Community gathers to remember Washington Union High School football player

Saturday, August 28, 2021
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The school confirmed on Friday that 16-year-old Ernesto Garin, a player on the school football team, died in a crash Thursday.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds gathered to remember Ernesto Garin, lovingly known as Neto.

"When something happens this tragically and suddenly, it hits everybody," said Washington Unified School District Superintendent Randy Morris.

The 16-year-old varsity football player at Washington Union High School went to practice Thursday, then to team dinner, before heading home.

He was just a couple miles away from the school when a big rig pulled out in front of him. Neto's truck was trapped underneath.

"It didn't seem real until tonight," said assistant football coach Johnathan Holland.

Friday night's football game against Kingsburg was canceled.

Instead, community members in personalized shirts, wrote handwritten notes, lit candles and gathered on the forty-yard line to remember number 40.

Those who knew him say it was hard not to be happy around him.

"Like even if he wasn't saying nothing funny, just his personality, his demeanor he's going to make you smile. You can't help it. That's just him," Holland said.

When he was off the field, he was a gentle giant.

"He had such a beautiful soul, you know? He was such a genuine person. He was sweet," said Washington Union High student Emily Rangel.

But on the field, playing defensive end or tight end, it was a different story.

"He was 'Don't come to his side.'" Holland said. "He was going to make the play every single time."

As teammates and friends exchanged stories, they held each other close, leaving flowers and candles around Neto's JV jersey.

While they mourn the loss of their friend and teammate, they say they have new motivation moving forward.

"Every game is for Neto. Everything is for number 40," said player Nathan Lopez.

Coach Holland said the team will continue on with their season with Neto's memory close.

"You can't replace a person like him. So we're not even going to try." Holland said. "What we're going to do is try to just play as hard as we can because we know that's what he'd want us to do."