Pacheco High football coach David Snapp calls the 10 seniors who played through the Panthers' first two varsity seasons the founding fathers of Pacheco football.
The Panthers had 24 juniors on the roster in the school's first varsity season in 2011. Only 10 of them played as seniors this past fall.
"My senior year, the players were dropping like flies day by day," said defensive lineman Luis Zendejas. "I even told my teammates, 'If you're going to quit, quit now before the season starts.'
"I wasn't going to allow myself to be one of them. ... No matter how hard it was."
The reward for sticking it out for Zendejas and his teammates was becoming the first Pacheco team to qualify for the playoffs.
This Friday, Zendejas and teammate Jacob Parks will become the first players to represent Pacheco in the 28th Annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Classic.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. at Veterans Stadium.
"For me, it's a huge honor to be in this game, especially considering everything I had to go through this season," Zendejas said. "I had to recover from a broken hand. I didn't think I'd make it to a game like this. I'm really psyched to be in this game."
If you ask Snapp, you couldn't have picked two better players to represent his program.
"They were the foundation of our program," Snapp said. "Along with the other seniors they were the cornerstone of what we were trying to do. We're excited they were chosen as all-stars.
"Both of those guys will do anything you ask them to do. They're both guys who show up early in the weight room. They stayed after practice. They set the tone for the program and were a great example for the younger guys of how things should be done."
Parks tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while making a tackle against Central Valley late in his junior season.
Through his sheer grit and will, he was back on the field participating in team workouts the following spring and back to full speed by the start of his senior season.
"It was a lot of work, a lot of physical therapy," Parks said. "I spent a lot of time in the weight room, doing what I can to get back for the season.
"I told myself within a week or two of the surgery I wanted to be able to walk. Within 3 months I wanted to be able to at least jog and in 6 months I wanted to full on run. I think I achieved all those goals sooner than I expected."
Parks played quarterback and defensive back for the Panthers. He's headed to Modesto Junior College as a defensive back this fall.
"He's an outstanding kid," Snapp said. "His dedication is what you want. He makes a plan and gets it done. We had to temper him back at times. He blew out his knee and was back in 7 months. That's really something other kids look up to."
Zendejas, who Snapp describes as the nuts and bolts of the Panthers defense, also had to deal with an injury when he broke his hand early against Central Catholic.
Zendejas didn't come off the field after the injury. Even when it became clear the hand was broken Zendejas wanted to keep playing. The Panther coaching staff had to take away his helmet to keep him off the field.
After sitting out two games, Zendejas was able to play in the final two games against Los Banos and Oakdale.
"Luis is probably one of our toughest players," Parks said. "No matter what happens, what injuries he has, he's going to try to play through it. He's stubborn and hard-headed, but we needed toughness like that."
Both players can proudly look back at their time at Pacheco. They helped set the tone for what the program hopes to become.
"It was really important for us to set an example and be good leaders," Jacobs said. "We had to show the underclassmen the way to do things. When we got to Pacheco we didn't have upperclassmen to show us the way.
"It felt really good to make the playoffs. It showed how far we've come and how much we've grown. We wanted to get the name Pacheco out there."