Roosevelt football struggles to accept dedicating another season to loss

The emblems arrived in a package at the sports office a week after their first game, a reminder that another season would be filled with moments of stillness for those who lost them.

It has been 18 months since Richard “Dicky” Guillen, Roosevelt High Football’s beloved assistant coach, died of COVID-19 at the age of 70. Nine months since they last wore “All Work, No Glory” emblems on their helmets – one of Guillen’s favorite sayings. Three and a half months since graduation, the day that should have marked the end of an emotional year.

But tragedy found her again. On a trip to the field for a practice session in late July, head coach Aldo Parral couldn’t shake the past.

“I just kept saying, ‘Why? Why?’” Parral said.

Included in this pack were new helmet emblems. Not just “All Work, No Glory,” but a #44 sticker. It was the act of a Rough Rider paragon with a shaggy beard, the strength of a lion, and a sweet smile that masked a childhood he struggled to escape.

“None of us thought we’d have to play another season for anyone,” senior Jared Andrade said.

Years ago, coaches would come out of the locker room after a workout and hear weights crashing next door. Boom. Boom.

That’s why you know, said assistant coach Ernesto Ceja, that Santos Rivera is still there.

Rivera, an All-City running back in his 2018 senior season, was revered for his work ethic by Roosevelt coaches and players who would follow. Every night, Ceja said, he had to kick Rivera out of the gym so they could graduate.

Block like Santos. Run like Santos. Train like Santos. Coaches preached him and players wanted to be him. Seniors like Isiah Wright, Alexander Arroyo and Andrade never got a chance to play with Rivera in a Rough Rider uniform, but he was the real community legend, the kid who saw enough of his life and channeled it into a rough had cavalry uniform caked with dirt.

“Hopefully one day some of us can follow in his footsteps,” Wright said.

Rivera was in this weight room to survive his past and thrive, his aunt Andrea Rivera said.

“It should be, ‘This kid beats all odds,'” said Roberto Ortiz, Roosevelt’s offensive line coach.

Instead, his aunt was left behind in late July to look across their dining table, lose herself in a photo of her nephew’s smile she’ll never see again, wear his No. 44 and kiss him on the head after a Roosevelt game to give cheek .

“My poor baby,” she sobbed.

Rivera’s aunt provided a safe haven. Andrea Rivera said he grew up with a drug-addicted, domestic-violent and violent mother who slept in a car on the streets of Eagle Rock for a time. His aunt eventually became his legal guardian and loved him as she would any other son.

When his mother was shot and killed in April 2017 – a crime that remained unsolved – his aunt offered to take Santos to counseling. He would be fine, he said, because he had her and his football family.

“He comes from a lot of traumatizing things, and the way he released all his emotions was through football,” Wright said. “A lot of people look up to that.”

After spending time at Sacramento State University and in the Army, Rivera was living with his aunt trying to plan his next move. He left her home at around 11:45 p.m. on June 2. He liked to run at night. His aunt didn’t think much of it.

He didn’t come back the next morning.

“Dad, where are you?” Andrea Rivera texted. “I’m starting to worry.”

She only found out days later. Rivera was walking on a dimly lit section of the 110 freeway early in the morning on June 3 when he was hit by a car, according to Sarah Arbalani of the LA County Coroner’s Office. He was hospitalized at 2:47 a.m. and died 20 minutes later.

It is unclear why he was driving on the freeway. His aunt thinks he was robbed and left there. The case is under investigation.

The Rough Riders didn’t find out until a week later – on graduation day. As Parral was eating a celebratory dinner at an Applebee’s, his son walked in and collapsed, saying Rivera was dead. Andrade recalls the team’s group chat exploding as he sat in his room, stunned.

“It’s like one thing at a time,” Ortiz said. “Who will we mourn next year?”

Rivera wanted to avoid being a statistic, said his aunt, another child from a poor area of ​​east Los Angeles who succumbed to a traumatic background.

The same night the team found out about this, Andrade texted Parral, he said, telling the coach he wanted to “keep Santos here with us”. They came up with the idea of ​​putting a #44 decal on their helmets next to the decal for Guillen.

“He is not forgotten,” said Andrade. “And he still has a great legacy for us at Roosevelt High School.”

There’s a limit to how much the team can overcome, Ortiz said. But they know Rivera is still watching, said Ceja, in the best seat in the house with Guillen.

“We have to do it again,” Wright said. “I have to do it for both of you now.”

Andrade has a vision for his first touchdown of the year whenever it comes. He crosses the goal line and throws up four fingers on both hands. An ode to No. 44. Roosevelt football struggles to accept dedicating another season to loss

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