Westlake High football player dies after having trouble breathing

Westlake High School sign in Thousand Oaks.
Westlake High School sign in Thousand Oaks. (Myung Chun/Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Julius Poppinga, a 17-year-old junior football player at Westlake High School, died Wednesday, principal Jason Branham said in an email to the school community.

Poppinga had been hospitalized after earlier having breathing issues, a person not authorized to speak about the player's health told The Times. He had not played or practiced since making an appearance in Westlake's opener against Taft on Aug. 18. He played defensive end.

Westlake coach Mark Serve said he visited Poppinga at his hospital bed this week, when the boy seemed to be improving.

"He didn't want to talk about his health. He wanted to talk football," Serve said. "We talked about him getting back on the field. I was texting last night letting him know 'I love you.' This morning, I got the news."

Players were informed of Poppinga's death at a meeting. The team will play Thousand Oaks on Friday. Serve said he spoke to Poppinga's father, who said Julius would have wanted the team to play.

This is another tragedy for a school that went through trauma last April when a 15-year-old student was killed by a man who drove up to a bus stop near Westlake and intentionally plowed into a group of teens.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.