Popular coach collapses on sidelines

FRESNO, Calif.

Sal Gonzalez collapsed on the sidelines during a playoff game on Saturday and died at a hospital.

The pain of losing a childhood friend been tough on Steve Rapada. 53-year old Sal Gonzalez collapsed while coaching an 8th grade football game at Reedley High. Rapada recalled, "The last thing he did was the let the offensive coordinator know what he wanted to run and then he just collapsed."

The team took a knee - as Gonzalez has taught all of his players for over 30 years.

Family, friends and ex-players were in the stands when the game was suspended in the first quarter.

Rapada has been with Gonzalez every step of the way. "It's very hard to see him go but he went doing what he loved."

Gonzalez impacted countless families in the tight-knit community. 25-year old Patrick Kellogg says the lessons coach Gonzalez imparted went far beyond sports. Kellogg said, "I remember his practices and his speeches. When you got into high school, what not to do and how you want to act around adults. Show respect to anyone older."

Gonzalez aimed to enrich the community. He and his wife Diane didn't have kids of their own but they basically adopted every kid who's ever played youth football or baseball in Reedley."

Gonzalez just wanted to give kids a sense of belonging. Rapada said, "It became a true family because in the community that we have, Reedley, there is a lot of people who need help and Sal made sure kids ate."

Sal Gonzalez may have had a history of cardiac problems but no one had a bigger heart.

Reedley's playoff game with Jefferson middle school of Madera will be rescheduled, perhaps to be played Wednesday.

If the Fresno Catholic Diocese approves the venue, Gonzales' funeral service will be held Friday morning at Reedley High school.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.