The Caruthers High football team honored a former Blue Raiders athlete and recent graduate who died in a car crash late last month, placing special stickers on their helmets as a tribute.
Olivia Mendoza, 19, was killed Sept. 27 by an alleged DUI truck driver.
Her loss has been felt throughout the close-knit community, which has a town population of about 2,500 and a high school student body size of around 600.
The stickers Caruthers placed on the football players’ helmets are of the letter “O,” which was one of Mendoza’s nicknames. The team plans to wear the stickers throughout the season.
“Olivia is a member of the Blue Raider Family,” said Caruthers coach Brandon Ward, whose program was aided by Mendoza keeping track of the team stats during its 2017 Central Section championship season.
“The “O” sticker on our helmets is our way of honoring Olivia. She was a really sweet girl that touched a lot of lives.”
Mendoza played soccer and softball for the Blue Raiders before graduating in 2018.
Mendoza was driving westbound on Mountain View just outside of Selma when a big rig driver ran a stop sign and slammed into the young woman, according to California Highway Patrol. The CHP said the driver was under the influence of marijuana.
One of Mendoza’s friends helped raise money for her family’s funeral expenses by selling a Future Farmers of America club-raised pig and generating at least $5,000.
Mendoza was remembered by friends as a fun-loving teen who enjoyed laughing and making others laugh, too.