In Honor of the One We Lost

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In Honor of the One We Lost

Taylor Zodrow, Reporter

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This last Friday night was the senior night football game.  But it was unlike all of the senior nights that AHS has had in the past.  It was the night that Jojo Mangual should have been out on the field, holding hands with his brothers as they walk on the field before the game started.  The last time he should have heard the crowd cheer in the stands. Friday night should have been full of bittersweet lasts.

But he didn’t get those lasts.  He didn’t even get the firsts.

He didn’t get the first time his cleats would touch the turf to warm up.  He didn’t get the first time the clock would have started his first high school football game.   He didn’t get the first time he would hear the crowd cheer in the stands. He didn’t even get the first year of high school football.

Because he was taken all too soon in the Oso landslide tragedy that occurred four years ago on March 22, 2014, and his friends and family have missed him dearly.

One of those is Aidan Espinosa (12) who thinks of him often. Back in seventh grade, Aidan made the decision to play football. He started when all of the boys had been playing together for a few years, so he felt like he didn’t belong.  But Jojo went out of his way to make sure that Espinosa felt as a part of the team as the rest of the boys, and that has made all the difference in his life. Espinosa recalled the time when Jojo broke his arm, yet still got up the next day to play in their next football game.  He got up, wrapped it up, and got back out on the field. “I almost try to live every part of my life for him. He wasn’t the biggest guy, he always got beat up and knocked down, but he always got back up and I try to do the same thing.”

Dylan Simmons (12) saw this day coming for awhile now.  The night when they would step out on their home field for the last time, and he knew it wouldn’t feel the same.  That is why he, and the rest of the senior football players, knew that they wanted to use this night to honor their beloved friend.  They planned a ceremony, painted a poster, and organized a theme to wear yellow in honor of him. Simmons remembers Jojo as a kid with a big heart, whether it was on or off the field, and as the strongest person he knew at just 12 years old.  Playing in that last game was “super emotional but we wanted to go out there and do it for him.”

Although Jojo Mangual didn’t get the lasts along with his teammates, they all stepped onto the field with their hearts on their sleeves, and played the way they knew he would.  They played for him.

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