At around 3:40 Wednesday afternoon, Zach Hunzinger’s world suddenly changed.
He was given the news from a doctor that he has osteosarcoma.
It hit Hunzinger and his Peoria Liberty football teammates hard. A starting offensive lineman on a team that beat Peoria Centennial in the regular season and had the 5A state champs on the ropes in the state semifinals, Hunzinger was planning on a big senior season, one of two returning offensive starters on a team moving up to 6A.
He was looking forward to more Friday night celebrations with his teammates, especially best friend Ryan Puskas, an All-Arizona safety/linebacker, who has committed to Cal.
His leadership, strength, resiliency tested, Hunzinger tweeted the news Thursday, letting everybody know, “I will BEAT This and I will fight!”
Puskas doesn’t doubt it.
Meanwhile, Hunzinger’s absence during Liberty’s spring football practices is bringing the team closer, making the Lions more determined to make each play as if were their last, doing it for Zach.
“The team and I have every intention of playing this season for him,” Puskas said. “He’s determined to beat it. He has a big fight ahead of him but he’s not going through it alone. He has his family, friends and us — the football team.”
Liberty coach Mark Smith said that Hunzinger is “our rallying cry.”
“We’re going to use this to strengthen us,” Smith said. “Zach is an awesome leader, a big-time O-line leader. Colleges were just starting to take a look at him.”