Tragedy occurred in Union County for the second time in two weeks when sophomore Linden Xavier MacLean died on Wednesday from an apparent head injury he sustained in a Big Central Conference game against Woodbridge on Sept.
That fatal injury occurred only a day after the elder Rahway Ali Muhammad died while he was sleeping And his father discovered him trying to wake Ali up for school.
Xavier was hit when he came back in the second half from a kick-off for Linden, according to a person in the game who is not authorized to speak publicly. Game video shows and an ambulance along the Linden sideline were shut down about 10 minutes into the play
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 Dennis Cleary, acting superintendent of schools.
“We prayed together for a miracle and hope for a different outcome,” Armstead wrote in his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts. “I trust God knows best. He needed an angel and decided to call Xavier home to be with him.
“This news is heartbreaking because I have known his parents, Lisa and Norm, for years, Xavier and Andres, their two sons, since they were little,” Armstead continued. “Unfortunately, their worst fear has come true.”
Linden won that game against Woodbridge, 31-0, with significant contributions from Xavier on both sides of the ball. He carried twice for 18 yards, gained an 8-yard pass from Tequan Thomas and also made four tackles from the secondary.
Xavier (5-5, 132 pounds) was a rising star for head coach Al Chiola, having broken into the squad at times as a freshman last season. He was one of many sophomores this season who either started or earned regular playtime for the Tigers.
Linden (1-2) was scheduled to host Perth Amboy at 7 p.m. Friday at home in a Liberty Gold game, but that match was moved to 1 p.m. Saturday in Linden. Linden’s coaches were not available for comment.
Evilly enough, neighboring Linden and Rahway opened the season against each other in a Big Central cross-sectional battle. Rahway won 21-20. Ali Muhammad, who did not play in that game, died six days later. Today (Thursday) wake-up prayer is held in Rosell.
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