Young Linden football player dies of apparent head trauma during September 9 game

Young Linden football player dies of apparent head trauma during September 9 game

Tragedy struck Union County for the second time in two weeks when Linden sophomore Xavier McClain died Wednesday of an apparent head injury sustained in a Big Central Conference game against Woodbridge. September 9.

The fatal injury was sustained only a day after Rahway senior Ali Muhamad died in his sleep and was discovered by his father while trying to wake Ali for school.

Xavier suffered the blow returning the second-half kickoff for Linden, according to a person at the game who is not authorized to speak publicly. Video of the game shows the game was stopped and an ambulance along Linden’s touchline about 10 minutes after the game

Xavier’s death was announced late Wednesday night by Linden Mayor Derek Armstead on several of his social media platforms. Linden faculty and staff received confirmation of the 16-year-old’s death Thursday morning in a district-wide email from Denise Cleary, acting superintendent of schools.

“Together we prayed for a miracle and hoped for a different outcome,” Armstead wrote on his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. “I hope God knows best. He needed an angel and decided to call Xavier home to be with Him.

“This news hurts because I have known his parents, Lisa and Norm, for years, Xavier and Andres, their two sons, since they were little boys,” Armstead continued. “Tragically, their worst fear has come true.”

Linden won that game against Woodbridge, 31-0, with substantial contributions from Xavier on both sides of the ball. He carried for 18 yards twice, caught an 8-yard pass from Tequan Thomas and also had four tackles on the secondary.

Xavier (5-foot-5, 132 pounds) was a budding star for head coach Al Chiola, having occasionally broken into the roster as a rookie last season. He was one of several sophomores this season to start or earn regular playing time for the Tigers.

Linden (1-2) was scheduled to host Perth Amboy at 7 p.m. Friday at home in a Liberty Gold Division game, but that game was moved to 1 p.m. Saturday at Linden. Linden coaches were unavailable for comment.

Strangely enough, neighbors Linden and Rahway opened the season against each other in a Big Central interdivisional battle. Rahway won, 21-20. Ali Muhamad, who did not play in that match, died six days later. His wake-up service is today (Thursday) in Roselle.

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Mike Kinney can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MikeKinneyHS.

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