This story could take hours for me to relate because it is very complex and has some cosmic twists and turns so I'll give you the Cliff's Notes version. But it is 2:11 AM here in Hillsboro and I just realized tonight while looking at these lineups for the WIAA Championships tomorrow that it has been 7 years.
7 years since the Liberty Patriots led Coach of the Year Steve Valach and by Trey Wheeler, Jake Bainton and Chandler Jenkins took Bellevue to the wall in the WIAA State 3 A Title Game. The Patriots lost that one 23-17 in a game that was not over until the very end.
Also it has been 7 years since Highland High School (Cowiche, WA) QB Matthew Newman lay at Seattle Children's hospital at deaths doorstep from a football caused brain bleed, Second Impact Syndrome. The same exact year that Washington led the Nation in Concussion awareness by passing the first State law for protecting athletes from Concussion related injuries; the Zack Lystedt law.
7 years too since we lost Valley Christian's (Spokane) Andrew Swank. Drew died that same year after playing hurt with a severe concussion.
7 years ago because of Matthew and Drew and Zack too we started a movement that was/is known as Raise 7 For Matthew. We challenged athletes and coaches in the Fall of 2009 to help us help Matthew, who was #7, by raising our hands skyward in tribute to Matthew Newman. Back before Twiiter and at the beginnings of Facebook this was pretty groundbreaking. Each tribute or "Raise 7" as they are known would be a picture that was delivered by us to Matthew as he struggled to return to health. At the time the Championships in Oregon and Washington came along in 2009 the movement was just getting some traction.
That year Hillsboro High school in Oregon thanks to Colt Lyerla and his team adopted Matthew's Cause and they won it all! The Skyline Spartans also got involved and they also won it all. Nooksack Valley was a huge supporter making it to the final 4. So too did hundreds of people all over the world help and the movement at the end of 2009 and early 2010 helped Matthew heal with hundreds and thousands getting involved.
After 5 months in Crticial Care and more surgeries then we care to recount he returned home to the Apple Orchards and hills above Yakima where he lives today; still battling and still improving. Raise 7 Matthew will tell you was a big part of saving him.
At this same time with nothing more then an email Coach Steve Valach called to tell me he and the Patriots had heard what was going on and they were all in. It was Liberty that took Matthew's name and his very presence to the middle of the Tacoma Dome. Understand folks that the WIAA refused to get involved and recognize him. Possible litigation with Newman's school, issues with concussions and traumatic brain injuries, and politics were all factors. Back then people did not talk about the 9,000 pound Monster that was in the room and we knew it...we just wished he would go away. He didn't and now 7 years later the game is at the verge of serious changes.
Standing at the railing shooting pictures from above I watched stunned as the Patriots made a gigantic 7 across mid field and down one sideline as we all did the National anthem. The boys all Raised 7 for Matthew in unison and rushed to each other with emotion to start the game against Bellevue. It was spiritual for me and I'm sure a few others and Newman would see that film thanks to Bryan Levesque of GSHLFootball.com. It was a magical Moment for us and for Newman and his family to see that someone cared; that football cared. Here from our Archives is that event.
Onward they went from there into this battle and they came close, ever so close to beating Mighty Bellevue!
Tomorrow at 1 Pm they Liberty Patiots return to the same spot at the Tacoma Dome where they will face off with the undefeated and many believe unbeatable Archbishop Murphy Wildcats. The same Archbishop Murphy who 4 or 5 teams forfeited to this season sparking a Nation wide debate about creating a private elite league for loaded football teams.
Best wishes to all players and coaches! It should be a fun and emotional time for everyone win, lose, or draw.
I will be watching. Matthew will be watching. And we hope that maybe, just maybe, a little Raise 7 magic will visit the Dome tomorrow. We can never repay all of you that have helped Matthew and helped us support him and kids like him through our group Brain Champions but we can say thank you!
I want to challenge you all to double down on your awareness of Traumatic Brain Injuries in sports and to do more. This past week with some incidents I think we were all reminded of that.
Raise 7 and post it to Twitter with the Hashtag #Raise7ForMatthew and we will feature it here in this article next week and on our Social Media streams. Everyone can get into the act!
Here is one of the Video's of Matthew's and all of our Journey from 2009 and below that a few pics from the Liberty boys - 2009!
Raise 7 For Matthew Newman - 2009 revisited