There was celebration, there were hugs, there was a victory … and there were tears.
Senior Night for Escalon High School’s varsity football and cheer program on Friday, Nov. 1 saw the members of the Class of 2020 recognized for their contributions to the teams and school. It also included a tribute to their classmate, Joana Vazquez, a senior who passed away unexpectedly in October.
“It has been a difficult few weeks,” admitted cheer advisor Katie San Julian, as the cheerleaders have tried to cope with the loss and also stay focused on school and doing their part to make Friday nights memorable.
Parents and family members of the senior football players were called to the field prior to kickoff of the regular season finale and, one by one, the senior players were introduced. They were presented with a flower, which in turn they gave to their family, after being greeted by head coach Andrew Beam near midfield.
A total of 22 seniors were recognized for the football team, starting with number 2 Colton Panero and continuing through number 77 Mitchell Cole.
“The countless hours of practice, late nights, and fundraisers that our boys have gone through to leave their program where it is, is greatly appreciated by the coaching staff and community,” public address announcer Greg Largent told the crowd. “This group of young men is special, they are leaders not only on the field, but also in the classroom, and the community.”
Following recognition of the senior football players, both the cheerleaders and all varsity players lined up and, following prepared remarks about Joana ready by Largent, went single file past her cheer box, each placing a rose on the ever-growing pile.
Several of the senior parents, presented with flowers by their sons, later placed their flowers by Joana’s box as well.
Joana was diagnosed with AVM, a blood hemorrhage in her head that occurred in mid-October and was taken to the ER on Oct. 18.
“After days of prayers from family and friends, heaven gained another angel on October 21,” Largent said. “Escalon High School and the community were heartbroken to learn of her passing. While we are saddened by the loss of Joana, we are grateful for the time we were able to spend with her and all of the memories we were able to male.”
Joana had planned to attend CSU Stanislaus in the fall, and hoped to eventually become a psychologist.
At halftime of the varsity football game, 13 senior cheerleaders were recognized and several members of Joana’s family were there in her honor; she was the 14th senior on the squad. Along with hugs, flowers and love showered on them, a special presentation featured the gift of a Letterman’s jacket donated in Joana’s memory to her family.
Advisor San Julian credited the parents of the cheerleaders for helping make her job easier.
“These girls have an incredible work ethic and that is because of you,” Largent announced, offering the comments from San Julian. “This group of seniors standing before you tonight have come together as leaders for not only their squad, but their entire program.”
Cheerleaders kept Joana’s cheer box on the track throughout the game, assuring she was in their hearts and minds in the final regular home game of the season.
With playoffs on the line, the varsity team put a win on the board, defeating Hughson by a 42-17 final. The team will have a bye this week, Nov. 8 and will be back on the home field for a playoff game on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.