There is one common denominator that City head coach Justin Garza shared with County head coach Beto Mejia: "We're both Latino coaches."
The two will take center stage at the 58th annual City/County All-Star Football Classic on Friday (June 22). The two squads pit the best high school seniors from Fresno County schools against their counterparts from Fresno city schools.
Garza, a 1993 San Joaquín Memorial graduate, told Mejía about a month ago they were likely the first Latinos to head coach the historic football game.
Mejía, a 29-year-old 1994 graduate of Mendota High School and the school's current football head coach, agreed.
"He's (Garza) the one to brought it to my attention at the Kickoff Dinner. He said two Latino, Mexicanos, two minorities are coaching this game. We're both Latino coaches," said Mejía.
At least 3,000 fans attend the annual game. Proceeds from the game are donated to the Boy's and Girl's Clubs of Fresno County.
"Playing in a City/County is a tradition. But when it's all said and done, we represent our families and we represent our community; it means a lot to have that type of respect and responsibility," said Garza, 36, who holds a degree in Natural Science and Biology and Chicano Studies from California State University, Fresno.
"I don't think there's been very many Hispanic coaches in this game in the past."
High school seniors from 38 schools in Fresno and Madera counties make up the two rosters. For many of the players, it's the last football game as a high schooler.
Mejía is coming off Mendota's best season since 1993, when the Aztecs also were undefeated. The team's success was praised and heralded by the community and covered plenty by the media.
"It's really humbling to be part of this. I'm excited about it," said Mejía, who has coached at various levels for Mendota High the last 6 years.
"Twenty years from now, I can look back at 2012, and my name will be on there as a coach in the City/County game."
Mejía is working on a Special Education degree at Fresno State. He will again lead the Aztecs in the upcoming season, but hopes to obtain a full-time position with the district as a Special Education teacher.
Garza coached the 2010-11 season at Sunnyside High School. He has a degree in Natural Science and Biology and Chicano Studies from California State University, Fresno, and will lead the football program at Central High School this season.
Both coaches said the goal is to instill respect for the game and a strong work ethic that players can take with them throughout life's lessons.
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