Unsung heroes: Joe Munayer, Rancho Cotate

Editor’s note: The Press Democrat will spotlight a player from each Empire football team in the North Coast Section playoffs. Not every player is a star, but the contributions of each of these players are crucial to their teams’ success. Each was nominated by his coach.

RANCHO COTATE
Joe Munayer

Rancho Cotate senior OT Joe Munayer (PD photo).

Senior Offensive Tackle

Notable: Coach Ed Conroy calls him a “pit bull kind of kid.” Munayer is one of five players on the front line that has consistently opened holes for the dynamic Cougar running game. Rancho goes into Friday’s NCS Division II quarterfinal against Clayton Valley averaging 42 points per game. Undersized for the offensive line at 6-feet, 210 pounds, the senior finds playing football a good way to let out his pent-up emotions. His 74-year-old father, Khalil, suffered a near-fatal heart attack on Aug. 28 and is still hospitalized at Santa Rosa Memorial. His condition has improved and he continues therapy.

A CONVERSATION WITH MUNAYER

PD: How do you juggle school, practice and visiting your father?
Munayer: I go to the hospital for at least an hour after practice and then Saturday and Sunday. I try to spend as much of the day as I can with my dad. It lifts his spirits when I tell him how good we’ve been doing this year. He smiles.

PD: Does it still feel like a nightmare?
Munayer: Reality has pretty much set in, but boy it was rough for a long time. I’ll never forget the night it happened. It was 2in the morning and I was in my room sleeping when I heard people running through the house. The flashing ambulance lights were coming in my window. I ran down the hall and the paramedics were working on my father.The doctors didn’t think he was going to survive, but thankfully he’s pulling through. He’s still got a long way to go.

PD: The football season hadn’t started, so did you play the entire season?
Munayer: All together, I missed about a month. There was so much to do. I had to take care of family matters before I could play football.

PD: What was the first game you played this year?
Munayer: It was our third game of the year against Petaluma. We won 49-0. I was able to let anxiety out and it was a great day for me all around.

PD: Your junior season was also compromised.
Munayer: Yeah, I tore cartilage in my shoulder in the second game of the year. I was on the kick-off team when I did it. I missed the rest of the season. Thinking about my senior year kept me going.

PD: Rancho runs the triple veer option offense. Can a defense stop you guys?
Munayer: Not if the offensive line makes its blocking assignments. Our backs (Poueu Peleti-Gore, Brian Dworkin and Jason Celi) are so quick and run so hard, all they need is an instant to get past the defensive line. After that, speed and power running take over. We run six plays off the option and every one is tough to stop if the running back gets an angle on the defense. Then, if the other team overplays the run, Poueu can pass.

PD: What does it feel like when you make the key block to spring a runner?
Munayer: Can’t describe it. Once I’ve done my job, I look down field and start yelling. Then I run down field to congratulate my teammates.

— Howard Senzell, for The Press Democrat