The mood at Cosumnes Oaks High School was somber Monday as students, faculty and staff mourned the loss of a popular football player.
Joshua Aaron Davis, 17, died Saturday after he lost control of a car and struck a pole on Bruceville Road near Shelby Street as he prepared to spend the evening with his friends. Davis, an Elk Grove resident, was a three-year starter on the Cosumnes Oaks varsity football team and was picked by his teammates this season as Defensive Lineman of the Year.
“Josh was a phenomenal young man,” said Ryan Gomes, head football coach at Cosumnes Oaks. “He epitomized the student-athlete that we look for. He was a caring and compassionate kid who loved his teammates dearly. He was well loved and well respected by his teammates, the coaches and the entire school community.”
The accident dealt another tragic blow to a family that mourned the loss of Joshua’s father last year from pancreatic cancer.
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Shawna Davis had looked forward to celebrating Christmas this year after her husband’s death cast a pall over the holidays last year. A number of relatives had moved to Elk Grove from other states recently, and her older son, Dennis Jr., or D.J., who was in the U.S. Army, had returned home this month after a tour in Afghanistan.
“I was looking forward to having a year of celebrating being happy,” she said. “Last year, we were in the process of mourning, and this year was supposed to be happier, and now we’re mourning again.”
But she said she will celebrate Christmas to honor her son.
“Everyone is so hurt by his loss, but I’m not choosing to mourn the loss. I want to celebrate his life,” she said. “What would make Josh happy is how I want people to remember him and think about him – the joy that he brought to people. I want to carry on that joy as much as I possibly can.”
According to Sacramento police, two carloads of friends had refueled their vehicles at a gas station not far from the accident site. One car, with three people, left first, heading north on Bruceville Road.
Joshua drove the second car with one passenger, following the first vehicle. At one point, he passed a slower-moving vehicle and his vehicle clipped the raised center median. That caused him to lose control, and the car hit the pole, with the impact of the crash centered on the driver’s side door.
The passenger, another Cosumnes Oaks football player whose name was not released, suffered minor injuries. The car belonged to the passenger’s mother, Shawna Davis said.
Alcohol and drugs were not factors, said police spokeswoman Officer Michele Gigante. However, investigators are considering Josh’s relative inexperience as a driver as a cause of the crash, she said.
Gomes said he had received calls from several football players Saturday night telling him that Josh had been in an accident. Coaches, teammates, teachers and the principal rushed to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in south Sacramento. Shawna Davis estimated at least 50 people showed up.
After Joshua was pronounced dead, the medical staff allowed his teammates and coaches to say goodbye to him.
“We remained with him for a few hours,” Gomes said. “We were able to talk as a team and say goodbye to him. It was an incredibly rare and powerful moment for our players and the coaches involved.”
Kameron Schroeder, 17, who knew Joshua since middle school and played next to him on the Cosumnes Oaks offensive line, remembered his friend as a devoted teammate with a tremendous work ethic. Schroeder recalled how Joshua sacrificed for the team in a playoff game last year against Christian Brothers.
“His father had pancreatic cancer and had passed away just before the first playoff game,” said Schroeder. “He played in the game because he knew how important that game was. He led our team in tackles in that game. He knew how important he was to us, and how important he was to the team. That was his passion for the sport.”
Despite his love for the game, he did not follow any collegiate or professional football teams, according to his family and friends. While he drew the attention of scouts, he wasn’t interested in playing college football.
“His dream was to go to the University of Hawaii and he wanted to study marine biology,” said his mother. “He loved science and that was his dream.”
Sunday night, hundreds of friends and schoolmates held a candlelight vigil for Josh at the crash site. Monday, the Elk Grove Unified School District had eight law enforcement chaplains and 10 counselors on hand at the school to help students cope with the loss.
In addition to his mother, Josh is survived by his sister, Jessica Davis of Elk Grove, his brother Dennis Davis Jr (D.J.) of Elk Grove, paternal grandmother Deneva Davis of Sacramento, paternal uncles Barron Davis of Sacramento and Scott Davis of Hollywood, Fla., maternal uncle Darren Metzing and his fiancee Carmen Marti, both of Sacramento, and Shawna Davis’ boyfriend, Glenn Thompkins of Elk Grove.
Services for Joshua Davis will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Sun Grove Community Church, 2285 Longport Court, Elk Grove. His body will be cremated.