Hesperia High football player battling leukemia honored
Hesperia and Apple Valley high school football teams entered the field on Friday night.
But instead of tackling or executing passes, for several minutes the players simply stood in a line face to face.to show their support for a teammate in the fight for their life.
Hesperia senior Adan Muñoz, 17, has been hospitalized almost continuously since June after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.
Three cycles of chemotherapy weakened his immune system to the point where he contracted lung disease and was admitted to intensive care about three weeks ago.
His family said he was getting better, however, and expected to undergo bone marrow transplant treatment later this year.
And Friday’s game showed Muñoz has a great support system behind him.
“He has a fight ahead of him and so we just fought with him as a family, as a team,” said Angie Rodriguez, president of the HHS Football Booster Club. “Our coach is very attached to the family, and that’s what we call our football team: it’s a family.”
A setback after chemotherapy treatments
Muñoz was set to start as the center of the team’s offensive line this year when her back started to hurt in the summer.
His older brother, Gustavo Muñoz, said it was initially thought to be muscle tension from training – until the blood tests returned.
Doctors discovered that Adan Muñoz suffered from acute myeloid leukemia, cancer of the bone marrow and blood. Called acute because of its rapid progression, the disease accounts for only about 1% of all cancers and is rare in people under 45, according to the American Cancer Society.
The chemotherapy treatments started immediately. Muñoz finished his third round about a month ago but suffered another setback: pneumonia.
He was transferred to the intensive care unit where Rodriguez – who is also a family friend – said he was intubated.
Since Friday night’s game, however, he was breathing on his own and “99% have already recovered,” said Gustavo Muñoz.
Gustavo Muñoz, his grandmother, Martha Belcher, and Rodriguez’s video spoke to Adan Muñoz via Facetime during the mid-game ceremony.
Although Adan Muñoz could not speak, Rodriguez said he could recognize they were there.
“He’s sedated, but he can hear us so he blinks.” When we tell him to blink, he knows we’re talking to him, ”she said.
Muñoz’s friends used the video app to include Muñoz in prayers with his team before games.
Hesperia head coach Casey Goodnough described Muñoz as “just a good kid” on Saturday and said Muñoz “always showed up” at football events to help.
“He’s a great role model, involved in (the associate student body), athletics and a 4.0 student,” Goodnough said. “The kids have really come over to him. The kids always talk about the importance of not giving up on the pitch if Adan doesn’t give up in his battle.”
A game for Adan
Friday’s game against Apple Valley High School was an example of a community that unites for one of their own.
Instead of Hesperia’s traditional black and gold, many players and participants wore black and orange, the official color for leukemia awareness.
Cheerleaders wore the colorful ribbons in their hair, while AdanStrong merchandise was sold next to the snack bar.
All proceeds from a raffled helmet went to the Muñoz family, along with money from a GoFundMe fundraiser and donations from the Hesperia and Apple Valley recall clubs, Rodriguez said.
She estimated that the community had raised around $ 7,500 to help Muñoz’s family and said they “greatly appreciate all the love and support” the community has shown them.
Nowhere was this solidarity more evident than when the teams entered the pitch at half-time. Goodnough gave Gustavo Muñoz and Martha Belcher a helmet with Adan’s number 60, his name and #AdanStrong with the leukemia ribbon on the back.
Hugs were exchanged not only between Muñoz’s family and Hesperia staff, but also with Apple Valley.
Belcher had tears in his eyes as he left the field.
Gustavo Muñoz – who was also a college football player in Hesperia and graduated in 2021 – said that after doctors released his brother from sedation, he would be taken to City of Hope, the research hospital on Duarte’s cancer.
There, he will receive a bone marrow transplant, probably at the end of December, and “then he will be done,” his brother said.
Meanwhile, Gustavo Muñoz expressed his admiration for the game moments after kissing the two players from his alma mater and Apple Valley, who won the game by 51-0.
“Just happy it’s more than a game and everyone is coming together for a good cause. And I appreciate that on both sides of the teams.
Editor-in-chief Jose Quintero contributed to this report.
Daily Press reporter Martin Estacio can be contacted at 760-955-5358 or MEstacio@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_mestacio.