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The Sedona Red Rock High football team honored a fallen comrade Friday, Oct. 24, paying tribute before their game against Wickenburg High to defensive coordinator Matt Vukelich who passed away Oct. 19 due to heart failure.

Players held up their hands and formed a V with their fingers like Spock in “Star Trek” symbolizing “Coach V” who was loved by all on the team, not just his defensive players.

“Coach V meant a lot to us on this team. He was our heart and soul, our inspiration,” junior lineman Zack Saxman said.

By Brian Bergner Jr.

Larson Newspapers

 

The Sedona Red Rock High football team honored a fallen comrade Friday, Oct. 24, paying tribute before their game against Wickenburg High to defensive coordinator Matt Vukelich who passed away Oct. 19 due to heart failure.

Players held up their hands and formed a V with their fingers like Spock in “Star Trek” symbolizing “Coach V” who was loved by all on the team, not just his defensive players.

“Coach V meant a lot to us on this team. He was our heart and soul, our inspiration,” junior lineman Zack Saxman said.

Vukelich, who began his coaching career in Sedona during the 2000 football season, fell victim to heart failure while out golfing on a beautiful Sunday morning.

From the beginning, Vukelich set out to inspire his players, giving them little nuances of advice from what he learned playing football all those years.

An All-North Central Conference defensive end for North Dakota State in 1966, Vukelich was co-captain of that football team that won a share of the league title and was top-ranked in the nation for most of the season before finishing 8-2.

He was the Most Valuable Player on the 1966 squad. He was a three-year starter on the varsity, including the 1964 team that went 10-1 while winning the Mineral Water Bowl, and the 1965 team that went 11-0 en route to a Pecan Bowl victory and the national championship.

After earning a degree in industrial engineering in 1967, he joined the U.S. Army as an engineer, earning the rank of Captain.

Vukelich also served in Vietnam where he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Football was important to Vukelich, and his players made him feel important as well.

“Matt [Vukelich] loved football. He had a positive influence and was a very successful individual. He passed his idea of success onto others,” Vukelich’s wife Rosh Preuss said, while being hugged by family and friends on the football field before game time.

A few minutes before game time, Sedona head coach Rob Lezcano took the microphone and said a few words in honor of Vukelich, with a moment of silence following.

Hundreds stood in unison in honor of a man who was never interested in taking the credit, who always set a good example for the boys turning into men that played for him, and who was always there to lend a hand.

Players held their helmets at their sides with heads bowed as if they were talking to Coach V at that very moment, looking for one last piece of advice, one last look into the mind of a champion.

There are no words that could describe what Scorpion players were feeling at that moment, but with a big game ahead, they pressed on just like Coach V would want them to.

“Coach V would want us to focus on this game, focus on the task at hand,” Lezcano said after the moment of silence.

That’s exactly what Sedona would do, press on and stand in front of their opponent in Wickenburg as if to say, “this one’s for Coach V.”

Once all hats were on, a “V” adorned the back of their helmets in tribute to their beloved coach, and they went off to battle just like every other Friday night under the lights during football season.

A few days later, on Monday, Oct. 27, students, teachers, players, old coaches, family and friends gathered at St. John Vianney Church to pay respects to a dearly missed coach.

Afterwards, attendees parted just as they had done at the football game on Friday night, but the memories will always be in the back of their minds and Vukelich’s teachings on how to be a football player, how to be a man and how to be a great human being will stay with them forever.

“Coach V was our rock. We could always depend on him. We learned through his example and he will be sorely missed,” senior inside linebacker Carter Jones said.

Thank-you, Coach.


Brian Bergner Jr. can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 131, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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