More than 50 young men took to the field at Westhampton Beach High School as the sun set on Wednesday night, with most wearing the number 10 on their backs.
They gathered to pay their respects to Juan Cárdenas, their fallen teammate from the Hurricanes varsity soccer team who died a week earlier, on July 3, from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident two days earlier in Shinnecock Hills.
The mother of the 19-year-old, Morelya Ranft, attended the memorial soccer game and explained that soccer was her son’s life.
“I think he is happy in this moment, wherever he is,” she said, standing near the field and watching the game alongside her husband, Owen Ranft, Mr. Cárdenas’s stepfather. “He would be so happy to see this.”
Westhampton Beach boys varsity soccer coach Don O’Brien organized the game after learning of the death of Mr. Cárdenas, who wore the number 10 on his team before graduating from Westhampton Beach last month.
Mr. Cárdenas’s teammates described him as shy, but kind and happy—and an excellent player. Max Pastor and Matt Higgins, both seniors at Westhampton Beach High School, and Joe Ogeka, who graduated in June, recalled a game last fall when Mr. Cárdenas scored his first hat trick. They said the team was closest this past fall, when Mr. Cárdenas joined.
“He had a very pretty smile,” Serkan Kopuz said with a laugh. Mr. Kopuz played and graduated with Mr. Cárdenas.
In addition to Mr. Cárdenas’s Westhampton Beach teammates, alumni and players from the various Calverton community teams, of which he was a member, joined together to play for well over an hour. Members of the Hampton Bays varsity soccer team also participated. They said they agreed right away when their coach, John Paga, told them of the game, and they were happy to support the Westhampton Beach players.
The soccer community is close, Jahbarey Carr, a 2013 Hampton Bays graduate, explained. Christian Ruiz, who is entering his senior year at Hampton Bays, added that he could only imagine how it would feel to lose one of his own teammates.
“I think it’s a great way to keep his name alive,” Daniela Garces, a 2012 graduate of Westhampton Beach, said during the game.
She and her friends, including Julissa Lagos, Mr. Cárdenas’s girlfriend, held a sign that read, “Juan S. Cárdenas, #10, RIP, We love you forever.”
At the end of the game, the players and spectators gathered in a large circle on the field, with Mr. Cárdenas’s family members, including his mother and stepfather, his father Javier Cárdenas, his brother, Alejandro Cárdenas, his sister, Carolina Bronzino, and his stepbrother, Tayler Ranft, standing in the center.
“Thank you for the three wonderful years we had with your son,” Kathy Masterson, the Westhampton Beach High School athletic director, said to his parents. “It was a blessing to have him here, and he will truly be missed.”
She and Mr. O’Brien presented the family with the game ball and a jersey, both signed by all the players, drawing tears from many.
“This moment was so important to him,” Ms. Ranft said to the crowd. “You’re all amazing—all of you. Thank you.”