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We are going to see if the kids can stay focused. The seniors will probably take it a lot harder because they had been with him so long, but Sauceda made an impact on every kid here. Everybody loves him and had nothing but positive things to say about him. He is going to be missed dearly by everybody.
SANTA ROSA — A cricket’s lone chirp and a country dog’s distant bark echoed during a palpable 68 seconds of silence on a humid night at Warriors Stadium in Santa Rosa.
The Warriors ushered in the new football season with their second annual midnight madness practice at midnight Monday morning and a tribute to their teammate Arturo Sauceda, number 68.
Sauceda was on the cusp of his senior season at Santa Rosa when he was shot and killed in a domestic violence attack in late July in San Perlita. Sauceda was a pivotal member of the offensive line and as a member of the Santa Rosa community, Santa Rosa Athletic Director Joe Marichalar said.
“It is a tough one for what kids, coaches and everyone experience in a normal high school setting,” Marichalar said. “This is one of those tough ones where you have to deal with losses and have kids heartbroken and grieving to kickoff a season.”
Marichalar hoped the midnight practice could help boost the morale of the players and of a hurt community still reeling from the Sauceda’s death.
“We are going to see if the kids can stay focused,” Marichalar said. “The seniors will probably take it a lot harder because they had been with him so long, but Sauceda made an impact on every kid here. Everybody loves him and had nothing but positive things to say about him. He is going to be missed dearly by everybody.”
Sauceda was set to be one of the main pass protectors for senior quarterback Bryan Rojas. The quarterback breezed through drills while the playing of the band mixed in with rock songs from the 80s that are commonly played at high school football stadiums.
“He was the light to the team,” Rojas said. “He brought a lot of joy to the team. If you were having a bad day, you would go to him and he would pick you. He was very important and a special person to the team.”
Senior wide receiver Julius Olmedo echoed those sentiments and used a game against Monte Alto last season as an example.
“We weren’t playing good against Monte Alto, and at halftime Art came in and told us we need to step it up,” Olmedo said. “We did … we are going to miss him for sure.”
Santa Rosa went on to beat Monte Alto 62-20 after scoring 41-unanswered points.
The Warriors wore a ribbon in remembrance of Sauceda during practice Sunday night. The team had No. 68 decals for their helmets donated and Sauceda will be an honorary captain for every game. Players will take his jersey with them during captain duties.
“We are going to give it all for him,” senior linebacker Andrew Ballin said. “This sport meant everything to him. His main priority was protecting Bryan. That’s all he ever said he was going to do.”
Santa Rosa went 7-4 in 2022, their first winning season since 2013. Last season they played to change a culture at Santa Rosa, this year they play for 68.