The Sahuarita 49ers won another city championship on Saturday, one week after an assistant coach and father of one of the players died during a playoff game.
First-year assistant coach Juan Gonzalez, 34, was on the minds of the 49ers players playing for the championship after he collapsed near the end of a 12U game at Walden Grove High School on Oct. 27.
After the game, A.J. Gonzalez, Juan’s son and a player, hoisted the championship trophy as the team celebrated the victory.
“Juan was a family man. He woke up at 2 a.m. to get to work at 4 a.m. and after he worked a 12-hour shift, he’d come home, shower and coach until 8:30 p.m.,” Coach George Rushing said. “He worked six days a week.”
Shortly after Gonzalez’s death, the 49ers posted an image on their team Facebook page saying, “love your people, cherish your people, look after your people. Hold them tight every chance you get.”
Last year, Rushing said he and Gonzalez chatted on the sidelines and made a vow to coach together this year.
“He was just an all-around good guy,” he said. “He had a quiet demeanor and he was respected by everybody.”
During Saturday’s championship game, the 49ers were down late until an interception at the one-yard line gave the team hope. They proceeded to drive 99 yards for a touchdown, winning over the Oro Valley Dolphins, 12-8.
The 49ers have set up a GoFundMe account for the Gonzalez family and are working with the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit League in a separate fundraising effort.