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Rivalry game takes on new meaning for Chambers
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For years I was intertwined in the Oakdale-Manteca rivalry.

I’d been on the red sidelines unprofessionally assisting referees with hand gestures. I’ve walked up and down the green sideline wondering if Matty Burrows and company could fend off Oakdale.

Last year, Oakdale-Manteca took on a whole-new meaning, and for the first time in a while I wasn’t even in attendance. I remember Oakdale got up early. I remember I got a lot of phone calls and texts after. And I also remember not being able to fall asleep that night in the hospital.

Oakdalean Mike Statsny contacted Oakdale High football coach Trent Merzon, who then contacted Manteca High’s Eric Reis.

They agreed to change the course of my family’s life.

Thinking back to that night, what is most shocking to me is that that long eerie night was nearly two months after my son Jyriaun had came out on the clean side of a 9-hour brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor growing near his brain-stem.

I remember when he went into the surgery at 7 p.m. that night, and my wife Dawn and I watched him ride off with the surgeons. Once we got into the lobby we stopped, we talked, we prayed.

My wife and I KNOW that moment.

I told my precious soul mate that we are in a tough one. Prior to surgery, the medical team informed us they thought Jyriaun had a tumor in his kidney, as well, and that we’d address it later.

I said it was like bottom of the ninth, we’re down 10-0, with two outs and Jyriaun making it out of surgery alive would be a runner on first to begin our comeback.

When those three gentlemen (Statsny, Merzon, Reis) concocted a T-shirt sale for my child it was a direct answer to my petition of God. Never, not once, when Jyriaun made it out of surgery did I feel we would lose our child.

I promise I didn’t. My fear was my wife and I crumbling financially, because I knew that she would not be returning to work.

My wife left her job at Delta Junior College to meet Jyriaun and I at the doctor’s office on the final day of August, and she did not return for employment until a few weeks ago.

A lot of people assume sick time will carry you for a while, but we found out the hard way that neither of us was sick and sympathy only takes you so far.

When these two communities got together and funded my family for a calendar year it made me a new human being. Growing up in Stockton will minimize your expectations of humanity — seeing more bad than good kind of warps you into expecting the bad.

I saw a new humanity.

I know there were kids playing in that shirt last year. I told myself I’d wear mine next year and can’t wait to rock it Friday. I know both teams had my child and my family’s situation in their hearts and minds. I know how many people bought those shirts and donated money.

And like I told the medical staff earlier this month during a clean update and check-up for my champion, I am in eternal debt to you. Like I owe Christ, like I owe our neurosurgeons, like I owe my wife for nurturing our child back to health, I owe you all.

Thank you to all of you and thank you to both programs. As long as I am breathing there could never be a loser in Oakdale and Manteca.