MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Broncos football teams took time out from a pep rally held at Camp Dawson on Sept. 22 to dedicate a bench near the playground to fallen teens Samuel Cali and Leonidas Vagias. Both died in a tragic car accident last year at age 19, and both had played on the Broncos football team.
A plaque on the bench reads, “‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.’ Luke 23:43. In loving memory of Samuel Cali and Leonidas Vagias. Never more than a thought away, loved and remembered every day. May our Broncos angels rest in peace.”
Coach Joe Colella said Sam gave his “heart and soul to the football program.” Of Leo, Colella said he came to Colella and said, “Coach, I don’t play offense, and I don’t play defense.” When Colella asked him what he did play, he said, “I kick the football.” So Colella had him practice that, and said he had many successful kicks.
“These kids will be missed,” Colella said.
Father Dominic of St. Pius X Church said a blessing over the bench and then a moment of silence was observed. Following this, two floating lanterns were released into the sky in remembrance.
Members of both the Cali and Vagias families were in attendance at the ceremony, and were visibly shaken but also touched. As the children went back to the Dawson field to begin the pep rally and friendly competitions, they took pictures and laid Leo’s and Sam’s Broncos uniforms on the bench to accompany photos that had already been placed on the bench temporarily. Later, the Cali family wrote on Facebook:
“The Samuel D.J. Cali Foundation would like to thank the Montville Broncos Football team for dedicating a bench at Camp Dawson to Sam Cali and Leo Vagias. We feel honored to have a bench at the place where Sam and Leo met each other, grew up, honed their skills and their love for the game of football. We would also like to thank the football team for playing a really tough game and winning for Sam on Saturday. It was an amazing opportunity with dedicated coaches and football players with so much respect for everyone and everything around them. We encourage everyone to go to the field and support the Broncos.”