.

Friday’s game in the Skyhawks’ stadium is designated as the Annual Memorial Game — called “A Night to Remember” — and pre-game plans include a tribute to military veterans and their families.

Local Boy Scout troops will place 250 American flags around the stadium’s perimeter, and both schools are working together to make this a memorable event to honor local veterans.

Dignitaries taking part in the opening ceremonies include state Sen. Mark Hass and Beaverton School District Superintendent Jeff Rose.

“The contributions that these men made to our community and our country will never be forgotten,” said Hass. “The Memorial Game is one of the ways we can honor them.”

Both school principals, Todd Corsetti from Southridge and Anne Erwin from Beaverton, and athletic directors, Bryan Sorenson of Southridge and Jim Meuwissen of Beaverton, as well as former Skyhawk football coach Brad Mastrud, and current Skyhawk football coach Doug Dean will participate in a pre-game message — one of remembrance and ongoing community support.

“It’s great to see crosstown rivals come together to recognize those who have served our country in the highest honor,” said Sorenson. “The community support is fantastic for those who have served our country, and what a great night to display our gratitude.”

The Keller family and Andrew’s fiance, Marissa Jones, another 2008 Southridge graduate, will be joined by former Skyhawk football player Eric Scruggs, the first recipient of the Andrew J. Keller Memorial Award, for a special presentation and message. This award is bestowed each year on the Southridge football player who most closely embodies the values Andrew lived: leadership, discipline, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

“We are coming together to honor two of our fallen heroes who chose to join the military and serve our country,” said Jeff Keller, Andrew’s father who will speak on Friday. “I have the honor to share Damian’s story with his family’s blessing. Like Andrew, he made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s important for us as a community to pay our thanks and respect and honor to our military and what they do for all of us.

“I’m proud to be part of this tradition at Southridge. I think Andrew would be, too. He always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Following the presentation will be a military color guard gun salute and a commemorative balloon release prior to kickoff at 7 p.m. The public is encouraged to take part in this tribute and gather for the pre-game ceremony that begins at 5:30.

Pre-game sideline highlights

  • McDonald’s is providing dinner items with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Andrew J. Keller Community Plaza Project.

  • Commemorative T-shirts bearing the message “Remember. A.J.K. XIII” (Andrew Keller’s jersey number was 13, and he died during Operation Enduring Freedom XIII.), available for $10.

  • Cheerleading squads from both schools will sell balloons for a pre-game memorial balloon release.
  • All proceeds from these activities go to the Southridge Community Plaza Project, a privately funded improvement project.

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