PHOENIX — Described as “kind to everyone” and having “so much heart” by teammates, Moon Valley High School’s Carlos Sanchez remained on the minds of those close to him.
Sanchez passed away Saturday after collapsing in a game against Glendale Cactus on Friday.
“We all are hurt and we just can’t believe that one of our own is gone. It seems like a bad dream,” senior captain Malik Clark said.
Senior Bobby Carlon was on the field with Sanchez at the time and said the passing of his teammate has rattled him to the core.
“He was like a little brother to me,” Carlon said. “I love him.”
With just over two seconds left in the fourth quarter, Sanchez fell to the turf after blocking an opponent and was not responsive. Moon Valley players, cheerleaders, and fans watched in fear from the sidelines as medical personnel rushed to the field.
“The hush of silence from the crowd was impenetrable. It was a scary scene,” said Kimberly Fisher, an English teacher at Moon Valley for 18 years who was volunteering at the snack bar during the game. “Tears were shed on the football field by players as they took a knee and watched as Carlos was attended to by EMTs.”
Sanchez was transported by ambulance to the hospital where he was taken into emergency surgery for a brain bleed. At the conclusion of the game, the team, along with teachers, parents, coaches and Moon Valley administration, rushed to the hospital to be there for Sanchez and his family.
“The entire football team was rushed off to the hospital to stand by Carlos’ side as he went through surgery,” Fisher said. “The hospital was beyond accommodating for such a large support group.”
She said the tragedy has “hit Moon Valley hard.”
Fisher works closely with Moon Valley coach and fellow English teacher Seth Millican. She described the the feeling as “an emotional train wreck for our campus community.”
John Rudnick, a 2010 graduate from Moon Valley and Rockets assistant, said it has been difficult for the entire school but praised the sense of unity.
“The support we have been getting from everyone in the MV community has been amazing, and all we can do is keep fighting, stay strong, and stick together and pray,” Rudnick said.
Carlon reflected on the hard work that Sanchez put in on the field every day. He spoke highly of his work ethic, and how his positivity impacted the team.
“He was very supportive and was kind to everyone. He helped our team in many ways,” Carlon said.
Clark, too, thought highly of Sanchez.
“The imprint he had was something I never saw in a kid. He was an amazing player and an all out good person. He went 100 percent everyday,” Clark said. “He had so much heart and was so happy to play the sport he loved.”
The Booster Club for Moon Valley announced Saturday via Twitter that they would be collecting donations at next week’s game for Sanchez and his family.
“Donations do not need to be monetary, donations can come in many forms #leadwithyourheart,” the Rocker Booster’s tweet said.
The Rockets have a long-standing history of being a community that supports their own, Fisher said.
“We’ve always been a family. The teachers are close knit and so are our students. It makes me thankful and blessed to work where I do.”
It wasn’t just the Moon Valley community that rallied to show support for Sanchez. Players and programs from all over the Valley reached out to voice their support.
Despite being longtime rivals, Greenway High School’s football program tweeted, “Thoughts for Carlos Sanchez and @MVRocketsFB.”
Cactus football tweeted, “Thoughts and prayers from the Cactus Cobra family”.
“To see people come to us in support says a lot,” Clark said. “We all want to do something different with football. Not just win games, but come together and be a family, and seeing how it all has played out we know that we will stand as one.”
Andrew Drake, a friend of Sanchez and a player at Greenway High School, expressed his condolences for the fallen player on Twitter: “Rest in peace and paradise Carlos Sanchez, for you are in everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Forever we are with you.”
The Glendale Union High School District issued a statement Sunday, saying, “Our school community is saddened by the news of Carlos’s passing. We extend our deepest condolences to Carlos’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
A community-organized vigil is tentatively set to be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday outside of the high school at 3625 W. Cactus Rd in Phoenix.