CORTEZ: Enochs High football team still dealing with tragic loss of two teammates

jcortez@modbee.comSeptember 11, 2013 

It's not something they cover at any coaching clinic.

Nope, clinics are all about X's and O's and innovation and motivation. A coach must go elsewhere to learn how to help 50 high school football players deal with the loss of two teammates.

Enochs High's James Stacy is such a coach.

His team was dealt two horrific blows this summer. The first came June 24 when senior Kaylan Carter went into cardiac arrest during a weight-training session. Carter spent the next two months in a coma and died Aug. 16.

The second tragedy occurred on July 8 — less than two weeks later — when junior Bruno Diaz was struck by a vehicle while riding his bike early on the morning of his 17th birthday.

"In 19 years of coaching, this is the first time I've had to deal with the issue of a player's death, let alone two," says Stacy. "Myself, the players, the whole staff have never had to deal with something like this. We just try to be there for each other. It's very difficult."

The school will hold a brief memorial ceremony before Friday night's game against Turlock High. There will be a moment of silence for Diaz and Carter and balloons will be released into the sky in their memory.

Stacy says he couldn't have gotten through this ordeal without his wife, Stacy Reed — "she goes by Reed; she didn't want to be Stacy Stacy" the coach quipped — his coaching staff, Principal Deborah Rowe, and the school district.

"They have given us whatever we've needed to get those boys through this," says Stacy. "Without them, it would've been a whole lot harder."

As for the football game, well, Enochs players have discovered — much sooner than most of their peers — that there are more important things.

"There are some players who have a more difficult time with it than others," says Stacy. "When thoughts (of Bruno and Kaylan) come into play, you can tell. We just try to keep an eye on how everybody is reacting."

Still, they will suit up Friday and try to snatch their first victory of the season against a tough Turlock squad. It'll be the third time this season that the Eagles have faced a team from the Central California Conference, and things did not go well the first two times.

Enochs lost 68-8 to Pitman (Turlock) in the opener and 48-16 to Buhach Colony (Atwater) a week later. It should be pointed out that the Eagles were unable to scrimmage due to services for Carter on Aug. 24, a big disadvantage heading into a Week Zero matchup against The Bee's top-ranked large school.

"My hope is that the players will take all the emotion and all the feelings and turn it into a positive, and play their hearts out for two boys who can't be out there," says Stacy. "Bruno and Kaylan would've loved to have been out there, and now they're not able to. I want their teammates to enjoy every moment and give it their all and leave nothing on the field. For those two."

If Stacy still isn't sure how his team will perform on Friday, he is sure going through this has created a tighter team bond.

"Oh, definitely," says Stacy. "We've become a very close team, willing to be the support for each other. It's a group of boys who are family."

Reach Joe Cortez at jcortez@modbee.com.

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