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Former football coach of tragically killed Yarnell Hill firefighters reflects on loss

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

The devastation may be located in just a small sliver of America, but the Yarnell Hill forest fire has had a profound impact on America as a whole, as the nation reels from the loss of 19 heroic firefighters.

Like so many Americans, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were passionate high school athletes. Now, as the nation tries to recover from their deaths, a high school coach who tutored a handful of the now deceased hotshots looked back on his charges with both pride and a profound sense of loss in an interview with the Arizona Republic which was brought to Prep Rally's attention by the Online Sports Guys blog.

“It’s been pretty tough,” Prescott (Az.) High football coach Lou Benneitone told the Arizona Republic. “There’s been a lot of tears shed already, all over. It’s just more personal in this community. All of these families of these boys, what they have to think about. It’s just devastating.

“Our football program never had big boys. We always had hard working, hard nosed tough kids. And the boys that represented the hotshots here were exactly that. They were tough boys but they were good men.”

Perhaps fittingly, Benneitone saw his former players’ work as firefighters as directly connected to their time as athletes. More specifically, he noted how they always worked as a team, even as they faced danger and, eventually their own death. Of that, he and the town could not be more proud.

“You’d see them on the street and they would smile and laugh and be a good person, but when they got out in the woods and had to get the job done, they got after it.

“Around here, kids get involved in sports and learn a lot of hard discipline, sacrifice, commitment. That’s what those hotshots do. They’re a team and they carried that teamwork out on to the field and worked together hard. Unfortunately they perished together, too."

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