The final football game of the fall season honored Sunnyside High School student athletes, cheer, and band seniors, along with loved ones for their unwavering resilience in making this season of Friday night lights at Clem Senn Field a safe and winning yearbook highlight.

The team ran out onto the field together in between the two cheerleading lines of inspired and spirited influence. Senior Aniyah Mendoza with her arms angled upward in the shape of the letter ‘V’ for victory, quickly glanced toward the home section to appreciate the celebratory atmosphere, one last time.

“It wasn’t the way I expected it, but I still had fun,” Mendoza confidently revealed. The four-year cheer squad member said she felt kind of sad following the team’s gallant entrance and will miss it.

What she will miss most, “I think just the school and how everybody is like involved in the spirit.”

Two-year old Nathan Garcia, with his Seahawks helmet on, and his dad Pedro were completing their health attestation prior to entering the field. They were there to show their support for senior wide receiver Eli Fernandez and 10 of his upperclassmen teammates for their dedicated commitment to the program, while playing in their last Grizzly gridiron game.

“I played freshman team, JV team and then I just moved up to varsity. Just being out here with each one of these guys is just a blessing, honestly. I love each and every one of them,” Fernandez stated after the Grizzlies defeated Davis 41-16 on Friday, April 2.

He made an acrobatic catch with about 4:00 left in opening quarter and gave his little brother Nathan a sports center highlight to take home from the on-field play.

“Every time we’re at home, he always wants to play football and he’s like, ‘a helmet; a helmet.’ And he puts a helmet on, and we start playing,” Fernandez described.

The Grizzlies led 14-3 on touchdowns by junior running back Myles Newhouse on a nine-yard run and sophomore wide receiver Brent Maldonado caught a 16-yard pass from junior quarterback Logan Rodriguez.

In the second quarter, SHS senior wide receiver Julian Sandoval hauled in a seven-yard TD reception from Rodriguez and were comfortably up front 21-9 at the half.

After Davis returned the second half kickoff, an attempted onside kick by Sunnyside for a TD in the first seven seconds of the third quarter, the Grizzly defense shut down the Pirate’s offense in the second half. SHS cruised to a 20-point win and finished the five-week season, 3-2.

During the pregame ceremony, Head Football Coach John Lobbestael recognized his senior players and commended them for their leadership in making the most out of a challenging situation and seeing the season though.

“All the seniors stayed with it the whole time. They practiced all those months for five games, so I was really proud of them and happy they stuck it out. They did a really great job,” coach added.

The one identifying trait which makes these seniors special was all the voluntary workout practices they had beginning in October, Lobbestael conveyed – making for some great on field memories and ones he hopes will endure and be passed down to future Grizzlies.

“I am glad that I was allowed to come and be a part of the senior tribute on the field,” Lobbestael expressed after the game. “If I would not have been allowed to do that, I would have been pretty upset.”

Senior defensive back Julian Sandoval was jogging around the field carrying the intergalactic, interplanetary ‘Dark Side’ flag as players posed with family members and friends for pictures. He informed junior defensive back and wide receiver Cesar Silva-Alvarez that he was passing him the trusted banner and symbolic torch for next year.

“He balled out; you know. He was out there every time I was out there. So, on the offseason, he was out there grinding with me. He’s like a little brother to me. I’ve been teaching him the ways for a while now and I’m proud of him,” Sandoval squarely announced.

The 2020-21 football season chapter ended on a positive note for Grizzly Nation as the new athletic complex is completed, while stadium construction continues to move forward. The project is expected to be completed Jan. 2022.

“I wish we had a full season, but you know, it is what it is. We worked through it and I still had a great time with these guys,” Sandoval, who is hopeful to be playing collegiate football next year communicated. “My experience was amazing. It doesn’t get any better than this. I am forever grateful for all the coaches.”

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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