Melissa Luna will never forget the moment. She was standing, hand over her heart, just as the national anthem was ready to play. Suddenly, her mom's phone rang, startling everyone in the stands at Safford High School.

Her mom, Pat Luna, will do just about anything to make sure she's at her grandson's football games, including taking calls for for the family business – Luna's Towing – from two hours away.

Cristian Gonzales, 18, is a senior wide receiver for the Sahuarita Mustangs. His mom, Melissa, and his grandmother, Pat, have been attending his football games since he was a 5 year old playing for the Sahuarita 49ers.

But they aren't the only ones.

If the Mustangs are playing at home, chances are you'll see Gonzales' great-grandmother, Mary, in the stands, along with his  grandfather Jesse Luna Jr.; his uncle Jesse Luna III and his children; his sister, Jasmin; and a handful of cousins. Sometimes his great-grandpa Jesse Sr., who started Luna's Towing in Amado back in 1977, will show up to cheer, too.

In case you didn't catch it, that means that on most Friday nights in Sahuarita, there are five generations of Lunas in the stands of Burton Tingle Field.

With Gonzales' high school football career about to end, the Lunas said they are relishing every moment. Gonzales plans to enter the military upon graduation and will be foregoing his last season of track to prepare.

The Lunas have been fixtures at sporting events in Southern Arizona for years. Jesse Sr. pitched softball well into his 70s and took his team to nationals in 1997.

Jesse Jr. and Pat attended all of Melissa's and the third Jesse's games and events when they were in high school. Jesse the Third, or "J.J.," played basketball and football for Rio Rico High School and was on the track team. Melissa danced and was on the basketball and track teams at Nogales High School.

Once Gonzales and his sister, Jasmin, 19, came along it just made sense for everyone to start going to their events.

Jasmin danced and played softball, volleyball and basketball. In addition to football and track, Gonzales has golfed and played basketball and baseball.

Melissa, a pharmacy technician, said her employer has been incredibly understanding and willing to adjust her schedule. She can't count the times where she's had to run from one sibling's event to another, but she's always managed. 

Pat said it can be hard to hear customers calling for a tow while in the football stands, but it's worth it.

"We’ve had our times where it’s been difficult, but we find a way even if we have to close the place down. We’ll close it early just so we’ll be there," she said.

J.J., who also works for Luna's Towing, said he has no choice but to go to the games.

"He’s my nephew," he said. 

Every Friday afternoon before a game, J.J. said he sends Gonzales a motivational text and reminds him to be careful.

"Football is a violent sport and every time someone goes down I’m like where’s 21? Where’s 21 at?" he said, referring to Gonzales' uniform.

Although at times his family can be a little embarrassing – his mom made large posters of his head this year to wave around – Gonzales said he appreciates all of the love and support. He's extra happy when his 81-year-old great-grandfather makes the games.

"When he sees me playing it makes him smile and that's pretty much the goal," Gonzales said. "The goal is to make my family proud." 

Having them at games "definitely" affects his game, he said.

"It gives me the motivation to play harder than I would otherwise," Gonzales said. "You can tell when they're there because they are loud."

Football Coach Don Watt can attest to that.

"I've known them for nearly 20 years, since I left Texas and came out to Arizona," Watt said. "They've always been big into sports. They are heavily invested in athletics and they're always rooting everyone on. I can hear them quite well from the sidelines."

J.J. admits he's been yelled at by Watt for being too loud, but that's fine. He just loves his nephew.

Watt said he, too, was lucky to have a supportive family. It's great to see the Lunas and other families in the stands, he said.

"You're not going to win every single game and it's great when you have the support of people who will pat you on the back, and if you don't win to have familial support to help you through," he said.

The coach said he loves seeing the "littlest of the little" looking up at the generations before them because many times they'll follow in their footsteps.

"There's a certain intrinsic value in having generational spectatorship, if you will," Watt said.

It's going to be a while before the Lunas get another opportunity to take to the stands. J.J.'s son, Jesse IV, is not quite 2. He won't be able to join the 49ers until he's 5 – if his father lets him play football at all.

Gonzales broke his collarbone playing football in sixth grade, his arm in the seventh grade and his ankle in  eighth.

And, since J.J. is concerned about concussions, he said he might steer his son toward other sports. Oh, and his daughter, Jayleen, 3, is probably destined to go into sports, too.

"I've told her we don't raise cheerleaders, we raise softball players," he said with a laugh.

The Lunas laughed when asked if Gonzales sometimes feels like he has a dozen parents. Although he's a "pretty good kid," they all admitted to having little talks with him when they feel the need – whether it's about football, grades or anything else that might come up.

"We're so close that we all know when something happens," J.J. said. "It's a chain and everybody knows."

Great-grandma Mary, 81, admits she doesn't know much about football, but loves seeing Gonzales dash into the end zone.

"My main concern is that he can get out of a football game without getting hurt," she said.

She dreads the end of the season. The Mustangs' regular season ends Nov. 1 when they take on Tanque Verde in Tucson.

"I don't know what we're going to do after football," she said.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

Assistant Editor Kim Smith moved to Arizona from Michigan when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism in 1989. She has worked at seven newspapers of varying size in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

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